Letter on the eve of Easter morning, 2000...


It's ten pm, saturday night, and the quiet is beginning to creep in...

The relatives are all gone, the calls and cards and fruit baskets and flowers have slowed, the debris in the house has been somewhat cleared, and I now face 'life' again, and wander spontaneously around in my thoughts...

So many lessons learned these past two weeks, and these past two years...strange answers to strange questions...
 


I have felt something like this before, years ago...I remember (in pain, no less) what it was like when my oldest daughter left for college...Though I knew that I would see her again soon, and could call her anytime, and could visit her at will, it STILL gouged out my heart...I doubled-over in pain at every remembrance of her--though she was only "8 cents a minute" away...it hurt and hurt and hurt...and when she would come home for a holiday or weekend, when she left to return to school, the process of pain repeated itself! There was no desensitization or 'learning curve'--just blood on the floor all the time...

But this is slightly different--although the sensation is intensely the same-- since I cannot hear from her and the time of our reunion is unknown (though it is certain)...and the parent's natural anxiety over the welfare of the child is a welcome absence from my heart...The memories are a mixture of celebration and grief, and going through her things sets off a thousand sobs, but the knowledge of her welfare--in the arms of my good-hearted Jesus--and of our reunion someday strengthens and encourages me...

Theologically, I believe that her soul has undergone its post-death 'expansion'. I believe that at death, the truest character of the soul is expanded to its fullest expression (via a removal of the 'natural fetters'--analogously to how 'filters' are removed in miraculous situations, cf. 2 Kings 6), and coupled with the blinding light of 'real' reality (i.e., the presence of God), her perspective is now so far beyond mine in wisdom, joy, values, etc....the other morning, I found myself calling her "little one", and quickly realized that I was now the "little one" among the two of us!

Through this experience I have seen many, many 'little miracles' of comfort and timing. As with so much of what God does in our lives, they were too 'small' or too 'subjective' to be used as 'evidence of God's existence' in public settings, but too 'large' and too 'concrete' to be dismissed by me as imagination or coincidence...His heart was so obvious in the details and the patterns.

I ramble, I know, but I have no intention of stopping (smile)...

One of the more vivid lessons of this trauma had to do with Good Friday and the plan of God...Britt was declared legally dead (i.e., cessation of brain and brain-stem activity) on Tuesday morning (although the doctors' best guesses were that it actually occurred late Saturday nite/early Sunday morning), but her heart and breathing were still going due to the machines in the Intensive Care Unit. As some of you have no doubt already guessed, her mother and I had to set a time to take her off the machines for her body to die. We had to decide on a time for her to finish dying...I hope I will never have to face such a decision again in my life, for one such eternal stiletto in the heart is sufficient for a lifetime...

And so I thought about God the Father and the decision to let His Son die at a specific time on the Cross...I cannot imagine the pain in His completely sensitive and un-numbed heart...Scripture records only the cry of the Son (the Cry of Dereliction), but I wonder what roar of divine anguish the angels heard in heaven...He got His Son back, like I will get my daughter back, but I learned a long, long time ago that that NEVER reduces the pain of that event, seared into one's consciousness and memory...

As I ponder over the years the heart of God, and I look for its character in Scripture, in providence, and in the hearts of His people, I continually am impressed with how little we appreciate the depth and sensitivity and how "effusively parental" it is...

Scripture is so vivid--when you look for the nuance--in showing a heart that seeks celebration and joy and warmth for us creatures, and one that hates judgment and correction.

Just a couple of eye-opener (for me) passages:

1. The first prophecy of Balaam (Num 24) reads thus:
The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, 4 the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:

“How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!

“Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters.

The amazing thing about this passage is how positive the view of Israel is in it. The beautiful agricultural imagery in it reveals a God who delights in Israel, who honors Israel, who brags on Israel, who "believes the best" about Israel. This is the Israel who has rebelled against God for the previous 40 years (constantly grieving and frustrating Him, Ps 78.41), who is about to commit wholesale family-treacherous religious prostitution (in Num 25), and who will be "more realistically" described in the Song of Moses (Deut 31-32). Moses has never praised Israel so highly, but God uses a pagan prophet to reveal His feelings and His heart for Israel. Does God see us this way?! Do we give Him "credit" for that?
 

2. One of the Judgment Oracles in Isaiah (Is 15-16), against Moab, has this passage toward the end:

6 We have heard of Moab’s pride— her overweening pride and conceit, her pride and her insolence— but her boasts are empty.

7 Therefore the Moabites wail, they wail together for Moab. Lament and grieve for the men of Kir Hareseth. 8 The fields of Heshbon wither, the vines of Sibmah also.

The rulers of the nations have trampled down the choicest vines, which once reached Jazer and spread toward the desert. Their shoots spread out and went as far as the sea.

9 So I weep, as Jazer weeps, for the vines of Sibmah. O Heshbon, O Elealeh, I drench you with tears! The shouts of joy over your ripened fruit and over your harvests have been stilled.

10 Joy and gladness are taken away from the orchards; no one sings or shouts in the vineyards; no one treads out wine at the presses, for I have put an end to the shouting. 11 My heart laments for Moab like a harp, my inmost being for Kir Hareseth.


Moab was historically an enemy of Israel (although not without small pockets of non-hostile relations), and a purely "political" or "nationalist" judgment oracle would not likely have contained the 'odd' verses 9-10. In these verses, YHWH--who has decreed the judgment on Moab due to oppression--weeps and grieves over this judgment! He is specifically sorrowed by the fact that the Moabites will not experience their harvest celebration and parties! YHWH somehow delights in their celebration of the goodness of the crops, and in their rejoicing and shouting/singing. His 'innermost being' weeps because this "pagan" community's joy and celebration has been removed...Does this show us something of the heart of God?! Does He delight in the joy and well-being of His creatures?
 

3. In Is 63, the prophet rehearses God's feelings for Israel (v.7ff):

I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us—
yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses.
8 He said, “Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me”; and so he became their Savior.
9 In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
Verse nine makes it clear that the heart of God suffered with His people--His solidarity with (and/or empathy for) was so close that their distress penetrated to His very heart...(see also Judgs 10.16)...The theme of God's solidarity with the little "images" of Him on the earth is a very profound one, with implications for many, many subjects (e.g., revelation, divine judgment, justice, love and worth), but that He suffers when we do seems to be the import of this verse (and others, cf. the divine ethic in Rom 12.15--the ultimate Co-Celebrant and Co-Griever)...


But this is just the tip of the iceberg, but it should be enough to encourage you to look for the traces of His good and tender heart as you look at Scripture, the patterns of providence in your life, and the actions of His closest friends and confidants...I have been amazed and provoked to worship, as I probed His heart in scripture re: topics of women, slavery, social justice, care for the marginalized, comfort in adversity over the past few years...and I have experienced that Heart in a special way over the last two weeks...

More to say, but it is late and the women are probably wondering about who will move the stone, as they depart in the darkness for the most unexpected Surprise of all history--a crucified Man overcame death, and did it by bodily resurrection...the implications for humanity are staggering--way beyond 'religious sentiments' and 'moral benefits'--surging with power down through history all the way to glenn and the expected reunion with his dancing and singing daughter...

May your view of the Resurrection be a little more vivid this year--mine certainly will,

Carried by nail-pierced Hands this Easter,
glenn


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