Life in my post-decision world had been good. I now, more than ever, felt like the life I was living was purposeful and planned. I felt as though I had some newly formed, solid connection to God — almost as if from high on His throne in heaven, His presence resonated deep within me, following me everywhere I’d go, partaking with me in the experiences of my life.
It was now about mid-semester through the last semester of my undergraduate education, and things really seemed to be looking up. I had been granted an interview with the administrative faculty of my department for a position that would provide full scholarship toward my master’s degree, as well as a generous additional stipend that would help cover living expenses and other amenities.
What more could I ask for, God? You have blessed me so immensely. I do not deserve what You’ve done in my life. Still, You are more than enough. If all of this were taken away, You are more than enough.
God has a funny way of exceeding your expectations.
So there I was, hiding behind a podium in a large auditorium so that none of the all-female audience could see me — a script with my lines highlighted on my cross-legged lap and clutching a tiny microphone in my hands preparing to speak. A friend of mine from some of my college classes asked me if I could play the voice of God for one of the women’s Bible study meetings at which she was interning, wherein I would have a conversation (as God) with the woman who was leading the session.
I had practiced my lines at least five times over and was completely prepared for the performance that lay ahead. What I was not prepared for however, was my phone buzzing with a text message, just before the leading woman was about to start. I scrambled to reach my phone buried deep within my pocket, inadvertently scattering my script all around the floor in front of me.
I still don’t remember why I was so furious in the pursuit to check my phone immediately. After all, I’d gotten a fair amount of texts that same day and none of them provoked the same amount of curiosity or drive.
I was finally able to wrap my fingers around the top edge of my phone and pry it from my jeans pocket to find that my friend, the girl I was telling you about before who was talking through the decision with me, was asking me what I was up to.
I told her that I was hiding behind a podium so that I could play the voice of God for a women’s ministry session, and she must have not believed me because she paid no regard to what I said in her response. Instead, she told me that whatever I was doing wasn’t exciting, and that we should do something exciting together.
Now, before I go any further, you need to know a few things.
This friend and I, while we talked a lot and enjoyed each other’s company in groups, very rarely ever spent time together alone. Part of the reason for this was likely due to the fact that a year earlier, some things happened which I won’t delve too deeply into, which led to a sort of silent period where we didn’t talk or see each other for a few months straight. The long and short of it was, I liked her, and she didn’t like me, or liked me but didn’t want to admit she did, or didn’t realize that she did like me and therefore couldn’t admit it — and admittedly, I’m not sure I really understood everything that happened, but I’ve realized that you just can’t understand everything, no matter how hard you try.
Our “dark ages” ended in the middle of the summer between college semesters, when she sent me a message online and told me that she was sorry about how things had ended so abruptly and how she felt bad because of it and how she wanted to be friends again. I told her I harbored no bitterness against her and that we could, of course, be friends again — and the fact of the matter is that I never stopped considering her my friend, even when we didn’t talk. I only thought of her as a friend who went away for a while.
We had a class together when college started up again. I have to say that it was kind of bittersweet. I looked forward to seeing her every other day, and I enjoyed all of our conversations, but it was hard to repress the feelings I had once felt for her. Still, the recollections of the past, no matter how vivid or remorseful, could do nothing to shake the newfound friendship that we enjoyed. And I was thankful even just for that.
My mom had given me some great advice that same year that I took to heart. She encouraged me to be a friend to everybody and not expect anything more. She said this would make all of my friendships and relationships more meaningful — that I should merely recognize and appreciate the fact that I had them in the first place.
I’ve been reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller, and he puts it this way:
"…I’ve also let go of the idea things will ever be made perfect, at least while I am walking around on this planet. I’ve let go of the idea that this life has a climax… And the thing is, it works. When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are. And when you stop expecting material possessions to complete you, you’d be surprised at how much pleasure you get in material possessions. And when you stop expecting God to end all your troubles, you’d be surprised how much you like spending time with God."
I can attest to the fact that it really did enliven all of my friendships, especially the one I had with this girl.
And even though most of our friendship was lived in the classroom and the sporadic lunches together that followed the class, I was happy. I was content. All the while, I was remembering what I had prayed to God, that I would always recognize that He is more than enough. And He was. And He is.
