Next year sometime my autobiographical novel is to be published. It’s called ‘The Amazingly Astonishing Story’ and this morning, at about 4 am, I realised why I write this blog. Or have written this blog. And why I may continue, from time to time, to write it.
Why? Because I have an amazingly astonishing story to tell. A story about something I learnt about on Sunday. A story about restoration. A story about being raised from the dead and restored to love.
So. There you go. It’s 5am now and I’m here in my pj’s, the dogs are fed-up because their hot water bottle has left the bed, coffee is at my side and I need to tell you something amazing. That, I have discovered, is what this blog is meant to be. It’s meant to be a blog about how amazing our God is, and how real and present and relevant He is in our lives, in the daily round and in, oh, listen, in his word.
That’s what this blog has to be about. And yes, I’ll be there but in the shadows. I think that’s where I was going wrong – the blog was about my life. My life’s good and sometimes worth talking about, and usually it’s worth laughing about, or at least smiling over, but God is always always worth talking about. Always worthy of our deep joy. I can’t write a blog – or anything else- without me being in it, but the focus has to be Him.
You know when you lie in bed, meandering through sleepy thoughts, and sorting stuff out, sifting and filing away your memories and thoughts? That’s how I woke up this morning. And at 5 am it occurred to me that for probably a couple of hours, God had been speaking to me. Not a great deep bass voice (God doesn’t sound like Barry White, sometimes he sounds just like a sleepy Luce) but he was there, in my thoughts all the time, and he was the one doing the sifting and sorting, the thinking and the revelation.
Oh, man, this is so exciting and I’m not sure where to start.
OK, I’ll start on Sunday morning. We’re heading towards the end of a series on Thessalonians, and – having thought about honouring each other last week, this week we thought about …. being patient with one another. Oh, boy. I am not a patient person. The words and the teaching, the whole damn import of the sermon overwhelmed me. As I listened I had one thought, and it was absolutely overwhelming ‘Luce, you’re not just impatient, you’re irascible.’
That’s not good. Being irascible. But it’s true, I am. Oh, not always, obviously – I’d be locked away in a secure unit if that was the case. And often patience is no problem; if you’re sick or distressed or confused, if you need help, then patience comes easy and stays, steady. But man, if you’re less than honest, if you’re self-important, if you’re obsessed with the detail of your life to the exclusion of everything else, if you are unfair to the people I love, if the world doesn’t turn exactly as I want it to turn – I am seething and exasperated in a matter of seconds. Irascible, tetchy, choleric. And that ain’t good. It’s bad.
But you know, realising something like that, hearing the wee small voice of sanity was a good, good thing. It was a gift. That sort of realisation is a precious gift from a loving father. There! I never thought I’d put the words ‘loving’ and ‘father’ together. But I have. That, too, is a gift.
Here’s what I was thinking about so sleepily this morning: the Thessalonians sermon was a personal one from God to me. It was his quiet still voice, and it was a revelation. I know my impatience is funny at times. I see my grandchildren grinning at my exasperated attempts to control the urge to snap…. they chuckle when an exclamation (less than Godly) escapes my irritable lips… they’re used to and so unimpressed by my scratchiness, even in a conversation I give up half way through a sentence, foiled by my own slowness of thought. My impatience is directed at me as much as to you. Man, I am a seething, simmering happy mess of intolerance. Yes, happy. I’m writing a two part play for the radio at the moment and one of the characters is a grumpy, comical, unreasonable, old twit. He’s really easy to write because he’s me. Me. My impatience makes even me break down laughing sometimes. I am absurd. Should the world really turn as I want it to? Should the people around me really catch onto ideas as quickly as I want them too? Am I that important? In a word, no. And yes, my personality is funny in a custard-pie-in-the-face sort of way, but, radio plays apart, it’s not good. I have accepted this flaw too easily.
In the sermon on Sunday morning, we were pointed towards Romans 12, and our Pastor suggested that we should read that whole chapter.
