An Unexpected Love

Here in the U.S., we’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day this week.  With that in mind, I’m sharing my re-telling of this love story from Old Testament times.  For all David’s ups and downs, he knew what it was to be mightily loved by God — and he was fortunate enough to have the love of one very wise and very strong woman . . .

Oh, how she had grown to hate him. Ten thousand offenses, both small and large, had accumulated over the years since their arranged marriage.

Practical and traditional, Father had seen a prosperous match:  “Abigail, you will marry a descendant of Caleb,” he had exulted. Abigail had found no delight, no dignity in the homeland of this husband whose given name would be forever lost beneath the wreckage of his character:  Nabal –“The Fool.”   

Playing hostess to his drunken friends and enduring his loutish company, the loneliness was excruciating. Even so, she thanked Yahweh every day that there were, as yet, no children from this unfortunate match. “I am your servant,” she prayed each day at sunrise and found, over time, that the God of Israel had become her comfort in this desert-life.

When hope for love has left a marriage, what remains?

. . . unless the rattling husk becomes a place for something new to grow.   Slowly, Abigail began to notice the workings of Nabal’s household. Her quick mind took in the details of the livestock business, the buying and selling, the shearing and marketing of fine wool. She had long ago stopped hoping for love, but one day, she realized that the respect and confidence of the family servants had become her consolation, a gift from Yahweh. 

The season of shearing was upon them with its steady hum of activity, but Abigail welcomed the challenge and the stimulation, planning meals for the shearers, managing the bountiful output, and arranging for its transport. During a lull in the chaos, she was catching a breeze in the doorway when Othniel, her faithful steward, appeared, wild-eyed, breathing like a frightened creature.

“What is it, Othniel?” she asked.

“You know that David, the chosen of God, and his men have been protecting our flocks and our shepherds for some time.” 

Abigail nodded.  “Go on.”

“They have been like a city wall to us and to our herds, and so David sent his messengers to request protection money and provisions, a part in our feasting . . .  They were taken to the master.”

Abigail dropped her face into her hands and listened, knowing that what followed could only be bad news.

And it was: 

Disrespect.
Greed.
A refusal to provide reasonable compensation for services rendered.

When Othniel’s words confirmed her fears, she asked, “Have they gone?” 

Perhaps it was not too late to undo The Fool’s damage.

“The master has sent them away empty-handed.  They promise revenge, that everyone in the household will feel their anger.  . . I have said nothing to the master.”

“That is well,” she replied, flying into action. “We must move quickly.”

From shearing season’s full larder, Abigail rattled off a hurried and portable menu and directed Othniel to load it onto donkeys and to lead the way to David and his men.

“I will follow close behind,” she assured him.

Hurriedly, she changed out of her work clothes, mounted her own donkey, and followed. But suddenly there they were, rounding a corner with strapped-on swords like a military detachment – headed toward her home.  David was in the lead, but he stopped in his tracks when Abigail dismounted and fell on her face at his feet.

Her words tumbled out:

“Do not listen to my husband, The Fool;
As his name is, so is he;
If your men had only come to me,
they would have found a welcome and feasting.”

Abigail lifted her eyes in time to see surprise register on David’s tanned face.

“Therefore, I have brought the feast to you.”  She gestured toward the loaded caravan.  Was it just her imagination, or did David’s eyes move reluctantly away from hers?

Emboldened by his attention, she continued with words that she scarcely recognized as her own:
“Please do not let your name be associated with revenge and bloodshed, but accept these gifts. Because you have fought Yahweh’s battles, He will wrap up your life with His treasure and will certainly make for you an enduring kingdom. He will cast aside your enemies like a stone hurled from a sling. When Yahweh has brought these words to pass, remember me His servant.

Then, tearing her gaze from his, she turned to leave.

With one hand, David stopped her, for the other hand was raised in blessing – a blessing over Abigail.

//

She did not recall mounting the donkey.   She did not recall the journey home, for her ears and her heart were full of David’s words:

“Blessed is your advice, your good sense.

Blessed are you for keeping me from murder, for looking out for my reputation.

I hear you.

I respect you.”

Not since coming to the House of Nabal had she heard such words, and they carried her into the house. They sustained her through the night as The Fool slept off his evening’s wine.

At first light, Abigail approached Nabal, eyes on the floor, reporting mechanically:  “You recall that David’s men were sent away from your presence yesterday . . .” 

Describing David’s promise of revenge and her own actions, Abigail was startled to hear choking sounds from Nabal’s throat, but she continued with her report until a thud and sounds of alarm from the servants caused her to her lift her eyes. 

There lay The Fool, on the floor.

//

The ten days between his fall and his death passed quietly, and Abigail wondered how the demise of her own husband could affect her so slightly.  She had been aware of the shriveled condition of her heart, but marveled at the cool poise with which she had wrapped up the end of shearing season and notified Nabal’s near kinsmen.  They would be arriving soon to take over his property.

