Eve Ponderings

Did Eve come to realize just how badly her choice turned out when she chose to sin in the Garden? Did she realize what she had done soon after it happened and wish she could fix it somehow? To get a mulligan, to have a second chance, to undo her sin. I can almost hear Eve pleading with God – “No, make it stop! I didn’t mean for all this to happen! This isn’t what I expected.”

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Imagine the guilt she felt those first sleepless nights alone with Adam – outside of the Garden. Wondering if their relationship with God could be restored to even a semblance of what it had once been. Wondering what her relationship with Adam was going to be like now. Still hurt because he had blamed her.

 

I have observed that when a son dies, his mother is crushed. Should a mother discover that her son is a murderer, she is devastated. For Eve, to have her son murder his brother must have been insufferable. When they found Abel’s body, it may be that he was the first human being to have physically died. What would it have been like to hold a lifeless body when no one had ever done so before? How long did it take her to realize that Abel would never talk or eat or be with them again? Only now did Adam and Eve and their offspring begin to understand the depth of the curse of death. No one could comfort Eve with words –  because no one had ever before tasted the gall of death like Eve did on that day.

What great grief Eve must have carried with her being aware that her suffering and sorrow were caused by her own actions. Eve, more than any other, bore the burden of her sons’ fates because of her own past actions. Death became reality because of that one fateful choice she made years earlier.

As Eve lived and had more children, how did her heart cope with all the pain she saw in her ever-growing family. She and Adam had known a perfect world with no pain, no sorrow, no loss. She lost a world where she had been continually walking rightly with God. She lost the life where her heart had still been pure. Now she saw her children and grandchildren, all broken and flailing because of sin.

Can you imagine if Eve were still alive today? Since the Fall, the world has seen war, disease, disasters, murder, torture, genocide – evil upon evil. And Eve would know deep in her heart that it was all because of her choice made oh so long ago. She chose to experience something new, to look for excitement, to try out her own wings. She chose to listen to bad counsel. She chose to disobey God. And all humanity has been under the weight of sin and sorrow ever since.

When we get to heaven, I imagine that God must lift some of the burden of our memories; of the knowledge of the consequences of our sin on others around us. When I think back on my life, I cannot shake the burden of knowing how often I failed. I failed as a parent, as a son and brother, as a husband. There are so many bad choices that I cannot go back and fix. I cannot fathom how Eve could possibly bear the full knowledge of how her selfish choice played out in the millennia that followed.

We know that God sees all the evil in the world, but to a much deeper extent and intimacy than Eve ever could. Eve can see world history and how mankind has ruined itself and our world. But God sees into each human heart and knows each thought. Those of us who appear to be “good” people all still have evil thoughts. We still do “good” things but for the wrong reasons – how this must be repugnant to God. He knows the conniving of both the good and the evil. How we must be a stench to Him – a stench that would make us retch and vomit.

And yet –  He loves his people. He knows and cares for each human being that lives today – all 7 billion of us – and everyone who lived before us. And each individual who is yet to be born. He chose an extremely personal and painful way to make a way for us to be cleaned up and reformed and totally restored. He chose to take the burden of all the evil that men and women have done to one another upon himself. He took the punishment that was due to us, but also the guilt and the shame and the self-loathing. He embraced us who were and are utterly revolting. He tenderly cared for us when He should have turned and run to abandon us to our own fate. He did this when He should have been utterly contemptuous and disgusted with us.

As in the Garden, God is giving each human being a choice. The choice in the Garden was whether to trust God, to hold firmly to the truth when tempted to doubt, to continue to obey when disobedience looked more attractive. Today, God gives us the choice of whether to trust the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice. We are given the choice to grasp this truth, to learn to trust Him when we struggle and doubt, to learn to obey when all within us screams to disobey. He gives us the freedom to choose again. We are free to choose His way of being redeemed.

For me, this is proof of God’s infinity. No finite love could ever love the filthy lot of deranged scoundrels that we are. Only an infinite love could be so inexhaustible that it could love the totally unlovable people that we have become. Only infinite creativity could have devised a plan this fantastical. He devised a way to restore us who were ruined and revolting and make us desirable and yes, even beautiful.

As we who trust Jesus stand today, we have one foot in the unfathomable depth of sin and one foot in the incomparable glory of heaven. We struggle as we are pulled from both sides. But one day, we will step through. We will firmly plant both feet in heaven. And the God who had every reason to reject and destroy us will actually allow us to live in his presence for the rest of eternity. He will transform us into glorious beings that are restored to that original purity that Adam and Eve knew before they put their wills ahead of God’s.

What other god that any person has ever devised and worshiped could even come close to what our God has done for us? Praise him forever!

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Dr. Who Evangelism

Dr. Who is not a Christian show. But once in a while I tune in because it is extremely imaginative and creative. Not your average sit-com by any stretch of the imagination.

