Friday, March 14, 2008

Let His glory be our end!

Let His glory be our end.

That's all I really want in this life. That His glory really, truly be my chief end. Not just in the words I write, or the things I say, but in who I am, what I do, all of my life. I want Christ first. I want the power of the Spirit to manifest the love of the Father through me so that many will see the greatness of Jesus Christ.

I saw a tree budding yesterday. My heart leapt, for what, precisely, I know not: but vaguely I understand that it was in delight at seeing the new life springing forth. There appears to be only death in trees over the winter. Especially this winter.

An ice storm destroyed many of the trees in Norman in December. The havoc wrought was immense, the financial damage across the Oklahoma City region calculable but significant. Cleanup continues even now. Decades old trees were destroyed, bowing under the weight of a quarter inch of ice on every branch. Limbs crashed to the ground, their falls sounding like the reports of gunfire: smashing roofs of cars, damaging houses, cluttering roads. It was ugly.

Months later, something interesting has happened. Norman is an old town in feel: though it is largely well kept, the sheer overbearing weight of the many trees, the fallen leaves, the darker skies have often made the town less beautiful than it might be. And in the aftermath of all that destruction, as the efforts to remove all that was brought down draw to a close... Norman is prettier than it was, in many regards.

To be sure, there are still scars, both visible and not: the pale ends of branches shorn off, the stumps littering the ground. But the sky is more open, the land clearer and the trees less tangled. There is room for new growth. And the growth on the trees that survived seems somewhat more miraculous this spring: because those trees might not have survive, almost didn't survive. Those first shoots of green, never less than astounding, are now enough to make one shout aloud for the glory of their shooting forth green again.

The destruction was a tragedy, in some ways. But it has produced life.

God works like that in our lives, sometimes. He takes great and terrible things, horrible events, and from them shapes beauty. There is an inherent beauty in tragic stories well told: and so also it is with our lives. Though our own plans would surely never include many of the pains we endure, the story is better when told thus, we agree in retrospect. I would trade none of the pains I have endured for an easier way if it would cost me the relationship with God that has grown from those.

As a character in one of my favorite pieces of film said, "You have to die... it's absolutely no good unless you die at the end... In the grand scheme, it wouldn't matter... No one wants to die, but unfortunately we do. You will die someday, sometime. Heart failure at the bank, choke on a mint, some long drawn-out disease you contracted on vacation. You will die. You will absolutely die. Even if you avoid this death, another will find you, and I guarantee it won't be nearly as poetic or meaningful as what she's written."

We have a choice: to surrender our lives to the Author of the story, trusting that it really is the best story for our lives, or to seize control for ourselves. If we choose the former, we will have the opportunity to see tragedies - even our own death, whatever and whenever that may be - ultimately work for the grand tale being told: work for the glory of Christ. Meaning is in Christ, and in Him alone.

A life without Him - or even so-called "life with Christ" but without making Him Lord, making His glory our supreme goal - is not life. It is death. It is a lie.

Christ is truth. Christ is life. Christ is salvation. Christ is the gospel.

He's worthy dying for. Not just giving up our physical existence to violence of some variety or another: giving up our wants, our ways, for His - dying to ourselves that so, in becoming like Him, we become as we were truly meant to be and learn to live, to have true joy, to enjoy purpose and meaning for our existence, to let Christ be our all in all.

Let His glory be our end!

- Chris

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