And what was to become of his widow?  The memory of David’s blessing fanned a small hope that perhaps one day she would find a place of love and respect, but she did not know how that could be.  She only knew that she must flee before The Fool’s family arrived and engulfed her as if she, too, were a possession.  Gathering a small packet of provisions, she made ready to depart. 

Hearing footsteps, she whirled, ready to bolt from the room, but instead she froze. 

Othniel stood in the doorway, announcing the servants of David:

“David has sent us to you – to ask you to become his wife.”

Rising, Abigail bowed, and her words to David’s men were also a prayer to Yahweh:

“I am your servant.”

//

And such is the glory of unexpected love. 

Each of us in our turn has been married, in some way, to foolishness —
but then redeemed by an unexpected love so strong and so wild
that all we must do is rise and follow,
placing our hand in His
and trusting for a better future.

“Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us . . .” (I John 3:1)

//

Be sure to check out the context for this Old Testament love story!

Photo credit:  Tiago Muraro

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

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Till We Have Faces (6): The Demands of a Ravenous Love

Readers here at Living Our Days are working our way through Till We Have Faces, one of C.S. Lewis’s lesser known books, but the one which he claimed as his favorite of all the books he wrote.  Chapters 13-15 feature the key scene of Lewis’s tale and perhaps the best-known and most-quoted section of the book. Thanks to all who have persevered in the reading and discussion, and just a note here:  If you’re behind in your reading and want the story to unfold without spoilers, stop reading now and come back later to share your thoughts.

Plot Summary

Orual returns to Glome and finds The Fox waiting anxiously to hear of her encounter with Psyche on the Grey Mountain.  Leaving out her glimpse of the palace, she reports that Psyche is alive, happy, and full of tales of an unseen but loving husband.  The Fox concludes that Psyche is being taken advantage of by a tramp or runaway who is playing into Psyche’s delusional story of a god in a golden palace, and he helps Orual plot a second trip to the Grey Mountain to rescue Psyche.

Since the King and all his men are embarking on a lion hunt, the opportunity to execute the plan comes to Orual quickly.  However, Psyche is adamant that she must remain faithful to her husband and refuses to leave or even to question her unseen lover’s motives or his identity.  Upping the ante, Orual plunges a dagger into her own arm and promises to kill herself (and Psyche) if Psyche will not steal a look at her husband.  Providing the necessary lamp and oil to her younger sister, she camps across the river and waits, stifling her misgivings over this emotional blackmail.

The light of the lantern is followed quickly by an enormous, blinding light and a full-on view of a beautiful and terrible figure that called forth from Orual the terrified “salute that mortal flesh gives to immortal things,” (171).  Psyche’s inconsolable weeping fills Orual’s ears, and she returns to Glome with the knowledge that she and Psyche are joined forever in horrible separate exiles — along with her heavy weight of unspeakable sorrow and remorse.

Reflection

Out of a multitude of possible themes/emphases, I’ve chosen two:

One – Because I’m reading Hanna Anderson’s Humble Roots, The Fox’s nail-on-the-head identification of Orual’s prideful motives (148) reverberates with the precision of the slave’s good math:

“Daughter, daughter, you are transported beyond all reason and nature.  Do you know what it is?  There’s one part love in your heart, and five parts anger, and seven parts pride.”

I am also indebted to Hannah’s theology professor for an amazing word picture that helps me to understand Orual’s anguish in deciding what to think about Psyche’s situation.  Orual fell into the common logical fallacy of of the false dilemma which does to the mind what carrying three huge watermelons does to the body.  Bardia’s input helped Orual to wrap one arm around the large and terrible idea that Psyche could be married to a hideous beast-god.  The Fox convinced her to pick up the heavy and horrible theory that Psyche’s mystery husband may actually be one of the “vagabonds, broken men, outlaws, [and] thieves” (143) who lived on the Mountain.

Clumsily juggling those two “watermelons,” there was no room in Orual’s mind for the third possibility, especially since it, too, is a huge watermelon of thought, and also because she did not want to believe it:

  • that the supernatural may not be terrible after all;
  • that the glimpse of a palace that she saw on the far bank of the river was actually a gift and not a taunt;
  • that the whispered voice that urged her to realize she was “among marvels [she could] not understand” (152) was the truest voice in the room.

Two:  To completely switch metaphors now, Bardia, The Fox, and Orual all remind me of the tale of the Blind Men of Hindustani and their examination of an elephant by touch alone.  Feeling the tail, the trunk, and the ear, they define elephantine nature as rope, snake, and fan, when one good look at the whole creature would make all things plain.

Orual was granted that one look for a few fleeting seconds, but allowed her adversarial relationship with the gods to deprive her of the Truth of it.  With that done, she was free to come down on the blind side of trusting in her own fear as a more solid reality than a castle viewed through shreds of mist.

