They Caught Glimpses

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“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

“‘In those days and at that time
    I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
    he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved
    and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’”

~ As dictated by the Holy Spirit to the prophet Jeremiah, some 600+ years before Jesus’ birth

 

I’ve been reading the “-Iahs” lately. You know, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah… those famous prophets of old whose works crowd the oldest part of the oldest best-seller of all time. Realizing they only had snatches of the book of books we enjoy today, only the Torah, and nothing of the Jesus we are so familiar with — has me intrigued. These prophets knew very little, all things considered, of God’s promised Savior. But they were given missions from God himself, messages for their contemporaries and those who would later read their works. They were conduits of the Holy Spirit’s urgent press to scribe what they couldn’t help but write. Thru them God told His people of the Promised One to come. The One they would never see on this Earth.

Now Jesus always existed as the Son, present with the Father from before time began. He knew before the foundations of the Earth were set the full extent of His suffering and the joy it would bring His heart (and, one day, ours). He knew. He was there. And He couldn’t help Himself. He came to Earth in His pre-Incarnation, appearing as the Angel of the Lord, as recorded throughout the Old Testament, carrying messages and encouragement. He frequently interacted with Earth’s inhabitants, though not as one of them… yet.

But those He visited? They crouched in terror, and with increasing wonder watched His word made into events that shaped them and their descendants. Shaped us who read of them in His Word thousands of years later. We read of these looking back, seeing with eyes greater than our own, with Holy Spirit-energized understanding. We see the prophecies of the coming Messiah and wonder at their precise fulfillment.

But those who were writing all of this down? What of the men experiencing the pain and joys of citizenship in this broken nation? This stripling of a country whose men, women and children, through the centuries, have been hunted down, persecuted, killed in the millions, these citizens of a barely preserved Israel? They caught glimpses. They studied, digging deep as the Holy Spirit came on them, to understand more of the blurred images handed them.

They faithfully wrote all they could, knowing they would likely never see any of its fulfillment in their lifetime. They wrestled with the anguish of apostasy in their brethren, marveling at God’s persevering mercy and grace. The Israelis would be broken down to almost extinction. They would be punished severely for rejecting their own God. But they would be restored as they turned from their wickedness,  tear-soaked faces, eyes barely able to gaze  into the eyes of a forgiving Dad. And to them Messiah would come — as one of them.

They would someday, as their Messiah did, as we do now — call Him Abba, Daddy. This shocking familiarity would rock the world around them, the audacity of running into a holy God’s throne room, leaping into His open arms, cuddling in His lap. They would flock to Him, reject Him, slowly trickle back to Him in deep humility. The end-times will see the nation of Israel recognize their Messiah at last.

But those to whom the prophecy was given? All those “-Iahs”? They peered into the mists, writing feverishly, anticipating what they would never see on Earth.

But several hundred years after they died, those faithful soothsayers would follow the risen Christ out of Paradise, the singing and dancing spoils of war won on the cross, a shouting train of captives, following His shining form into Heaven itself. They are the good and faithful servants of old, who gave us the promise of the Promised One to come.

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I can’t help but think how ungrateful I often am of the treasure I hold in the Word of God. This book of 66 books, each one carefully crafted, Holy-Spirit breathed: I have more at my fingertips than any of the writers of this book. For I have all, from Genesis to Revelation, beginning and end. I have this gift to savor, a book many are killed for possessing — all over the world — right now. Oh God, forgive me for taking this invaluable book for granted, for pushing it away for temporary pleasures. Teach me to love it, to live in its ageless truths.

And let me never forget those who scribed it. They stand in your presence, basking in Your pleasure and approval. They who only caught glimpses now see fully what we will also someday share. And we, together with them,  have all eternity to grasp what we can only catch now as bright, beautiful glimpses.

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Suffering: Next-Level Training?

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Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. ~ Romans 8:17

I hesitate to even broach the subject. It’s not exactly party fodder, or even the usual banter of close friends.

“Hey, what’s up? How’re you doing?  Yeah, I’ve been suffering quite a bit lately, and… Wait, where are you going?”

This being a blog post, and my not being a Theologian (or an -ogian of any sort whatsoever), I am not planning to go too long or deep into this. At least not yet. But a quick plunge, given recent events, is in order.

So here goes.

Ka’en and I were finally out on Saturday, celebrating our near-twinness. We were both born in August, but my birth came two years and 13 days before hers. The last couple of years we’ve tried to have a birthday celebration close to our birthdays, at least in August. But this August was insane, September was even crazier, and finally we settled on October 27 as our Daylong Birthday Bash. She planned the first part of the day (a secret to me), I planned the second part of the day (a secret to her), and in the middle we’d have lunch at a local Indian restaurant.

