Monday, December 31, 2007

Restrospect: n., a survey of past events

It's been a long one. Trying, stretching, difficult, painful (oh, so very painful!) - and good. The best, in many ways. Impossible to sum up, but worth looking back upon to see how far God has brought me, all he has doen in the riches of His grace and mercy.

The year breaks down into three sections, all of which themselves further break down. Spring semester, summer, and fall semester. The first semester was probably the most trying time of my life, and the culmination of some incredibly intense times in the year preceding. The summer, spent at Focus on the Family Institute, was one of the most refreshing and encouraging times of my life. The fall was a plateau, challenging and far different from anything I expected.

This spring was a time of God casting a vision for my life like I had not known before, and of conviction at a level I had not known before, and of healing like I had not known before. It was, without a doubt, the hardest few months of my life spiritually that I can recall. Simultaneously, God worked in my heart things I could never have imagined without the pain I experienced.

He began by opening my eyes last year to the penetrating need for the gospel - and for its incredible and overwhelming truth, one which we too often miss in the business of our lives and the manner in which we so readily take His work for granted. That Christ would come and live among us, sharing in our afflictions, modeling for us a better way, teaching us all that we need to enter the kingdom of heaven is beyond our comprehension. That he would then choose to suffer and die in our place is further amazing. His resurrection is then the capstone to the incredible become credible, the faithful God rescuing His faithless children: the incomparable deed for which all our praise is a mere fraction of all He deserves, utterly incommensurate with the price He paid for us.

The late months of winter were a flowering in my mind of this slow-building notion: that if we truly knew and understood the gospel, we would live lives radically transformed - indeed, we would live lives that were actually Christlike, that dared to see worked out the Sermon on the Mount and His constant call to a life of service. If even the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), then how much more ought we who are but His servants (incredibly invited to be the children of God, coheirs of the kingdom with Christ) be dedicated to service!

As this season progressed, I continually asked God to break my heart, show me the depths of my own depravity so that I could know Him more. And He answered. After months of my attempting to respond to His conviction (brought through faithful friends for who I am incredibly grateful and through parents for whom I am even more grateful), He pressed in hard and, as I said to my family earlier, "beat the tar out of me." He refused to let me stay in my sin - my pride, my egoism, my selfishness, my need to be right and to win, my folly. Thanks be to Him who rescues us from ourselves! And how incomparable a God we serve who does not leave us in our sin, but calls us forth - indeed, steps in to save us from our desperate state.

The time was not that long that He dealt with me in the severity of His grace. (That is in and of itself a concept worth wrestling with: the severity of God's grace. Because it often is severe.) It was perhaps two months. All the time since then has simply been the slow but steady working out of all that He poured into my heart, and the adjustment to all that He removed (and that I sometimes, to my great dismay, still occasionally find cropping up in my heart). Those were, however, two of the most significant months I can remember in my life in terms of spiritual growth and maturing - not least in seeing just how terribly far I have to go.

Working through the end of spring semester, the vision God had given for the advancement of the gospel mingled with the conviction He had worked in me to found in me a passion for holiness: for our own mirroring of His righteousness, and for the delight we ought to have in that mirroring. It is from our love for Christ and by His redemptive power in our lives that we are transformed, sanctified, remade in His image - that is, in the image we were first meant to have, that we have distorted in sin. And with our growing holiness, we will share the gospel.

This passion carried over and continued to grow as I moved into the second season of the year: summer. The almost eight weeks I spent at Focus on the Family Institute were incredible. They were refreshing, awakening, sharpening, and delightful. The friends I made have been among the best in the world. (Which is a reminder: I must needs call several of them, and soon!) The community we shared was incredible, beyond description - and a clarion call to me of what we ought to seek always. Though there were elements of the "mountain top" experience in our time there, it was more the sense that "this is how things ought to be - always."

The most important things I learned at FFI were not from our course material - they were from friends, and from my own personal study of Scripture. From friends, I learned immensely about so many things in this life, not least about myself. From Scripture, I began to catch glimpses of this God we serve from a new angle: seeing Him as the God of glory, and beginning to recognize the glory of God. I have not words for all He has revealed to me of Himself in that slow search and growth. It is beyond description, and my heart years to return to that word study, though I am temporarily working on other things in Scripture.

That time of refreshment, like all such times, gave way to a time of diligence and practice and application. The fall semester was a challenging one, and in new ways. I began work as a Resident Adviser in the dorms, a job filled with delights and frustrations all its own. I was in a new ministry team, again with excitement and challenges all its own. I was in a setting absent most of my closest friends and relationships from previous years, for a number of varied reasons.

God taught me a great deal about His faithfulness and about simply trusting Him - and about diligence when in the midst of trudgery (if you will - a word my father coined a week or so ago when we were talking about this very subject): times of trudging on through things which are not necessarily drudgery but are not emotionally exciting either. He demonstrated His goodness even through the end of the semester, when I wanted nothing more than to be done and to see my family again, granting me better grades than I had expected (or indeed even dared to hope for in one case). In all of this, He simply drew me close to Him. There were no earth-shattering revelations; nor were there any "aha!" moments. Rather, it was a time of slow but steady working out of all that He had revealed in the first eight months of the year - a process that continues even now, and likely will for some time.

Other things of significance happened this fall which shaped me and surprised me and - in one case - delighted me and apparently made me happier than my friends at OU have ever seen. But those bear commenting on in other circumstances and at other times.

For now, I will simply leave you with this thought: that above all else we can rest secure in the incomparable faithfulness of the Father's love, the Son's intercession, and the Spirit's conviction and encouragement in our life. This year is a picture painted of His goodness, my life for a canvas and my actions for a masterful symphony: working even my discordant entries into something grander than I could have imagined.

I cannot wait to see all that God has in store for the year ahead.

May God bless you and keep you, and make His face shine upon you. May you delight in His word and rest in His loving arms.

In Him,

1 comment:

  1. :)

    I enjoyed re-living the journey-in-process :)


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