Glory in Flames ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, September 12, 2005

Glory in Flames

Submission to God seems strange (and perhaps fascinating) when it translates into sharp defiance. But when it causes attacks and slurs, the allure fades. We begin wondering if Christ-obedience is really viable. After all, the status quo constantly sticks Faith in the wrong book section. Now wait, I signed up for epic adventure—revolution, romance, cosmic heroism; how come I’m featured in the comics?

If you chase glory, people will laugh at you. This doesn’t seem right, and we wonder if God saw all this coming. We “dream the impossible dream,” at Christ’s request, and labor to mold our lives to true reality. This is hard enough; and then the spit-wads and sucker punches start flying. We feel confused.

How does the resistance fit in? How do catcalls equal glory? We take a few steps back and try to figure it out.

Heaven and earth collided, we know that much. The impact left us with a bittersweet mosaic—beauty and darkness, joy infused with pain. I look around at my life, and the compound I see is neither pure glory nor pure dirt; when I declare my preference for glory, the mud still clings to my feet. If I prepare myself to sling some, glory gleams in the corner of my eye. I find Christ, and know that his are the glimpses I’ve been seeing all along—lovely, but incomplete. Wonderful, but not fully grown. All around me, and in my own life, the threads and traces of beauty are tenuous. They are en route. They are partial, infantile, growing back to something they originally were.

Christ’s words convince me that pursuing Christ is the answer to every question I can ask and those I can’t. The earth’s bittersweetness echoes this truth, assuring me with broken lives and shards of death that God’s designs for earth must be restored before they can be realized.

Glory is with us, but not all here. Glory is present, but missing.

What I am calling glory—the beauty and joy inherent to perfect design, perfect function, perfect character—springs from a perfect God. We do not see its full extent, and cannot—yet. But as we follow our God, struggle to become more like him, we begin to taste his glory. Incredibly, part of this apprehension is proximate and personal. We taste it because we become it. As Paul, the first-century theologian, wrote:

I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in (Ephesians 3:16-17, MSG).

Part of God’s plan to restore his creation is to kindle Christ’s personality in each of us. And on this truth, our backstory hinges. Reeling, perhaps, from these mere facts of Christ’s work, we turn back to our original question. Suppose we acknowledge that life is incomplete; suppose we launch a campaign of Christ-submission; suppose we encounter persecution. How does this contribute to renewed glory?

If anything, it seems more to emphasize the fact that the glory is missing. But God chose a strange way to bring the glory back.

In my mind's eye, earthen Glory is a paradoxical creature. Weak and gangly at first, beaten and pushed around in its youth, it emerges finally as a creature so beautiful as to be incomprehensible. But how?

Like this, I think: Abrasive encounters slough off a childish skin, and Christ bleeds through. If you do good, suffer for it, and continue to do good, you are no longer a child—or rather, you are entering the reality at which childhood hints. A simple, invincible devotion.

At first, you may carelessly embrace glory for the obvious reason that it shines. Christ’s beauty, upon the briefest true encounter, strikes us to the heart. Only later do you realize that he shines because he burns—and to be transformed by his glory, you will need to be refined by fire.

When the odds are stacked against me, and I persist in obeying Christ, his glory within my nature blazes up. The hits I take ensure that I’m pursuing Jesus, and not the fringe benefits of his divinity. Glory becomes a clean-burning flame.

As we grow, we learn to choose determined submission as a matter of course. We take some hits from trash-talkers and back-stabbers and keep rolling. I may not slap you in the face when you malign me, but I will doggedly continue in my goodness and defy you to stop me.

All too often, we register only a peripheral detail (I'm in pain) and fail to realize the potential of our experience. Don't we see what's going on, the mysterious transformation taking place beneath our skin? In the Bible, suffering's incredible redemptive power is documented again and againbut often we miss it, and when we could be growing, we're merely crying.

We need to remember that Glory walks through a firestorm and emerges fully grown. It rises from the ashesa Christian phoenixand we see the smile of God expressed in a human life.

Like what you read? Don't forget to bookmark this post or subscribe to the feed.



Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife