More Delayed Relevance

Hark: that moment of coincidence when the words “delayed relevance” turn out to carry more meaning than I thought they carried when I first used them

Meet my new favourite book that’s not really a devotional but functions quite like one: The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions. (Links to Amazon.ca)

I chose “Longings After God” as it sounded kind of like the verses of Psalm 84 from the post I completed just last night, and shall include a great little snippet from The Valley here:

Engage me to live more for thee.

Help me to be less pleased with my spiritual experiences,
and when I feel at ease after sweet communings,
teach me it is far too little I know and do.

Blessed Lord,
let me climb up near to thee,
and love, and long, and plead, and wrestle with thee,
and pant for deliverance from the body of sin,
for my heart is wandering and lifeless,
and my soul mourns to think it should ever lose sight of its Beloved.

Wrap my life in divine love,
and keep me ever desiring thee,
always humble and resigned to thy will,
more fixed on thyself,
that I may be more fitted for doing and suffering.

A) I totally need to be less pleased with my spiritual experiences, and less impressed with my ‘sacrifices’ and ‘suffering’.

B) The author of this prayer, whoever it is, actually asked to plead and wrestle with God in a Jacob-esque way. Interesting.

C) William Wordsworth has staked an immovable claim on all forms of the word “wander” in my vocabulary with his poignant line of poetry, “I wandered lonely as a cloud.” (This was a stray point of interest; an ADD moment.)

D) Longing after God is to want to be fitted for doing and suffering. Asking for suffering, essentially. Gah. Indeed, let me be less pleased with my spiritual experiences, and less impressed with my sacrifices and suffering thus far.

They call it “osmosis”

There you have it: the gummi bear was destroyed by the end, and by something so benign as water.

As we continue considering loss, grief, and any kind of transition in life, there is a point that needs to be made. (Surprise! Haven’t you noticed a theme in recent posts?) When we lose something, we replace it. On a trivial scale, I dropped my phone on the ground recently and broke the speaker. It didn’t make sense to fix it, so I considered it a “total loss” and replaced it with a low-end smartphone. (Hello decade of 2010. Sort of – still no data plan.) I digress. When we lose something, no matter how attached we were, we inevitably let other things fill the void left behind, or else consciously fill the void ourselves, even if it’s gradual and slow.

The law of osmosis: when high concentrations of solvent molecules move through a semi-permeable membrane to regions of higher solute concentrations. The lack of solvent molecules in one region of solution is an open invitation to other solvent molecules to creep in. 

The period of grief poses a sad but simple time when you can really feel all the words like “blessed be the name of the Lord” and “all is well with my soul” and “fix your eyes upon Jesus.” It’s emotionally hard to bear the pain but emotionally easy to rely on the love of God. After the most intense moments of trial have passed, emotions stabilize and are easier to bear, but it becomes harder again to feel the passion of your complete abandon to God.

This time-of-trial VS time-of-ease conundrum of drawing close to God is a most common concern I’ve heard amongst Christians. In the case of grief+loss it is easy at first to fill your loss with the comfort of the presence of God, but as the pain lessens and as life resumes, other things begin to take precedence. That vision of devotion once so clear becomes more clouded. In considering this, I’ve been reminded of a principle I just read in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus speaks regarding the Sabbath.

[23] One Sabbath he [Jesus] was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. [24] And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” [25] And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: [26] how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” [27] And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. [28] So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

(Mark 2:23-28 ESV)

The command to keep the Sabbath day holy is not a restriction from lifting a finger on the day of rest at all costs, but a call to honour God consciously with strength of discipline. ***

Similarly, with loss, it’s not that you can literally have nothing in your life but Christ. The idea is that as life continues and activities and people begin to fill our lives again, we will have grown some and will consider our motivations in how we fill our lives and to what end. We shan’t be passively filled by our convenient environments via osmosis, but filled by contending in the faith, working out our salvation in a spirit of submissive but eager obedience to follow a good and faithful God who called us before the creation of the world. Hopefully filling our lives in a way that reflects being a good and faithful servant cognizant that our Master will return and that the pleasures of the world shall pass.

*** (For my own benefit and for yours if you are interested, here is an article about rest and how to rest by Tim Keller that I want to remember: http://theresurgence.com/2012/07/11/5-practical-thoughts-on-rest)

Elijah and Elisha

The parts of 1 Kings and 2 Kings that talks about Elijah and Elisha made me cry, and I’m not really sure why. I suppose it is partly because they are clearly close friends. More so, when the two first meet, Elisha’s immediate and loyal dedication to serve Elijah is a rare breath of fresh air among the treachery and disloyalty to God that the other stories in 1 Kings display. It is something rather raw and innocent compared to the caution that we (understandably, I think) show people we do not know, even if we have good reference.

So I have a question to which I have formed only uncertain answers: When should we be so like Elisha? (I sat there but could not think of a suitable adjective) To God of course we should strive to be so, but to what people and when?

Elijah Summons Elisha; Elisha destroys his previous trade and becomes Elijah's apprentice

Elisha sees Elijah taken up to heaven and tears his clothes in parting grief