I was slightly taken aback by her statement that we should do something exciting together. I mean, we did get dinner or coffee together a few, scattered times throughout this new semester, following the semester I took the class with her. But these meetings were few and far between, and I figured they were just to connect as friends every once in a while so that our friendship wouldn’t go stale.
Mostly, when we went to dinner or coffee, our conversations were focused on what was going on in our educational pursuits, or what we were learning spiritually and where we were going to church at the time, and sharing advice on personal projects. Nothing really personal, nothing really pivotal, I thought.
So slightly perplexed, I shot back a message asking what she had in mind.
A few minutes went by without response, and I was starting to wander back to the reality of the fact that I was still hiding behind a podium, waiting to play the voice of God.
Just as the women’s Bible study leader was about to give me my cue to begin, I felt a buzz and looked to see that my phone had a message. Kate, the girl I’ve been talking about, asked me if I wanted to go grab coffee with her at a local coffee shop. I must be seeing things. I reread the text about three times to make sure I wasn’t missing something. Surely enough, she was asking me to spend some time with her, and I responded with an emphatic “yes!” At this point, the Bible study leader cued me to start.
The performance went smoothly, but all I could think about was why Kate had asked me to hang out with her. After my part in the Bible study was done, I quietly sneaked out a side door, walked briskly to my car, started it, and began my short drive to Kate’s dorm to pick her up. Questions regarding what was about to happen came in droves and left without any answers or clarifications. What could she possibly have to talk to me about that she would want to see me in person? And what does she mean by “exciting?” After a few minutes, I arrived at her dorm, she got in my car, and we headed off toward the coffee shop.
Our conversation was lighthearted in the car and when we took our seats at a small wooden table, off to the side of the shop and up against a large window overlooking an outside terrace. She asked me how my musical pursuits were progressing and if I had written anything new; I asked her about her classes and if she had been working on any new projects. Well, I guess she just wanted to hang out for a bit then — no big deal.
After a short while, she brought me back to the topic of music and lyrics and was about to say something when she was abruptly cut off by a man approaching the stage of the coffee shop, announcing his name, and revealing that he was a magician providing entertainment for the night. ”Hey, you wanted exciting?” I asked sarcastically, “Looks like you got what you asked for!”
The magician performed tricks for a good 45 minutes and, at one point, even recruited Kate as a volunteer. She came back to the table slightly embarrassed at having to stand up in front of the whole shop, but she quickly regained composure and seemed anxious for the magician to be done with his routine.
Upon finally ending his riveting (sarcasm) performance after coming back for an “encore” (I don’t remember hearing anyone shouting for one), Kate grabbed my attention and said she needed to show me something.
She said she had written some lyrics and wanted me to look at them, as we had many times before shared writings, lyrics, and music with each other. She slid a folded-up piece of notebook paper across the table but kept her hand on top of it; “After you read this, I need to talk to you,” she said both seemingly excited and nervous at the same time, as she released her grip on the paper.
I don’t really remember what I was expecting as I unfolded the piece of paper to read the lyrics, but as I read the title and began to read the words written in front of me, my heart leapt in a way I had never experienced before. The lyrics of the song she had written were directed at me, and in them, she was asking me for a second chance. No, no, surely I’m reading this the wrong way. I flipped to the back side of the paper and still, more words asking for, no, hoping for a second chance at a relationship were written. Well this must just be about someone else. All of my questions about what and who the lyrics were for were answered by a single note denoted by an asterisk at the bottom of the back page:
"In case there was any confusion, this song is about you!”
I vividly remember reading to the end of the song she had written, and losing all track of time and location. My head was abuzz with thoughts: Is this all just a dream? What made her change her mind? Did is misread something? The feelings that arose within me were nothing, and I mean nothing like I had ever experienced before. She took me completely by surprise (which no one had really ever been able to do) and shattered every single expectation or conclusion I had made about what I thought I knew.
I finally snapped back to the reality of where I was and, looking up at the beautiful girl that was sitting in front of me, who had all at once changed from a friend into the most incredible and important person in my life, I broke the silence:
"Let’s get out of here and talk!"
