the answer is grace

It could all be over, it really could… this whole cosmos being held together thing doesn’t have to be a reality in this next moment.

Forget climate change, do you know that within atoms (the itty bitty stuff that makes up all “stuff”) are quarks that by definition are “believed” to be the basic building blocks of protons, neutrons, and hadrons? What I mean is, if we zoom in on the smallest physical reality and then slice it up, we are still mind boggled about how life is held together.

Unless we are believing Christ does the holding. Then those mind boggling beliefs about the basic building blocks of matter can make sense. And this is just exactly where I got stuck today in wonder. I don’t pretend to know anything about particles except what I’ve forgotten from high school Chemistry, but I do know that it’s wonderful. I know that the mysterious way things are held together is absolutely magical and inspiring.

This is the question that wedged in my throat as I wondered about things I don’t fully understand: Why? Why is Christ holding it together?

Jared C. Wilson quotes Lesslie Newbigin in Gospel Deeps when he talks about cosmic redemption,

But God in his patient and long-suffering love sustains the created world, and the world of human culture, in order that there may still be time and space for repentance and for the coming into being of the new creation within the womb of the old.

John Piper says that missions exist because worship doesn’t. Wow. God is literally holding all things together (every little quark of existence) in Christ so that there might be time for repentance.

If we are going to wonder like children, we might as well ask “Why?” like children, too. Why does God sustain the created world with such patience while creation actively aches to be restored? Why does God allow evil to continue and wars to erupt and people to die and diseases to destroy and nations to rage?

Why doesn’t Christ lift His finger or turn His head from “holding all things together” for one second so the cosmos collapse on themselves and He can rebuild from the ashes?

Only, only in the marvelous grace of God are we allowed to see a glorious because in the midst of this mystery.

Christ continues to hold all things together because God started writing this redemption narrative before a word was spoken into the formless void. He had already written the names of His children in the book of life before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:20, Revelations 13:8), knowing they would have a desperate need for a Savior and providing just such a Savior.

Christ continues to hold all things together because God is sovereignly working out His will to gather His children from the ends of the earth to enter into eternity with Him (Mark 13:27)He will not stop until the gathering is complete because He is a promise keeper.

Christ continues to hold all things together because God is making His name known to His creation, even those who shake their fists at His goodness. Our need for a Savior points to God’s gracious giving of a Savior (Psalm 66:2, Psalm 79:9, Romans 2).

And within every reason we can imagine there are a million other reasons Christ is holding things together and each one of them is a gift of grace.

Why is Christ holding this crazy cosmos together?

All I can come up with is grace. We are held together by the grace of God, allowed to question by the grace of God, able to be restless by the grace of God, and longing for home by the grace of God.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

These reflections come as I read through Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson. I definitely encourage you to pick up a copy and read it for yourself. It’s one to read through slowly and process with other people (or on a blog!). Here are some other posts on my reflections on the book: Lord, I need Youmy heart will never not be Hisliving risen on a Mondayfurther up and further in you go, and our way into redemption.

our way into redemption

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south. (Psalm 107:1-3, ESV)

We are good at announcing victories. We have awards ceremonies and podiums and medals and elaborate speeches. We are good at announcing victories, but how do we announce our redemption? How do we talk about our soul’s resurrection?

Because I believe this is indeed the greatest cause for celebration. Redemption is the best reason to throw a festival or plan a party.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

Let us commemorate our being found when we were lost, our being victorious when we were defeated, our being alive when we were dead! But our joyful, victorious entry into redemption is not carried by our proud steps of accomplishment but on the weary, beaten back of a perfect Savior. We are carried, limp and lifeless, by Christ to victory and we finish with the greatest reward.

Jared C. Wilson writes, “We disobeyed our way into fallenness, but we cannot obey our way into redemption.” (Gospel Deeps, p. 161)

He is our way into redemption. He is our victory and our celebration is in His name and for His fame. He is our way into redemption and He is the only way to announce victory in this life.

