I was 7 years old when Princess Diana got married. I distinctly remember thinking that day, “Someday I will be beautiful.” Ever since then I have been waiting to feel beautiful. I think at nearly 40, that day, if it ever came, is in the past.
There are many things that I expected to have achieved by now: financial stability, having an orderly and clean home and a yard that looks like a page from Better Homes and Gardens, or just being able to accomplish all that I want to in a day. Now I realize that I may never have those things. Ever. I cannot count on my health, wealth or security. I cannot count on people being loyal to me. All of this sounds very cynical, but I think it is merely realistic.
My memory verses for the week are Romans 8:17-18, which includes: “[we are] fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” So our inheritance with Christ is contingent on whether or not we suffer? I don’t feel like I suffer that much. I have, at times, but not as a steady diet. At least not in a way beyond or outside of my own selfish unhappiness.
It occurred to me tonight that Jesus didn’t have to come the way He did in order to fulfill God’s purpose for Him. He didn’t have to be born as a baby and grow up as a little child. He didn’t have to live 33 years on this earth and suffer scorn and temptation and, well, suffering. He didn’t have to die by crucifixion on a cross. He could have dropped down from heaven one day, announced that he was here to pay our penalty, died a relatively painless death in the 21st century by the electric chair, and still, I think, have fulfilled his calling of redeeming us from our sin.
But that wasn’t the way that the Father chose to go about it. Instead, he devised a plan where the Son would suffer the most excruciating death imaginable, showing us the severity of our sin. He chose to have him endure nine months of gestation, to be born as a baby, and then to live 33 long years here on this miserable earth with a bunch of miserable people who didn’t appreciate in the least who he was or why he had come or even that he had come for their sakes. He came and he suffered; he came and he served; he came and he sacrificed.
And now it is my calling to walk in his footsteps. Because, as verse 18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” It is easy, too easy, to get focused on the here and now, to get dragged down by all that doesn’t meet my needs and approval, when really, I need to be looking up and ahead. “Further up and further in!” That is where my sights need to be set. All of this will evaporate like smoke and shadows once we are in the light of that great place, and we will wonder why on earth (pun intended) we were so concerned with getting things right in this backwards, bent and temporary place. It is somewhat akin to Lewis’ slightly different analogy of playing with mud pies when we are offered a trip to the sea. We keep trying to make these mud pies into castles and are frustrated when we cannot achieve it, when what we really need is patience to bide our time until we get to the kingdom.
I find myself thinking often about heaven these days. I don’t know if it is because Mama has been in such bad shape these last few months or if it is because, at mid-life, I am coming to realize that many of the dreams I had for my life are likely never going to come to fruition. That is to say, I am probably not thinking of heaven in the holy frame of mind that one is intended to dwell on it, but almost more in a sense of defeat. I’ll just muddle through down here until I can get there where maybe all of the things I have been longing for will actually come true. I doubt that is what the Lord intended. Life here is, well, disappointing, and maybe I am not completely off when I find that disappointment compelling me to look up and ahead. But some part of me feels guilty that God’s presence here on earth isn’t fully satisfying to me.
Or maybe I am not wrong. Why should I be content in this sorrowful, messed-up world? When I look at the beautiful things of this world and imagine how much more beautiful the untainted glory of heaven will be, I can hardly imagine it. Wonder more wonderful than the Cliffs of Dover? Grandeur more grand than the Grand Canyon? Beauty more beautiful than the most amazing sunset? If this world’s beauty is all tainted, how glorious will heaven’s beauty be? And best of all, my soul’s faithful Lover, my Jesus, there to embrace me. Yes, “further up and further in!”