My lover is mine and I am his; … Song of Solomon 2:16
What does it really mean that “I am His”? The fact that I belong to Him, not just as I might have membership in a club, but that I am one belonging to another…what potential does that have for shaping my perspective on each moment? How might it speak to the stabs to my gut of various circumstances and the continual experience of hope deferred which indeed does make the heart sick? What does it look like to know, and hang on for dear life to the fact, that God doesn’t just love us like a Father, but really, really likes us too?!
This morning when Dad and I were running, we passed an idling police car in a parking lot and joked about not running too fast as we passed him. But I went on to ponder the implications of the fact that whenever I see a police car, even running in the dark of the morning with my little reflector vest on, I feel pretty certain I’m doing something wrong or that I will draw his attention to something for which I should rightfully be ticketed. No wonder I’m exhausted! I live my days as a fugitive before the gaze of my heavenly Father, guilty even of crimes I haven’t been conscious of committing. So when circumstances take a painful turn, its not that I really think I’m being punished (my theology is too sophisticated for that!), but I assume its another early morning boot camp to get me to lose a few more pounds (of sin?).
And oh how this thinking resonates with my stoic, “pain is gain”, conditioned approach to life. Sure God uses suffering (and guarantees that we will share in Christ’s) to bring healing to our own hearts and the world around us. But is His goal worn down soldiers who ultimately march in rhythm but are lifeless? I’m pretty sure that is not compatible with the image of God, in all His glory and abundant life, that we are made to image. As Scotty Smith and Steve Brown have both said in different ways, He has invited us to a dance, not a death march.
He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Song of Solomon 2:4
His banner over me is LOVE. This is not accomplished by some kind of perfectionistic, fault finding, idling in a dark parking lot celestial policing of my soul. The troubling of life around me isn’t God’s way of getting back at me, because He has already executed all of that well-earned discipline on the only One who never earned nor deserved it, and it was finished. It is by HIS wounds that I am healed, not some new bill that forgot to be paid. He even satisfies the requirements of sanctification boot camp as He gives me the muscles of His earned righteousness in exchange for the fat of my self-governing sin.
“You believe at last!” Jesus answered. “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:31-33
Trouble is part of living in a world that has not yet been fully redeemed, even though we do get little tastes of redemption now. But take heart! The trouble isn’t waiting on me to learn a lesson, to buck up and toughen up, or to make myself more Christ-like. He has overcome the world so I don’t have to! I can be troubled by trouble because it is not mine to fix any more than Terrell and I would ask our children to come up with money for their own tuition (at 4 and 7) or ask them to make the closing happen on our former home. They belong to us and we will take care of them! And when they are sick or scared or tired, we don’t sneer at them to get over it, push through it or put on a happy face anyway (or at least we shouldn’t). He is not asking me to stretch into His image, but to be loved as one who already has been made so and through whom He is working out His good purposes, even in times of trouble.
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3: 12-21