Wilson includes this list in his book Gospel Deeps and I think it pulls us into powerful proclamation as the redeemed children and inspires victorious living in the promises of our Redeemer. Wilson writes on page 160, “He has hemmed us in; he has us covered:

Christ is in us. (John 14:20; 17:23; Rom. 8:10-11; 2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:27)

Christ is over us. (Rom. 9:5; 1 Cor. 11:3; Col. 1:18; 3:1; Heb. 3:6)

Christ is through us. (Rom. 15:18; 2 Cor. 2:14; 5:20)

Christ is with us. (Matt. 18:20; 28:20; Eph. 2:5-6; 2 Tim. 4:17)

Christ is under us. (Luke 6:47-48; 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Cor. 3:11)

Christ is around us (that is to say, we are in and through him). (John 14:6; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 3:4, 14; 5:17; Gal. 3:27; Heb. 7:25)

We are good at announcing our victories, but this victory in Christ is like no other. We announce His victory in our redemption and we announce His sovereignty in our resurrected lives. I can imagine no greater speech than a life that speaks to this work.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

These reflections come as I read through Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson. I definitely encourage you to pick up a copy and read it for yourself. It’s one to read through slowly and process with other people (or on a blog!). Here are some other posts on my reflections on the book: Lord, I need Youmy heart will never not be His, living risen on a Monday, further up and further in you go.

when we pray, “Lord, I need You.”

A while back, I was reading this article at Desiring God, “No Longer an Orphan (but tempted to live like it” by Christine Hoover, which led me to order Rose Marie Miller’s book Nothing is impossible with God and write this post, “erase the ways of our orphanhood” about our freedom in discovering what it means to be called a child of God.

If I haven’t lost you to the above links (I kind of wish I have, btw), then sit with me a minute as I reflect on what’s squeezing my heart today: the gospel of adoption. Jared Wilson writes in Gospel Deeps,

“Only in the complex depths of the triune godhead are wrath-owed enemies also love-won children.”

My pen painted marks all over this sentence on page 152, but it got real messy on the next page and I decided the next person to read this book might have a hard time being objective. I’m not sure how I can explain my thoughts without giving you a full paragraph, so here it is,

“God turns rebels into family. He does this in deep love before time began (Eph. 1:5), through meticulous sovereignty throughout the old covenant (Rom. 9:4), by abundant grace in the new covenant offering of Christ (Gal. 4:4-5), and with affectionate power in the Spirit’s ongoing mission (Gal. 4:6). He is still on the surface of the deep, calling out order from the formless void of our hearts. And in this wonder is another incomprehensible wonder, namely that the Spirit’s conversion of us godward is characterized as both adoption and rebirth.” (Jared Wilson, Gospel Deeps, p. 153)

Take a moment.

Maybe print off this paragraph so you can mark it up, too. Look up Ephesians and Romans and Galatians to test the assertions and hold on only to what is good (1 Thes. 5:21). What I am holding onto after reflecting is what is holding on to me: adoption papers.

I read it this morning and I can not shake it. I am adopted – a full-blown child with a new last name, an eternal inheritance, and a forever family – and I was at war with my Father when He signed the papers. He wanted me when I wanted nothing to do with him. While I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8), Christ chose me, loved me, and gave Himself up for me. I appreciate that Wilson uses the words “meticulous sovereignty” because I think it helps us picture just how intimately involved God is with the affairs of His people.

I often explain away my haphazard housekeeping by saying I am a “creative” person. For some reason “creative” people are off the hook when it comes to keeping things orderly. People will just say, “Oh, she’s artsy… you know, abstract” and that’s supposed to mean you shouldn’t expect that girl to have her life together. Maybe this makes God’s meticulous sovereignty even MORE amazing – creativity came from Him, but He is concerned with the littlest details of existence. From the broad strokes of orange-pink-purple sky to the number of raindrops in a storm, He is authoring all the beauty and also meticulously involved in orchestrating every atomic detail.

His powerful sovereignty runs like a thread throughout the old testament, reveals God’s love in Christ’s sacrifice, and weaves through the present to declare God’s glory. At the end of the paragraph I copied above, Wilson says that our conversion is characterized by both adoption and rebirth.

