Thursday, January 14, 2016
His face on us
I didn't want to turn 34 because I didn't want to be older than Jesus. Hans reminded me that Jesus rose from the dead. So, strictly speaking, he is much older now.
I was being ridiculous, I know.
Yet, God met me, as he often does, in my ridiculousness. On the day before my birthday, we walked into my most favorite garden in the world. There, waiting for us, was a rainbow hovering over the face of the waters.
Nature holds for me the signs of my living God. The Lord paints and pours out his quiet explosions of grace so generously—over the face of the waters, and onto my kitchen floor. They are visible signs of my invisible God.
Years ago, my friend Beng Cher gave me a book, The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason. She told me it gave her great encouragement. I read it, but I found it difficult to understand. Recently, I heard Elisabeth Elliot recommending this very book in one of her lectures about marriage.
I am now turning the pages as though for the very first time. When I first read the book, I had just been married for a few months. Nine years later, the words that once seemed so dark and vague, now glow with meaning.
This line smote me at my core: "to be in the presence of even the meanest, lowest, most repulsive specimen of humanity in the world is still to be closer to God than when looking up into a starry sky or at a beautiful sunset." To my sunset-obsessed, starry-sky-loving heart, this was absurd.
I used to climb Mount Kinabalu for the sole purpose of seeing the world from the top. We would begin the second day of climbing at 2 a.m. under the dome of stars. At 6 a.m., we would watch the sunrise from the peak of Borneo. Above the clouds and looking over the mountains, I felt God's existence, his mystery, his power.
I do not feel this way when I look at people.
Yet, if every person "really is fashioned, more than anything else, in the image of God, then clearly it follows that there is nothing on earth so near to God as a human being." Therefore, we are to love God and love our neighbors. These are the first two commandments. Two sides of the same coin. The words and the tune of the same song. Love God, love neighbors. Not the sunset or the sunrise or the starry sky.
Jesus says, "As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."
It is difficult for me to imagine that when I am wiping the drool off my baby's chin or when I am pouring out cups of orange juice, I am nearer to God than when I am watching the most gorgeous sunset—by myself. As I wash the dishes and fold the laundry, I am washing the dishes and folding the laundry—for Jesus. When I (learn to) serve my husband and (learn to) think about his interests before my own, I am submitting my life "as to the Lord."
For my birthday, the Lord sent two of his image bearers to stay with us. Esther flew in from New York City and Joshua, her brother, flew in from Seattle. They entered our door with the reality of God himself. Visible faces of my invisible God.
To be nearer to people is to be nearer to my Lord.
To love people is to love my Lord.
"I have set my bow in the clouds," declares the Lord.
But he sets his face on us.
*Both quotes are taken from Mike Mason, The Mystery of Marriage, 46.