Here’s the set-up: Clara’s boyfriend, Danny, whom she loves greatly has been killed in a car accident. Clara has been grieving for weeks. The Doctor calls and Clara gathers all the hidden keys to the Tardis (a time machine) to force the Doctor to go back in time and prevent Danny from dying. The Doctor refuses and Clara destroys the keys, so the Doctor can never enter the Tardis again. Both Clara and the Doctor will die stranded in a strange time and land. Then we discover that the Doctor has been letting Clara’s thoughts play out in her mind, but not in reality. But this betrayal is what she really would have done.

Dr Who – Season 8 Episode 11 – Dark Water – About 13:34

Clara:    What now? What do we do now? You and me? What do we do? . . . Doctor?

Doctor: Go to hell.

Clara:    Fair enough. Absolutely fair enough. (starts to leave)

Doctor: Clara? You asked me what we’re going to do. I told you. We’re going to hell. Or wherever it is people go when they die, if there is anywhere. Where ever it is, we’re going to find Danny. And if it is any way possible, we’re gonna bring him home.
Almost every culture in the universe has some concept of an afterlife. I always meant to have a look around to see if I could find one.

Clara:    You’re going to help me…

Doctor: Well, why wouldn’t I help you?

Clara:    Because of what I just did, I just. . .

Doctor:  You betrayed me. You betrayed my trust. You betrayed our friendship. You betrayed everything I ever stood for! (shouts) You let me down!

Clara:    Then why are you helping me?

Doctor: Why? Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?

This exchange between Clara and the Doctor shows so well what love and forgiveness in Jesus really look like. In the allegory here, for just a couple minutes, Clara represents all of fallen humanity and the Doctor represents the Christ.

When I sin, I am betraying the trust Jesus has placed in me to be the light of the world. He is not here physically like he was 2000 years ago and he trusts me, and all of us, to represent him. I betray his trust. I betray my friendship with him. I act in ways that totally contradict everything my mind knows is right and true…

Yet – Jesus. Still. Loves. Me.

There is nothing in the world He has created that can ever separate me from the love of Jesus. Neither life, nor death, nor principality, things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation shall be able to separate us from the love of God. And if none of those awesome, powerful things can separate me, why should I imagine that just weak, simple, small me should be able to?

Jesus loves me, this I KNOW.

Dancing with your spouse

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Mary is on the left. 

My wife, Mary, and I started taking ballroom dance lessons a few months before my son, Peter’s wedding in October 2006. We enjoyed the lessons, had fun learning together and we have continued taking some lessons. We have also learned that dancing with your wife and living with your wife have some remarkable similarities.

We often read in the Bible that the man is the head and most teaching emphasizes that the wife must submit to the husband. In reality, the Bible teaches that the man must submit, too, but that’s another topic. So what have we learned in our dance classes?

First of all, dancing with someone takes a lot of work. Neither of us had a lot of experience dancing, but we had to start somewhere. They didn’t exactly paint big letters R and L on our shoes, but we sure spent a lot of time looking at our feet. We would learn some basic dance step, then practice it a million times, until we were adequate, then they would teach us a new dance step, and it felt like we were starting all over again! But we kept at it.

As happens when dancing with a partner, there are times I make a mistake, there are times when Mary makes a mistake, and there are times when we both mess up. But, oh, it so much fun when we both get it right and can actually dance well for a few minutes.

Then one night, Mr. Otero explained to us that when the man makes a mistake, it is the man’s fault. And when the woman makes a mistake, it is the man’s fault. This didn’t seem fair to me, but the man is responsible to properly lead the woman, and not allow her to make mistakes.
We also learned the proper way to start a dance. It’s not the caveman move, where the guy drags a woman where he wants her and starts dancing. The man asks the woman – the man is taking the initiative, but giving the woman the choice. Assuming she gives her consent, the man then escorts the woman to the floor, and the dancers get into position to dance. But the man is not allowed to begin dancing until the woman is ready, which she signifies by putting her left hand on the man’s right arm. Then the man has permission from her to start. And off you go!

The man is then expected to lead. If he wants the woman to spin around, he has to give her a signal, such as lifting her arm, which tells her what he would like her to do. If he wants to change direction, or perform some other turn, he is always communicating what he wants to her. The woman is expected to follow. I’m told that is not always the easiest thing to do. (Remember that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in heels!) It is especially difficult for the woman if the man is not giving a strong lead, communicating well or in a timely fashion what it is he would like the woman to do. Often the man is surprised that they actually completed the last move, and has not thought ahead far enough to know WHAT he wants to do next.

But over time, with lots of coaching, our dancing has improved significantly. We’re not great dancers, and never will be, but we have a solid foundation and enough confidence in our dancing together that we will actually dance in public!
So, do I even need to explain the correlations to marriage? Good communication, thinking ahead, mutual respect, willingness to accept blame, getting better over time. The most important thing we have found is that the more we practice, the better we get. The better we get, the more we enjoy it, and the more time we spend together dancing.