It’s been just over five months since that day, sitting in that coffee shop when all of my expectations about romance and relationship were simultaneously shattered and surpassed in every way. With all of the days that have passed since then, I have been learning so much about what it means to pursue the woman of my heart, to enjoy all of the moments that we spend together, and to delight in her exquisitely unique personality, charm, beauty, and heart. She truly has surpassed every single expectation of what I thought a good “girlfriend” or “significant other” would be.
It’s honestly hard for me to live a day where I don’t think that I don’t deserve this woman. It’s so easy for me to look at my life and pick out all the things I don’t like about myself and then place them in the spotlight of my self evaluation, highlighting them as the pinnacle of who I am.
The truth is, I don’t deserve her; but more than that, I don’t deserve anything. And yet in the midst of this, my mind goes back to a very specific conversation I had with God:
What more could I ask for, God? You have blessed me so immensely. I do not deserve what You’ve done in my life. Still, You are more than enough. If all of this were taken away, You are more than enough.
What became clear to me is that in the same way Kate and I were now sharing a beautiful relationship and romance, so God was sharing a continual romance with my soul.
Part of the excitement of romance lies within the mystery — in the unpredictability associated with all of the unknowns of the object of our affection. And you see, in just the same way that I had absolutely no idea of Kate’s thoughts and plans — even though I thought I knew her so well — I didn’t know, nor would I ever have guessed God’s perfect plan to bring us together the way He did. And I think the key to all of this — to enjoying God and the wonderful people and things He blesses us with — is to come to the simple, yet deeply profound understanding that He is enough.
In the book Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldridge, they explain the heart of a woman and her yearning to be romanced:
”…don’t you see that you want this? To be desired, to be pursued by one who loves you, to be someone’s priority?”
How is God any different? He did, after all, create man and woman in His image — after His own likeness. Is not “just as you are, you are enough for me” one of the, if not the most magnificent thing you could ever tell someone or be told yourself? Think about what that truly means. It means that you — all of you — with all of your personality traits, beauty, passion, heart, and even your flaws and failures are enough to satisfy the heart of another living, breathing, and thinking individual. Is this not one of the, if not the most magnificent way we can glorify God, Who has no flaws, and created us with the capacity to love and be loved and yearn for romance in the first place?
Of this I have become convinced: that we are made for relationships — and not just the kind that lead to marriage, but also between friends, and between family, and between brothers and sisters as sons and daughters of the Most High God. And moreover we, each of us, are made for romance — and not just the kind that leads to marriage, but the kind that can only be derived from the Divine — from the Creator of all that exists, the Founder of love, and the Provider of the single most important and romantic of actions that has ever been done:
"In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10, ESV).
I’ve had a tumultuous series of failures set before me in the way of romance examples. I think I can easily count on one hand the relationships of close friends and family that actually stayed together until death did they part. Being surrounded by such negative examples and heartbreaking stories does not enhance your view of relationships, to tell you the truth.
Thankfully, my closest family – that is, my parents – have been together since their day of marriage, and their relationship, while by no means the pinnacle of perfection, has been a lighthouse in a sea of relational misery; and I am privileged to say that I have two of the most wonderful parents a person could ever have. I have learned so much about life from both of them, and I am forever thankful for their examples, both in word and in deed, which have no doubt built and solidified me into the individual that I am today.
Still, being surrounded by such negativity has had effects on the way that I approach relationships, most markedly, my relationship with God. Let me explain what I mean by this.
In their book, Why You Do The Things You Do, Drs. Tim Clinton and Gary Sibcy posit that we, as humans, are made for relationships. After thinking about this claim for a while, I happened to agree with them.
Think about it.
We are born into the world to two parents, who have a relationship with each other. We rely upon them, at least in our infancy, for nourishment, love, and shelter. We are their son or daughter, and they are our mom and dad.
At the same time, we have a relationship to the world. Because of the fall of man, as explained in the book of Genesis, we all are born with a natural tendency toward sin – that is, we are bonded, from the very beginning, to the world, and the master that it serves.
We are also known by God before we were even a thought to the parents who bore us. He is known, throughout the Bible, as the “Father,” and He exists as one of three persons, known as the “Trinity,” along with God the Son (Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit.
Christ is the Head of the church, and the church is known as his “bride” in Scripture.
Of the commandments, Jesus tells us that the greatest is loving God with all of your heart, soul, and mind and, second to that, loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40).
