O God, you are my God;
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you.
Because your steadfast love
is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
Part of my summer reading has been a book written by CS Lewis called Reflections on the Psalms. He spends some time unpacking his personal thoughts (which Lewis is very careful to own as ponderings rather than theology), about the spiritual frame of reference the Jewish poets had in comparison to the Christian lens we pull their ancient writings through. One bit really caused me to pause and think.
Lewis pondered that the Jews of the Old Testament did not have knowledge of the Hope of Heaven that is so mainstay for the Christian. And he mused that perhaps God purposely withheld that reality to establish that He and nothing else would be their “true goal and the satisfaction of their needs, and that He had a claim upon them simply by being what He was.” He expands the thought, writing, “They did not know that He offered them eternal joy; still less that he would die to win it for them. Yet they express a longing for Him, for His mere presence, which comes only to the best Christians or to Christians in their best moments.”
That started me on a trail of thought. I have often wondered whether The Church is not selling a fantastic prize package, as if Jesus wasn’t enough, rather than foremost displaying the reality of Jesus, who reaches out to reconcile humanity…. to Himself. The prize package appeals to our consumerist appetite. I just wonder if we ever lose sight that the windfall is Jesus.
I can’t ask that question without a self-exam, because I am part of the Church. And before I examine what I’m reflecting to the world, I have to look at what I’m reflecting to God. I wonder, do I brush past Him, thanking Him, but setting my sights on the great goodies that await me in a redeemed world? Do I anticipate “no more pain” before I anticipate being with Him in a “no more pain” environment? Do I have an “appetite for God,” as Lewis calls it, or is my desire and longing for the dividends that await me because I am in covenant with Him.
With information comes responsibility. It takes a “grown up” to manage the knowledge that I am rich in Christ; a co-heir with Jesus. It takes a perpetual resolve to keep first in my heart, the One who gives so lavishly and not prostitute myself to the gifts themselves. Why would I confine my heart to loving best something God made rather than to God Himself, who could make a trillion worlds for us to traverse? What I see around me is a reflection of the nature of Creator God, and it’s glorious, even in its degraded condition. But make no mistake, it’s meant to draw my heart to Him, not to what He made.
What I know of the future and the redeemed world I will one day live in (my true home), is beyond my most creative imaginings. However, they are not the prize, but a window into the One who is! He is the windfall. He is the prize.
If I took the heaven package off the table, what would the measure of my devotion to God be? If there was no afterlife, no bounty of earthly ‘blessing’ (as defined by humankind), no extra anything….if God offered me Himself and nothing more, what would the content of my heart reveal? Seems like I ought to be willing to put that question on the table. So I am…..putting it on the table.
Does this seem harsh? I am sincerely asking myself these questions. God is real, not a concept, or system of belief, not part of a fantastic array of principles that yield if followed well. He is present with me right now as I write these feeble thoughts. I am in covenant relationship with Him through the finished work of Jesus. So, my life is about loving Him and being loved by Him. The prize package is the context for us to live out that love. And while it’s going to blow the top off my best dream, I know my eyes will be fixed not on the bounty, but on the face of the One for whom, by whom and through whom all things were made.
To the saints
God chose to make known
how great are the riches
of the glory of this mystery,
which is Christ in you,
the hope of glory.