When I was training for a marathon, I would fill my pockets with orange slices in Ziploc bags. As weariness snuck up, one or two slices popped in my mouth would push it back and give me strength to press on another few kilometers. God's words and His encouragement sometimes come in bite-sized slices -impressions, experiences, encounters - and are just enough to push weariness back and keep us pressing on a little further...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Kingdom Inside

I’ve got a kingdom, you know.  It’s currently stuffed inside the envelope of this life, a universe concealed by skin and breath and tears.  It lies within, but is governed from without.  Joys and disappointments bump up against it like the weather, alternately storming and passing, but its walls remain impervious.  When sorrows rain down, my soul is kept dry; when contentment shines, the shutters are thrown open and the doors swung wide to let in the light.  My heart then basks in the warm and gentle goodness of my King. 

When I am willing, it gathers round my eyes and colors what I see; sometimes it camps upon my lips and guards the words I speak.  It is the force guiding hands and feet and elbows and knees.  It is the stronghold of my soul. 

I’m told this Kingdom comes to the poor in spirit1, and, truly, I know of no other way to find it.  Only those who are lost will see the need for direction, those who are helpless will accept the outstretched arm.  Only the broken will receive with gladness the pain of healing.  Sometimes this life renders me lost and helpless and broken – I am poor in spirit.  The frailty of my humanity and my self are overwhelmingly obvious when I look at the storming circumstances that surround.  I am not enough to handle them alone; not perfect enough, not patient enough, not wise enough.  If I were to rule this Kingdom of mine, it would come to utter ruin.

But, God is building it in me.   And He is ruling it for me. Ironically, my weakness is what strengthens it2, my yielding release of each brick into His waiting hands the manner He chooses to build a Kingdom strong enough to protect me against the tempests of difficulties that come.  For they do come.  No matter how strong I think I am, or how well I may have prepared for such days, a severe wind of adversity will at some point rail against me.  The strength of those walls will be tested. 

And what He has built will prevail.  What I build crumbles beneath me.3  I have held the resulting dust in my hands, choking on the grit of it, and sweeping it into great piles of disappointment.  My ever patient King gives me opportunities to try again, however, placing bricks in my hands while holding out His own.  He waits for my yielding release, allowing Him to rebuild a Kingdom that will endure.   The tempests may blow again and again, but His stronghold remains.  Nothing can truly harm me there.

For, what can prevail against my God?  What circumstance, what situation, what trial can separate me from Him?4  What pain or level of discomfort can possibly eradicate the Kingdom He is building?  What, then, could I be afraid of?  My skin and muscle and bone and sinew may walk on feet fitted with shoes for the soil of this earth, but my true self walks along the paths of His Kingdom.  I am subject not only to the laws of my temporal government, but also to the laws of my heavenly one – laws that set me free, calling me to greater heights even in the midst of the greatest depths.

(SIDE NOTE: In light of those laws, I am not commanded to be tolerant, I am commanded to love.  Tolerance is an anemic substitute for the passion with which I am told to comfort, encourage, strengthen, empathize, and liberate both my enemy and my brother.  None is exempt (from loving or being loved)5.  As a citizen of the Kingdom of heaven, our Law is Love and anything less is criminal.  I don’t decide the laws of the Kingdom, I am simply called to obey them.  Give, serve, hope, pray, learn, worship, sacrifice, love – these make up the Kingdom constitution, my King wrote them on my heart; they are exquisite graffiti on my soul.  I do not have the right to ignore any or all of them.)

One day, one glorious day, the walls of our universes concealed by skin and breath and tears will come tumbling down, not from conquest, or tribulation, but from liberation.  The envelope will fall away and we who have been lost and helpless and broken, we who have been poor in spirit and yet followed the King, will walk together in the greater Kingdom each one of us has been carrying a piece of around in our souls.  The boundaries of our ‘selves’ will both expand and contract - we shall be more ourselves and yet less separate from one another than we could have imagined.  The King will stroll beside us and we will bask together in His warmth and goodness.6 This is the Kingdom I know.  (It’s called, “Happily Ever After…”)

1 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”  -Matthew 5:3

2 “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  -2 Corinthians 12:10

3 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” -1 Corinthians 3:11-16

4 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  -Romans 8:35-39

5You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”  -Matthew 5:42-45

6 “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  -Revelation 21:1-5

No comments:

Post a Comment