The most important thing we could do with our lives, the thing that determines our destination for eternity, is the reconciliation of our relationship with God — our calling upon His Son for salvation (recognizing that He is the only Being capable of providing it) and allowing Him to restore God’s image upon us from distortion to clarity (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Are you beginning to see now just how pervasive the idea of relationships are throughout life?
What recently became readily apparent to me is that, in my own life, the negativity and tumultuousness of the human relationships that surrounded me impacted not only my outlook on my own human relationships, but also and most importantly, my outlook on my relationship with God.
That outlook? Dim.
Everywhere I looked, relationships were falling apart around me. Wives were leaving their husbands, husbands were leaving their wives. Boyfriends and girlfriends who seemed so sure to get married someday were biting the dust.
You’d think my view of God would remain consistently strong what with the considerable amount of Scriptural support for God’s fulfillment of covenants and commitments, His unfailing love, mercy, and grace, and His overwhelming compassion for His people and His church.
But I can attest personally to the fact that living in the midst of so many broken homes and split families, so many hearts trodden over by a lover turned enemy — it becomes hard to see truth and redemption and happiness and “unfailing love” when those who call upon the same God find themselves so utterly lost in rip tides of relational downfall.
And so, there I was, down to the wire on a choice that needed to be made regarding the next steps of my life’s journey, and I had no idea what to do.
On one hand, the guarantee of a job seemed so enthralling. I tried convincing myself that it was the best option to take, that it was the most reasonable decision. I told myself this because I wouldn’t have to put on the boxing gloves and fight in the downward spiraling ring of the current economy. I wouldn’t have to wonder where my next car payment, or gas money, or grocery funds would come from. It really was the most reasonable decision.
And yet, I couldn’t force myself to make it.
I felt this overwhelming sense to walk away from this rationality that I had become mesmerized by. To step out of the realm of assurance and instead take my chances by choosing to attempt to garner a scholarship toward the pursuit of my master’s degree.
I did all I could to repress this urge and yet, on what was probably the last day I had to make the choice, I decided to go against my rational instinct and take my chances on the scholarship and master’s degree.
All the while, through this whole process of trying to decide what to do, I had been talking to a girl who is a dear friend of mine, and she had been talking me through the various pros and cons of each possibility, which really did help shed light on the ramifications of what my decision would bring in both cases. Little did I know at the time how much my decision would affect her life as much as it did mine.
After stepping away from my perceived rationality, I can honestly say that I felt some kind of joy and comfort that I have never experienced before in my life. It was as if this immense pressure and weight had been lifted from my body. I literally felt like I could breathe easier.
And then, I realized the reality of what I had done, and herein is what I believe God taught me:
All of the relationships that were failing apart around me, especially the ones that included commitments before God and witnesses, caused me, quite subconsciously, to begin to draw away from God’s promises, plans, and calling for my life and instead to try to rely on the only thing that I thought I could trust in life.
And you see, the problem with this is that I am just as flawed as the rest of humanity. I am just as susceptible to relational demise and personal downfall just as much as everyone else is — and without God, how much more so?
My biggest error was in not seeking God and allowing Him to work out the knots that the failed relationships surrounding me caused in my life. And the thing is, I never even gave Him a chance. It wasn’t like I was purposefully shunning Him or anything, either. It’s just that I let my focus and my yearning for human relationships take center stage when I should have instead been clinging to the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
This led to, what I think, is one of the most significant and defining moments of my entire life.
I believe the urging I felt within me, begging me to step away from my perceived rationality, came directly from God in order for Him to break down the walls around my heart and mind laid brick by brick by observations of broken relationships.
If I was like a boy who stared into the window of a warm house wishing I could be inside enjoying what it was like to be in a good relationship, then God was like an architect who I kicked out of His own creation, locked all the doors, shut all the windows, and forgot completely about until He chiseled His way back into my life.
Thank God that He does chisel His way back into our lives.
His resurgence in my life — His return to center stage and affirmation that He is fighting like a jealous warrior for His bride’s affection — caused me to claim the following prayer over my life:
"God, whether I am married or single, rich or penniless, nourished or hungry, quenched or thirsty, strong or weak, free or chained, together or broken — at all times, in all places — let me always acknowledge that You are, that You always have been, and that You always will be more than enough for me.”