This. This is what is squeezing my heart today. God declares that we are His by what I imagine would be some divine paperwork and a holy signature dipped in Christ’s blood, but then He makes us His children as He sanctifies us every day. He is not an absent father, because even adoptive fathers can be absent. Instead, God declares us (His enemies) beloved children and then commits to making us more beautiful – to look more like the image of His perfect Son (Romans 8:29).

I see so many children in my work and they do not hide their fears. When parents have to leave (it doesn’t matter what the legal papers say), fear swims out of their eyes and clings in their hands. They get desperate and throw tantrums and ask impossible questions.

Today, I have been thinking about God declaring me His child and making me His child. My status is sealed in the work of Christ on my behalf, but my Father reminds me daily of His love efforts. He is relentless as He reminds me of His faithfulness that drives out fear. He is meticulous. And I need Him.

I need my Father to do more than sign papers that say I have access to forever with Him. I need Him to walk with me. I need Him to hold me up. I need Him to be strong for me. I need Him to be courage for me. I need Him to be hope for me. I need Him to be compassion for me. I need Him to be understanding for me. I need Him to teach me, correct me, rebuke me, love me, humble me, and chase me.

I need all these things in Him because I am empty otherwise. My need is not self-centered (though I suppose it can get twisted), but instead a declaration of my emptiness alone. The depth of my need would make me fearful if I didn’t know that his Fatherhood is more than abundant. His on-going, faithful adoption is a signature He writes on my heart every moment of today. The grace He has given will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory, so that His name would be praised and His perfect Fatherhood would be blessed!

The beautiful thing about singing, “Lord, I need You” is in knowing His response. When we say, “Lord, I need You,” God responds with, “I know. I am faithful to give Myself.” We can safely cry out our need for refuge while knowing we are safe inside the very refuge we seek.

I think my belly just smiled (is that where our souls are, in our bellies?) because I’m chasing this around in circles.

As we are praying our need of God, we believe His faithfulness in being what we need.

The horrors of 3801 Lancaster (the place where Kermit Gosnell (see The Atlantic article) destroyed the lives of so many women and babies), lead us to pray, “Lord, we need You.” And I think He is saying, “I know. I am faithful to give Myself.”

my heart will never not be His

There is not a depth that can reach the deeps of the excellencies of Christ.

Not a friendship or a family or a lover or an ocean avenue view; not a single created thing can plumb the depths of His glory or compare to the riches of His grace.

There have been times when I’ve wondered if I lack a very womanly and essential thing. I’ve wondered why I am not more emotional or more dramatic or more anticipatory about love in this life. I have wondered and worried why I am not wooed by the chick flick storyline, waiting for my world to shift when a dapper young man spills his drink on me downtown. I have wondered why I am not a hopeless romantic.

I have, up to this point, credited the amazing men in my life as largely responsible for my (mostly) reasonable approach to relationships. They still get kudos, but I realized recently why there is a steadiness in my step that is anchored as deep as the unplumbable depths: Christ.

I’m not trying to explain the pinterest-popular slogan, “a woman should get lost in Christ so a man has to seek Christ to find her” or some other version of the same idea. What I mean is… I am just content to be lost.

I do not need to be found by anyone else because the depths of Christ’s love are too deep! They go on and on and on forever. I am not singing with Beyoncé, “all you women, who independent throw your hands up at me,” so hear me out before you point and question my biblical view of complementarianism.

I am questioning the encouragement we give women to get lost in Christ as a means to an earthly end in a man. I was running around Gray’s Lake recently, considering my contentedness and questioning my relationship readiness when I realized,

“my heart will never not be His”

I remember my dad gave me a locket when I was thirteen. We were in San Diego on the “girl trip” that my sister and I took individually with him to mark our “coming of age.” It is as embarrassing as it sounds (well, more embarrassing was the camping trip I blushed my way through with my mom to listen to all of Dr. Dobson’s tape series on sexuality). The “Dad and me” version in San Diego was embarrassing (isn’t everything at 13?), but it was so very special. It was rare to have occasion to fly anywhere, but his being on the board of directors on the little rural electric cooperative made it possible for my sister and me to accompany him to (what we thought was) paradise.

