I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
There has turned out to be a bit of a theme for me this month, starting back at our AIM Air retreat. In a nutshell, our speaker reminded us that God's plan was for far more than just forgiveness of sin, and future eternal life. It was for complete healing and restoration of all that is broken, in many different directions: God with man, man with himself, men with each other, and men with creation. The ultimate fulfillment of that will take place in heaven, but we are called to work towards that now. What does that look like? How do we live in the mess, but remember we have been made for something more and that God is even now working in us to bring that about? The pain and brokenness in the world can take your breath away. And I'm not just talking about S Sudan. I'm talking about Kansas, Minnesota, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, and Canada. We know that its there. Inside of us, in our families, and our communities. How depressing is that? How overwhelming? Even as believers, we can often hardly stand up underneath the weight of the brokenness that is our world.
Knowing that my sins are forgiven and I'm going to heaven doesn't always cheer me up that much. That may be all well and good, but really, how does it help me right now? I know this sounds so simple and obvious, but I have been reminded so much recently that that initial step in restoring our relationship with God, when we come to Him is just that, one step. We agree with the situation as He sees it, that we are desperate sinners who are hopeless, purposeless, lonely and deserving of punishment, but instead accept the alternative He has to offer: forgiveness, a brand new start, new life, and the opportunity to see restoration and redemption of other things in our lives as well. But so often, we stop at the beginning, thinking that's all there is. And we continue to struggle with the brokenness and hopelessness inside oursevles, our marriages, other relationships, and in the world on a much larger scale. Most of sub-Saharan Africa claims to be Christians. But the tribal fighting, corruption, and injustices that go on beg to differ. How many of us, also, have only assented intellectually to this idea of Jesus, and what He can do for us, but not surrendered completely from the inside out? So when push comes to shove, our hearts are still our own, which means they are still broken, and the Holy Spirit has not been able to do that redemptive work that He longs to do. This has brought me to see everything differently, from my marriage, discipling my children, to interacting with the community around me, and our larger role in AIM Air.
Salvation is not actually the goal. Making a one time decision is not the goal. Making disciples who enjoy peace with God, themselves, and others is the goal, whether its in your local church, with my own children, or in Kenya and South Sudan. Walking this difficult life with Him and experiencing more of His intangible blessings is the goal. Restoring God's people to Himself, and replacing all the painful things of the world with the beautiful things of God's Kingdom is the goal. And I believe it's something He is patiently waiting to do in every area of our lives that are surrendered, not just the spiritual parts. The truth is that we are all too often unaware of where God is working, and we just see the heart wrenching bits and pieces of brokenness around us, and inside us. I am praying this new year that I can shut my eyes and instead see the beauty that God can bring from these ashes, and wait expectantly for Him to do that beginning here on earth, not just in heaven.