From this point on, my life has taken the most dramatic and nearly inexplicable of turns. It is now, more than ever before in my life, I feel not superficially, but rather deep within, that God’s calling has been pervasively following me throughout my existence in a way that seems so irrational to the mind of a mere man — but to God, is like the step-by-step fulfillment of a plan drawn long ago, before I even took a breath of air into my infant lungs.
[Coming up next: Meeting the woman I’d been waiting for, even though I’d known her all along.]
You know, I couldn’t be dating a better woman. I really couldn’t.
My girlfriend and I have been apart for a few weeks now, braving the separation of the summer months that divide college semesters. I can’t say it’s been an easy passing of days; in fact, quite the opposite.
And the honest to goodness truth of the matter is that I never thought it would be this way. I never thought something like the romance I have begun to know and live would ever happen to me.
I used to think of romance like a party taking place in the dead of winter, in a warm house where there is a fire burning, and everyone who has someone is sitting around the fire, sharing stories, laughter, and community, while I shiver outside from the bitter cold and stare inside with hopeful, longing eyes, wishing I could be warm with them.
As I grew up, it seemed like every day I heard of another friend getting engaged, or even another getting married. I remember thinking that it seemed like we were all still so young. Truth be told, I don’t think the realization that you are “older” really hits you until much later in life, where investigation of future possibilities gets replaced by retrospection of past events — where you try to determine whether the life you have lived was meaningful or not.
I really struggled with this because I didn’t want to reach “older” and look back and see a bunch of failed opportunities at love or relationship and then regret that I wasn’t more vigilant at pursuing it. I didn’t want that image of the boy standing outside the party looking in through the window, shivering in the cold, to become the image of an old man giving up and dying on the porch steps, having never found out what it was like to be inside.
I recently finished Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, and in it, he talks about how a man needs to walk away from the woman — that is, he needs to realize that he can’t find the answers he’s looking for, nor the strength to live life, nor the essence of what it means to be fulfilled in a woman. The only source of providence for these essential qualities of life can be found in the One who created us — that is, God.
What I realize now is that so much of the anxiety and apprehension I had about romance — about finding someone — was linked to my inability recognize God as the sole source of life, as the prime meeter of my needs, as the most fulfilling Companion I could ever know.
It came down to a key moment of decision, where I needed to decide to either stay in school for a master’s degree with the possibility of getting a job with scholarship benefits that would cover my tuition, or move away from Virginia (my entire world for the past four years) to a guaranteed position elsewhere.
When it came time for me to make the decision, I felt an odd apprehension — almost a desperate cry — urging me not to take the guaranteed job, and instead to pursue my master’s and apply for the possible job/scholarship.
Now, this is foreign to me because I am, almost by definition, someone who plays it safe. I analyze every detail of every situation in order to reach the most well reasoned decision (my girlfriend will corroborate). But as I soon learned, God laughs in the face of human reason.
[Coming up next: My decision and what I learned that God was teaching me.]
Well, okay that’s a little bit of an overstatement because if I didn’t have grandfathers, I wouldn’t rightly be here to have typed this, would I?
What I really mean is, I never knew my grandfathers. Both of them passed away before I was even born, so I never got a chance to meet them, to hear stories about how they fought in the war, and to glean from the grandfatherly advice that so often emanates from an aging, wizened soul.
I recently flew across the nation to be in a wedding that joined two of my dear friends together. It was beautiful, and for an entire week I got to explore Seattle — a place I had never seen before — and glimpse the awe-inspiring sight of Mt. Rainier and sip a brew from the first and original Starbucks establishment.
The wedding took place on Friday, and afterward I stayed around the church and reception hall to help break down all of the decorations and say goodbye to the family and friends I had met.
As I was getting ready to leave, I happened to notice an elderly gentlemen sitting in a chair leading into the reception hall. I had seen him once or twice before that same day during the wedding but only in fleeting glimpses and never long enough to really notice anything special about him. This time, though, as I was walking toward him, he turned to me and looked me full in the face.
I saw a twinkle in his eye — a look that said, “I know so much about life. Come, sit, let me share with you what I have to offer.” Before I even had a chance to say anything or acknowledge him, he began:
"You’re the one who played the song, aren’t you?"