So after Ladies’ Self-Defense class, off we went for Part 1, which I discovered was a mani-pedi (my first ever). It was lovely. Then off to the Indian restaurant for the best curry I’d had in forever. Throughout the meal, Ka’en was grimacing, clutching her right side, and breathing heavily. Hmmm… after watching this for a bit I began to make alternate plans. We finished lunch, paid, and I began striding out to the truck. Glancing behind me I saw Ka’en, barely able to walk, which clinched it. Into the truck and off to Plan B:  Christiana Hospital.

Into the E.R., much heavy breathing and side-clutching, brief stint in the waiting room, pulled out for vitals check (elevated blood pressure, temp and oxygen normal), placed in a side room, the usual waiting, etc., Percocet and a stint in the hallway, off to another room, waiting for doctors. Meanwhile the pain was getting worse, steadily, a clenching agonizing squeezing. Hours passed. Ka’en furrowing her brow, heavy breathing, more side clutching. Various tests:  EKG, imaging… and I’m carrying her stuff and mine from place to place, while medical personnel try to figure what’s up with all this pain.

And I’m listening to Father God, aka Dad. How should I pray? Mostly my prayers were inarticulate: heartache for my friend, sad thoughts, feeling at a loss. How can I help? I asked for a pillow, let the nurse know even the morphine wasn’t helping, tried to get Ka’en to smile but not laugh.

Then the weirdest thought entered my mind. Maybe this suffering was part of her training. Ummmm…what?? I knew it wasn’t from me. I was mama bear/ fiercely protective best friend; I wanted to make the pain yelp away, its tail between its legs. But the thought persisted, and I remembered the show I once saw about the Army’s version of Navy SEALS, guys who were already in Special Forces, who wanted to go to the next level and become Combat Divers. Preparing for that level required a lot of suffering, hard training for their bodies but especially their minds. Many dropped out along the way. But the ones who endured to the end achieved what few in the world could.

I’ve heard it said, “God doesn’t want people to suffer. What kind of parent would do that to their kids?” I have prayed for healing, remembering Isaiah’s “the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Verses abound in all four Gospels about Jesus curing everyone who came to Him for healing. And I believe in healing. My own progressive lung condition –which presented as emphysema — was healed in 2010. But what about suffering?  Does suffering (mental, physical, emotional) serve a purpose in maturing believers? I believe it does.

Didn’t Jesus’ followers suffer? Don’t His people suffer in various parts of the world today? Why? Oh, this topic has filled hundreds of books, each hundreds of pages long. How can a blog hope to even touch on this?

So I will offer a tiny taste of what I’ve learned:

Suffering produces perseverance and grit. Seeing Ka’en set her jaw and breathe through the pain without losing it, seeing her for the first time ever not experience a panic attack in excruciating pain — the worst she had ever experienced — was incredible. She simply asked for help and looked to Jesus for strength. Sure the medical community helped but they never diagnosed her problem. After several hours the pain ebbed and they sent her home.

Suffering narrows our focus to the only One who, ultimately, can do anything to help. Two years ago I experienced the worst pain of my life. Ever-increasing sciatica, till my body was in white-hot pain. Waiting for my mom to come back from taking the kids to school I was finally able to scream it all out, knowing I wouldn’t freak the kids out, and do you know what I said? JESUS CHRIST IS LORD OF MY LIFE, HE IS LORD OF MY DEATH! HE IS LORD OF THIS RIGHT HERE, JESUS I PRAISE YOU! The words just wailed out of me. Then the most amazing thing happened.

I suddenly saw Jesus beside me, bloody on the cross, barely able to breathe. I was hanging next to Him, on my own cross. He smiled understanding through His tears and the blood and I saw in His wide-open white-hot pain-filled eyes: compassion, a deep knowing. And in that moment I shared in His suffering. I felt love surge through me as never before, His love pouring into me as a gift. A gift I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It was an honor to be there, to be in this pain with Him.

My mom returned and I couldn’t walk without a crutch. Every step shot screaming through my whole body. The whole ER visit was a kind of blur till the concentrated Motrin injection started to kick in. I asked Jesus How did you do it? How did you transcend the pain on the cross and actually pray for your accusers, your enemies, the horde that put you there? And He didn’t tell me — He gave me the answer. I suddenly had a love that shut out the pain. Yes the pain was still there, but suddenly all I cared about were the other people in that place, the others scared in the ER, not knowing what would happen next. All I cared about was praying for them. And I shared in the love, through my pain — transcending my pain — with the Jesus who suffered more than any of us.

Holding Ka’en’s hand in the ER on Saturday as she hurt beyond my ability to help,  I was once again in a place of immense, intense honor.

I stroked her head, roaring into the dark. I beheld the glory of our God, blazing through her eyes. And the Lion of Judah roared above us both, His purpose in this beyond us. I suspect someday it will be revealed. For He never allows His children to suffer without reason. And this training, while excruciating, will produce whatever He had in mind as we submit to it — and to Him.

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