the end -
Julian of Norwich and the Apostle Paul collided in my readings this morning, leaving me with a resurgence of hope and confidence that I thought I'd share.
Julian, who lived during the black plague, and wrote "Showings" was the onee who said, "All's well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well." The context wasn't pretty. She lived in a time of death. She herself knew profound suffering. She had many questions regarding the ways of God and the "why" of sin in the world. And yet, this is the statement that seems to frame her life.
When I was reading Ephesians 1 this morning, I was struck by Peterson's interpretation of 1:11, which reads, "He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth."
We can ponder the end of the story with confidence; a confidence that the whole universe will be shot through with the glory of God. We don't know fully what that means, but we do know that means the end of suffering, the end of death, the end of war, poverty, loss disease, terror, rage, addiction... of course the list could go on all morning. But you get the picture: When the final chapter is written, God will have dealt with all of it. Beauty, purity, unimagined intimacy, LIFE, will remain. Indeed, "all manner of things shall be well." This reality has implications:
1. While living, in the present, with the reality of suffering, we have the possibility of an underlying peace, a peace rooted in our confidence of where history is headed. We have not only the possibility of peace, but the responsibility of allowing the peace of Christ to guard our hearts and minds, so that our decisions and living aren't rooted in fear or cynicism, greed or fanaticism, pride or shame. In short, peace is our privilege, and our responsibility.
2. Since we know the end of the story, we're invited to, as it were, move the story along, by embodying the hope and ethic of the end right now, right here in the midst of the darkness. This is what I wrote of in the previous post. The snapshots of God's reign can, and must begin inwardly, as we allow Christ to free us from phobias and addictions. It can and must spiral out from there into our families and world. This gives us a mission, a purpose.
3. This means Christ followers should whine less than other people. But of course, the testimony of history is that we don't, as a group, whine less than others. God's people complained in the wilderness of the Old Testament, even though God had promised to lead them into a land. Their tendency was to fixate on daily appetites, and whine about little things (menu options, Moses' marriage, the org chart for the journey... all the equivalents of whining today about...??)
I closed my devotional reading, closed Ephesians 1 and wrote this in my prayer journal:
Thank you God for the ever needful reminder that history is heading towards a glorious conclusion. Even as I read it, I realize how often this reality gets buried under a thousand petty concerns and personal issues. As a result, I miss the beauty, miss the snapshots of where you're leading, miss the signs of glory... give me eyes to see. Saturate me with the confidence of faith that lives in the present darkness as a candle, a forerunner of the light. I know this is the path of joy, of being a blessing, of living with confidence and meaning. Good shepherd... lead me there. Thank you in advance, for all that awaits me in following you. In Christ's name... Amen