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P.S. A couple weeks ago, we took a special group class with Tony Dovolani, who has been on the popular Dancing with the Stars television program. He basically taught us how to move our hips: it was good. But there was one comment he made that caught my attention. He asked, “When you are dancing, who is leading?” In unison, we all obediently said “The man leads.” Tony said, “No, that’s not right!” We were all stunned – we’ve always been told the man leads. Then Tony went on and said, “When you dance together, the man does not lead, the music does.”
The more I think about that the more I like this idea. Jesus is the song that rises up in my heart, but he is not just for me. He is the one that Mary and I both must stay in step with – together.
Originally posted August 24, 2008

WWJD or WIJD?

A few years ago, everybody was talking about WWJD. People were wearing WWJD bracelets and putting WWJD bumper stickers on their cars. There were WWJD tee-shirts and pencils, even WWJD Bibles.

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The premise was that when you found yourself in a “situation” where you were not sure what to do, you simply asked yourself “What Would Jesus Do?” Then you would know exactly what to do! Very simple conceptually, and I really do think this slogan has helped many people make better decisions about significant life choices.

Is WWJD Consistent?
Problem is, WWJD never got me excited. There was something that just didn’t smell right and I could never quite put my finger on it. Until today.

WWJD? First of all, there is precious little we can do to find out what the historical Jesus of the Gospels was really like. None of us have ever met Jesus in the flesh. (Did he speak slowly? Did he have a good sense of humor? Did he look people in the eye when he taught?) What we know about Jesus is primarily from reading the four canonical Gospels, which in my Bible only take up 105 pages. We get very little additional insight into the “historical Jesus” by reading the rest of the New Testament. Much of the Gospels are filled with the actions of Jesus and the reactions of the people around him. There is nothing recorded about how Jesus made decisions – no “Seven Steps to Godly Decisions.” We just read of Jesus being thrust into incredibly complex, difficult circumstances and are amazed at his insight and wisdom in how he manages each situation.

Then there is also the fact that many of us have not taken the time to get to know Jesus very well. Most Christians will agree that we can meet with Jesus anytime through prayer and this should be a priority in our lives. But I’ve heard it said that if you want to humble a Christian, simply ask them about their prayer life. We boldly tell others we can know Jesus personally, but find we are so busy we simply don’t take the time. And when the going gets tough, that is when most of us rugged, independent westerners decide we need to take action – usually without talking to Jesus first.

And then, what is the “right” answer? When you ask a group of people What Would Jesus Do in a specific situation; you will often get as many answers as there are people in the room. The problem is that deep down we have a natural tendency to believe that God thinks much the same way we do. Many people’s image of Jesus is a mirror of themselves, or who they aspire to be. So to ask people with limited historical knowledge of Jesus, with little personal time with Jesus, “What Would Jesus Do” is leaving the door open to many, many different answers.

Finally, when we ask WWJD, what are we thinking about Jesus? Are we even thinking that Jesus is present? I fear that for many of us, the expanded version of WWJD is something like this: “Jesus was a great moral teacher, but he died a long time ago, so what might he have done if he were alive and in this situation?” Jesus was a great moral teacher and he did die nearly 2,000 years ago. But Jesus is not dead – He is alive! He is here now and will guide us in our difficult situations. But even though we believe Jesus is alive, we still often do not act as if he is present. What Would Jesus Do implies that we need to take it upon ourselves to figure out what Jesus would have done in this situation as best as we can based on what we know of him. Once we have figured that out, then we make a decision on whether we will choose to do what we think Jesus would have done. Then we buckle down and exert effort and discipline to do what Jesus would have done!

The Alternative – WIJD?
I once asked a friend why God keeps us here on earth. Since we continue to sin, and when we get to heaven we will no longer sin, wouldn’t it be better if God would take us home as soon as we come to faith? We then discussed how God chooses to continue to bring people to faith by working through his people – those who are already in the Kingdom. Each and every one of us is kept here with a purpose – to expand the Kingdom of God in our neighborhood.

What I have come to realize is that Jesus is still alive today. He is not on vacation, sitting at God’s right hand enjoying mangos and passion fruit, waiting for the his grand entrance at the Second Coming. He is active in this world. And Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is working through those who have received Him. So the question is not What Would Jesus Do? but rather: What Is Jesus Doing?

The big picture here is: “Jesus is God crammed into a body, he is alive, he indwells me by his Holy Spirit and he is engaged in the current situation. What is it that Jesus wants to do, right now, through me?” This reframing of the context significantly changes our responsibilities. WWJD is an intellectual, analytical evaluation of a situation. Then we have a moral choice whether to do what our analysis determined is the right course of action. WIJD is a decision to turn to God in the moment, and ask him to act through us. It is asking to be filled with and led by the Holy Spirit so that our words and our actions are not our own, but rather guided by the Spirit of Jesus who lives in us. In this way we can be Jesus to the world around us.

So the next time you find yourself in a difficult situation (or any situation,) ask yourself: WIJD? What Is Jesus Doing – through me?

Originally posted sunday, april 15, 2007