He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Rev. 21:5
I can remember, in an exceptionally vivid way, seeing my reflection in that long window in the door of my second grade classroom just before I entered for the first time after Christmas break. I was wearing these yellow, plastic squarish lensed sunglasses with a square above the nose bridge (between the eyes) featuring a colorful Whinnie the Pooh. I can also remember thinking, with deep satisfaction, I might be the hottest stuff to enter this room…ever. Going back further than that, two summers earlier, my family had been in London. During part of the trip, my dad was finishing up his executive MBA progam with Emory so was enjoying luncheons and other meetings as mom and I would tour the city. During one of the lunches at which families were welcomed, I wandered back into the kitchen and eventually ended up out on a lovely patio with a large number of the staff gathered around me, one man in a memorable turban. (That was very exotic to my five-year-old self.) As I stood at the center of attention, knowing how loved I was by all these new friends, I invited them all to my birthday party back in Atlanta later that summer. It made sense to me at the time that none of them would want to miss it.
It is quite likely that I am exceptionally egotistical in the same way some extremely aggressive (and hairy) men have unusually high testosterone levels. Either way, I am increasingly aware of my unquestioned priority of self first. I don’t just mean shoving my way to the front of the food line (which of course is the only way to get fed in time at a wedding or other large affair), but in the way I made decisions about school, social life, employment, in which activities my children will participate and where and how I will live. My assumption that the first priority is enabling the very best possible future opportunities for self (or my family) goes so unquestioned that it becomes a reasonable given. Being involved in community service, of course serves us too, so that gets thrown in there. But you gotta take care of yer own first. Plus, and most honestly, I really prefer that hot stuff self entering the classroom to everyone’s amazement and adoration than being that weird kid imagining herself to be a unicorn on the playground all alone. I don’t want to be that weird kid.
he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. Eph. 1:9-12
Ok, so it turns out, and I really am not being a smarty pants here, that the mystery of God’s will and purpose for me in the person and work of Jesus, is not building my kingdom of admiral hot stuffness (nor such for my children) but His Kingdom of His hot stuffness. Though I think better than hot stuff, He calls it glory. Here is something Scotty Smith wrote this week that struck me as water on a hot day: Thank you for rescuing us from the notion that salvation is primarily death preparation. It’s about coming to life and it concerns the whole of life. It’s about becoming like you, Jesus—one Day being as beautiful and loving as you. It’s about deliverance from our little stories of personal peace and affluence, that we might serve in your big story of pan-national and cosmic redemption. What a privilege and honor!
Here is why I needed this Gospel at this time: My house feels small and lame, unfinished and cluttered. My life is gravitating more and more around my neighborhood and away from other circles, which threatens disconnect and loneliness even while it is immensely satisfying and nourishing. I have chosen to keep my children home this year, rather than sending them back to the awesome, perfect private school that nobody in their right mind would pass up. Our family will hopefully be growing soon, which opens another door to new and unfamiliar places. I’m pretty sure I’m closer to being that unicorn girl galloping around the playground alone than that cool chic in the Whinnie the Pooh sunglasses. My panic attacks have much to do with this, particularly as it relates to the danger of turning my children, without their knowledge, into those odd kids along with me. Yet the person and work of Jesus offers me hope in this: I am invited out of my little classroom door’s window reflection to reflect a really big redeeming God to the world around me. His reflection brings life as the oblivious unicorn kid can’t and the sunglasses clad cool kid won’t.
He is touching all my “untouchables” and removing them one by one until only He is left. He is pulling me into a focus on the betterment of others (sharing in the larger story of redemption in the world) that is deeply unfamiliar to me as I feel much safer in the more familiar and sensible betterment of self. And the crazy thing about His redemptive purposes, is that what I think is my own “focusing on others” or “serving others” is actually His gracious way of transforming me. It is my heart that needs to remove myself from the throne and seat Jesus alone on it, and that might be the greatest way to bring life to the world around me. Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise. Is. 43:18-21