He had left the details of our coming of age to the “tapes” (as us kids now call them), and instead over a nice dinner one night gave me a heart shaped locket. I don’t remember the exact speech, but I’m sure he labored over every letter. What I remember is something like this,

“Caroline, your mother and I love you very much. But God loves you more. This locket is a symbol to show that He will keep your heart safe until He sees fit to share it with someone else.”

I’m embarrassed to say gold was not my color as a junior high girl. The locket sat in a little chintzy heart shaped porcelain container on my shelf for years. But, that night when my dad shared his and God’s love for me, I started to understand what it meant to have a heart that is guarded and protected. I had trusted Jesus as my Savior at a young age and junior high was the first refining fire I blazed through, so knowing my heart was held in the hands of my Maker could not have been better news.

Though I can’t say high school and college were without drama, I rarely shouted girl power anthems with windows down and fists pumping the air. I think deep down I knew and believed that God had my heart and that was the safest place for it to be. I was secure, protected, loved, and cherished – even if those weren’t the words I would use to express it.

Now, running along Gray’s Lake in the too-bitter chill of Spring, I have peace that my heart will never not be His. Even when I do get married, my love for Christ and Christ’s love for me is the only and best anchor for my soul.

Marriage is one of the most beautiful pictures of God’s love, but it will always only be that: a picture. God’s love is the only thing that can reach the unplumbable depths and secure my spirit with an anchor that won’t disappoint.

My heart will never not be His and I trust Him to share or not share it.

These reflections come as I read through Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson and as I consider unmarried life at 28 years old. Read this related post: seeking the greatest Treasure.

 

further up and further in you go

Lucy Pevensie is a teacher of the sweetest kind because she leads the way in innocent and curious discovery. I can almost hear her gasps as she uncovers truths and mysteries, walking boldly toward light inside dark.

Have you ever watched the face of a little one building with blocks? The careful consideration and slow motions always surprise me. You would think (I would) that children are impatient and impulsive when it comes to block building, but it is not so. They must have reasons in their little minds for going slowly, considering thoroughly, and placing thoughtfully every piece.

Last week, I watched a little one put one block on top of another and each time he would look around and squeal with arched eyebrows as if to say, “Look! Can you believe this tower?”

I couldn’t help it. My response was always in kind with a gasp for effect, “Wow! Look at that! What a great tower!” I was legitimately impressed with the height he achieved before it toppled over and he started again – the same exclamations each time he placed a block on top of a block.

Oh, Lucy Pevensie would be proud, I think, of the way the little one is teaching me a lesson about depth and joy and mystery. In The Last Battle, Lucy was talking with her friend Tumnus the Faun as they overlooked the garden wall.

“I see,” she said at last, thoughtfully. “I see now. This garden is like the Stable. It is far bigger inside than it was outside.”

“Of course, Daughter of Eve,” said the Faun. “The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.”

“I see,” she said. “This is still Narnia, and, more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the Stable door! I see … world within world, Narnia within Narnia…”

Do we see the world this way, believing a million little dazzling mysteries are tucked inside mysteries? And do we live like these mysteries change the shape of our hearts, the expressions on our faces, and the excitement of discovery?

Oh, the answer always has to be “No” because the mystery of endless depths is that they are endless. But, the discovery that these depths are worth the dive begs the question: will you dive?

Even if (and because surely) you will never reach the bottom – will you dive into the endless depths to discover they just keep going?

My answer to this, I hope, is always “Yes!” with the expression of the little one who wonders at blocks balancing on top of blocks and with the determination of Lucy who is not afraid to believe that a bigger world can fit within a smaller world.

“Further up and further in you go, my child.”

I imagine God saying this as I follow Him into the grace upon grace (John 1:16) I received from the fullness of Christ.

“Yes! Further up and further in I go!” I want to respond.

Each glorious mystery appears to be the most deserving of superlatives, but then there is more and deeper and greater and another most beautiful.

This post was inspired in my reading of Jared C. Wilson’s book, Gospel Deeps where he shares the same excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s classic The Last Battle. Well, that and my amazing little clients.