The bride and groom had asked me to play a song during their wedding ceremony, to which I happily obliged.
"You know, never stop doing that." He spoke always with a smile on his face and with a jovial but intentional voice. "Never stop pursuing the things that God has given you a talent for and a passion for and opportunities to use."
At this point, he asked me my name and I told him who I was.
He shot off again, “You know what Joe, if there’s one thing I could tell you, it’s this: don’t fear old age.”
He began to tell a story:
"When I was young, I was walking through a park in fall, and I came upon a tree whose leaves were all changing color. It was surrounded by trees whose leaves had either not changed or had been slowly falling away. As I stood there observing this, I heard God speak to me and say, ‘Do you see this tree, with all of its leaves painted beautifully, surrounded by the trees whose leaves are not?’ I told Him that I did, and He spoke again and said to me, ‘This is what it will be like in your old age. You will begin to understand that growing older is like a tree in fall — it is the time when the fruits of your life radiate and reflect most beautifully. It is a time to enjoy everything that has come before, and everything that is about to come.’"
He had a deep nostalgia in his eyes, almost as if, for the short moments he was telling me this story, he was back in that park having that conversation with God all over again.
He looked at me and said, “Joe, that’s what old age is like. That’s what it’s going to be like for you.”
"And you know what, let me tell you one more story:"
"Another time, when I was a bit older, I was walking again through a park as I often like to do. I came upon another tree that grew larger and more ornately than the other trees surrounding it. I heard God say to me, ‘Do you see this tree?’ I told Him that I did. He then said to me, ‘In the same way that this tree has grown in the midst of all of the other trees surrounding it, so you should learn to grow where I have planted you.’"
"Joe," he said, "you need to grow where God has planted you, because He’s planted you there for a special reason."
I don’t know where this man came from and I don’t know where he went, but all I could think at the time was that God placed him here for the sole reason of speaking into my life and encouraging me in faith.
This was pretty much confirmed to me as, right after I thought it, he said, “Joe, I want you to know that us meeting and talking together was not coincidence.”
We both conversed for a few more minutes before parting ways, as it was getting late and those breaking down the decorations needed extra help.
If I could have, I would have sat next to him and listened to his stories for hours. I wanted so much to be able to continue talking with him and to learn from the wisdom of an aging but still very living heart.
I think, for the short time I got to talk to this man, I felt what it must be like to have a grandfather. I learned so much from him in just the short time it took to tell those two stories; I wonder how much more I would know and how differently I would perceive the world and spirituality if I had someone like this in my life to glean from at a moment’s notice.
But I think the point of all of this is reflected in what he said to me. Basically, that God has made me who I am, given me talents and abilities, blessed me with the people I have in my life, given me fruit to water and care for, and planted me in the place he wants me to grow because that is His calling upon my life. That is the way He forms me into the man He wants me to be.
I now direct this to you. God has made you who you are, given you talents and abilities, blessed you with special people in your life, given you fruit to water and care for, and has planted you in the place where he wants you to grow.
I hope this encourages you as it did me.
The truth is, I believe all of us could stand to learn a thing or two from those who have gone before us, who lived a great deal of their years away as we were just beginning to live our own, and who, with twinkles in their eyes, beg us to come and sit next to them to hear the words of an aging, yet fiercely living soul.
Instead of being One who I fear may turn the life I know upon it’s head, may You become the One I run to with all recklessness, knowing that You alone know my true name, and You desperately want me to know it with You.
Well, it’s 1:07am and as of yet, still no rapture.
I say this as if I’m waiting in anticipation of it happening with the reserved belief that it won’t, in fact, come to pass based on Camping’s prediction but hey, you never know, right?
I was talking to my mother on the phone yesterday and I jokingly asked her,
"Hey, so since the rapture is happening tomorrow, what’s the one thing you never got to do with your time on earth that you really wish you could have done?"
"Broadway," she said, almost without hesitation… She wished she could have been an actress on Broadway.
And then she asked me.
"I wish I could have dived down to see the wreck of the Titanic," I said.
We both remarked and laughed a little about each other’s idea about what we wish we could’ve done on earth, provided the rapture did indeed occur.