It was a busy, busy day, but I kept remembering Romans 12 and finally, at about 4, I read it. Have you read it recently? Oh, it’s such a tender, loving, strong, steadying, wonderful chapter. I’ve read it before. Indeed, there are notes in my Bible from a sermon we had probably last year, and I wrote ‘Love in Action, the Church!’ but on Sunday these words came alive to me as they never have before. This is the NLT version, because it’s the tender version, not ever so academic of me, I know, but I ain’t an academic;
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to
bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Oh, boy. That is God speaking directly to me. That’s God talking to me about impatience at 11am in the sermon, and it’s God showing me the opposite of impatience at 4pm, and then… that evening….. we heard about a dead man, raised to life, and restored to his mother.
We saw in our mind’s eye, the distraught love of the mother and the young man dead. It reminded me of looking at my dead husband, standing with our daughter and looking at the man we both loved, realising that there was a gulf between the living and the dead that is so deep and wide that it defies understanding. Looking down at him and realising that he was gone. Just plain gone. And all the grief and tears, all the snotty sobbing and heartbreak in the world wouldn’t bridge that chasm. That’s what Jesus saw when he looked at that weeping mother, that’s what he saw when he said ‘Don’t cry’ and that’s what he defeated when he restored her son to life and to love, to her love.
Death is an anathema to God. The enemy of God. He has defeated death, with life and love .
For the first time, I realised that this is why Christians can love with a very real and unending love. Because we have been restored to the love of Christ. We have been filled with the love of Christ. We are filled to overflowing with the love of Christ. And that’s why (the morning sermon hitting home, I think the Christian jargon is ‘conviction’) we can show the love of Christ to the world. That’s why impatience is not my master. That’s why I can learn patience, learn love. Because Jesus has restored me to love, not to anger.
And then something else popped into my mind, something from a sermon a couple of weeks ago, recently anyway, about the Samaritan woman…. “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!”
Wow. Come and see a man who showed me everything I am, who knows me completely, who has seen every thought I have ever had….. come and see a man who speaks to me now, in his word, in my life, in every day.
A couple of months ago two friends came to visit and they came to my church. They liked the people but they were unsettled by some of the words. They sang ‘Amazing Grace’ which is a song they must have heard a few hundred times, but they both recoiled, this time, from the words ‘A wretch like me’. Later they both said ‘But we’re not wretches’. We talked about it for a little while, and I’ve thought about it often since then. Sometimes you need an outside viewpoint to make you think. I’ve thought a whole lot about being a wretch since that day.
I am a wretch. I am a bedraggled, sinful, impatient, intolerant, exasperated, wretch. But you know what? God loves me. I am precious. He thinks I’m the bee’s bloomin’ knees! He made me because he loves me and because I glorify him, when I live in him and with him. He cherishes me. He does! I’m the wretch he loved so much he died for me. I’m the wretch he loves so much he’s transforming me. Even me. Get that? Even me, even you.
Wowser. He knows everything I ever did, he knows everything I am, and he cherishes me. He know everything! No shadows, no darkness, everything is in the glaring light and yet, and yet…. he looks on the dead and the decaying and he restores us to life and to love.
That’s love. That’s God.
I am restored, not just to life, but to love. I was dead. I wish I could explain to you how dead I was. As dead as a doornail. As dead as a very dead thing, dead, dead, dead. Deader than dead. (OK, taking it too far) He looked on the dead and he loved her back to life.
I rejected love, denied love, ran away from it, didn’t believe in it, distrusted it, was afraid of it. At times I go back there. What an idiot. But a beloved idiot.
And now, restored to love. Not to impatience and self and exasperation and mess. To love. No excuse. No excuse, Luce. There is no excuse for my impatience, because he’s given me his own endless fund of patience, kindness, tenderness and joy.
God makes all things possible. Even this.
God. Don’t you just love him? Wow.