I understand that Broadway and diving to the wreck of the Titanic are really quite fanciful, but all of this got me thinking…
What do I honestly wish I could do, that if the world were to come to an end, I would regret not doing it?
And truthfully, from this question the list could grow quite large.
I want to publish a book, create a concept album, get married, finish my master’s education, read every word of Tolstoy’s War and Peace (kind of kidding about that one)…
When I think about things like this, it almost seems like I’m trying to grasp at a just out-of-reach object; in reality, a little hard work, a little more taking chances, and a little more patience on my part could make all the difference in seeing my hopes for these accomplishments (and more) be made manifest in my life before “the end of the world as we know it” comes.
And, in the end, I know it doesn’t really matter (see “In The End” by Linkin Park) what accomplishments I have or what wonderful things I get to take part in save for my trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins and the rescuing of my soul.
But really, think about it for a second.
What do you honestly wish you could do, that if the world were to come to an end, you would regret not doing it?
(Feel free to post your answers in the text box below)
As you likely know, upon opening up the book of Genesis and reading the first few lines, the reader is thrust headfirst into the God-breathed, ex nihilo creation of the world. There was the light and the darkness, the separation of the waters and the sky, the gathering of the waters to one place and the formation of dry land. Then there was vegetation, the stars, sun, and moon set in their places, the water began to teem with life, birds began to fly across the earth, and then land animals began to walk across the expanse of dry ground. Then later, on day six, something incredibly special happens.
As it is written,
"Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Ourimage, in Our likeness… So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them’” (Genesis 1:26-27, emphasis added).
Now, if you’re anything like me, these verses makes you curious. I mean, why does God, the most fiercely powerful Being in all existence create us— so seemingly insignificant, frail — in His image? And further, how is the image of God upon us today?
Recently, I’ve been reading through John Piper’s “Desiring God,” where I discovered something interesting that helped me process these questions.
I personally hold to the belief that God created us so that we may glorify Him. I echo Piper’s reference of the Westminster Shorter Catechism as he cites:
“The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
(Supporting Scripture may be found in Ps. 16:5-11; 86:9; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; 60:21; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:20; Rev. 4:11; 21:3-4)
I mean, really, why else would we have been created? It isn’t as if God needs us. To suggest that the purpose for His creation of mankind was necessary to satisfy some kind of deficit need would be to mutate the exuberant and all-powerful “immutable” quality of His nature. This is supported Scripturally in Acts 17:25, where it says that “He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else’” (emphasis added).
Right. So I get it that we were created to bring glory to Him, but what’s the deal with this whole image thing? It just seems so odd, at least to me, that we would be given the image of our Creator.
Well, Piper goes on to suggest that not only is it our purpose to glorify God, but that God Himself is “uppermost in His own affections.” In other words,
The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever.
If it sounds like it contains hints of hedonism, thats because it most assuredly does. In fact, the whole book is dedicated to Piper’s exposition of what he calls “Christian Hedonism.” I won’t take the time to try to explain all of that now, but if you want to learn more about it, I highly suggest picking up a copy of the book Desiring God.
So then, in response to my query of why God would create us in His image: if it holds true that “God is uppermost in His own affections” and that His chief end is to glorify Himself and enjoy Himself forever, then this indubitably resonates in the work of His creation. Recalling that God does not necessarily need us because of His supreme power and authority over all things, and that He is fully capable of finding and enjoying the glory that He exudes from Himself, and sees and receives from His Son and from the Holy Spirit, then I am led to believe that mankind having been created in the image of God means that God’s own glory was and is reflected when He observed and observes us and saw and sees that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
This, I believe, is important because once we realize that we were made in the image of God, we can see how our identity, at it’s most minute and rudimentary state, is intended to be a reflection of God’s glory back to Himself. And if today our “image” is considered somehow distorted or blurred because of the sinful nature we now possess, we can look forward, as Christians, to sanctification and a reparation of the image by which we were first created. Hence, the story begins and the story ends not with our own glory, but with God’s.
And to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, here is what you, and me, and past saints and future believers have to cling:
"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Cynicism: an attitude adopted by “reasonable” and “rational” individuals to shroud their existent but often suppressed feelings of pessimism by maintaining a facade that is unreasonably irrational toward things they do not fully understand.