On the other hand, Psyche demonstrates the glorious truth that believing is seeing, but even this is not sufficient to strengthen her against the terrible demands of Orual’s ravenous love.

Some Issues to Ponder

Oh, goodness, there’s just so much to wonder about here in these chapters.

  • Did anyone think of the fourth figure in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace when Orual saw the figure of the god that was “something like a man”(172)?
  • Have you ever prayed like Orual, stretched out in “piety” before God while delivering an ultimatum and a deadline?  Have you ever interpreted God’s silence as abandonment and then gone off to solve your problem on your own?
  • Permit me a nerdy moment to revel in the fact the the word ferly (142) was Dictionary.com’s word of the day on October 23, 2011, and the citation they used to illustrate it was the excerpt from Till We Have Faces.  “I had had half a thought, at the outset, of telling him about the ferly, my glimpse of the palace. But I couldn’t bring myself to it.”   It means “something unusual, strange, or causing wonder or terror.”  The hoplites (147) that The Fox wishes for are “citizen soldiers armed with spears and shields” and are part of his ancient Greek culture.  (Leave it to C.S. Lewis  . . .)
  • Let us pray to steer clear of Orual’s self pity and consuming love and, instead, to know Psyche’s brand of faith that weighs the evidence, listens to objections with love, and then concludes, “What is that to me? . . . I know.”; that fiercely defends the right of Deity to be incomprehensible, seeing this not as a weakness, but, rather, as a divine prerogative (159); that fears the shame of disobedience more than the shame of ridicule (163).

Your Turn

I would like to know what you gained from these chapters. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. I’m thrilled that we have been reading this book together.

Next Time

On Thursday, February 16th, I’ll be here having read chapters 16-18.

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Love Hides Close By

Until I put it on display, love is sometimes hard to see.

Dr. Mary Manz Simon invites pint-sized theologians to embark upon a delightful scavenger hunt, looking for all the places love hides in the daily life of a preschooler.  She does this with precision, because when we demonstrate the love of God to others, it is not with the intention of motivating Him to love us in return or to increase His love for us.  Rather, we love Him (and others) because He first loved us, and all our acts of love or obedience serve to demonstrate the unselfish mercy and grace that is God’s love.

So . . . where does love hide?

Readers will find six replies, hidden under the flaps that have been incorporated into the construction of Hannah Wood’s large, vivid illustrations which feature a rainbow of children who have been caught in the act of being good with actions with which even the youngest toddler can identify.

My grandson’s tiny fingers were well able to grasp and open the flaps, and it turns out that love hides very close at hand, for the revelation of love can come with an invitation to a friend, a sharing of cookies, a cheerfully executed chore, or practical services offered to the weak or the elderly.

Relevant and simply stated Scripture verses make a solid case for each example of loving deeds and will help parents (and grandparents!) to set the example in establishing memory habits as they work together to learn the verses.  A fun way to encourage this would be to let the child pull back the flap and give the answer to the question while the adult says the verse — and then switch roles.

Giving and receiving love involves words as well as actions that lend weight to those words.  After all, God Himself communicated His love to us through the Word, but He didn’t stop there:

“God demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,”                 Romans 5:8.

When our children join Him in the joy of giving, His love is put on display for all the world to see.

//

This book was provided by Tyndale Kids, a trademark of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This is the third of Mary Manz Simon’s books that my grandson and I have had the privilege of reading and sharing.  You’ll also be interested in discovering God Made the Sun and God Made the Moon. (Click to read my review.)

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Till We Have Faces: Welcome to the Discussion

Ask an author to name his favorite of all the books he’s written, and most will demur, insisting that it’s like trying to choose a favorite child.  

Not C.S. Lewis.

He believed Till We Have Faces to be his best book.

In his novel based on the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, Lewis uses the narrative to explore themes such as the limits of reason, the selfishness of natural love, and the nature of faith.

Plot Summary

Orual, warrior queen of Glome, wore a veil.  Tired of the harsh comments, the too-long glances, and worst of all, the pity, she chose mystery, invisibility — and in the process, she gained renown.

Set in a culture in which a woman’s role and status were defined by her beauty, her husband, or both, Orual had neither, but managed to carve out a life for herself based on the love of her youngest sister, Psyche, and the challenge of learning and gaining new skills.  Written in memoir form, Till We Have Faces chronicles Orual’s howling question, “What do the gods want from us?” and the jarring answer she received at the end of her life.

All analysis aside, when C.S. Lewis writes a story, it’s a story.  Just as in the Chronicles of Narnia, readers will bond with particular characters and despise others.   I’ve invited friends who visit Living Our Days to join me in reading the book over the next several weeks.

January 5 (Today!) . . . . . . . . . . .Introductory Post
January 12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Part I, Chapters 1-3
January 19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Chapters 4-6
January 26. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 7-9
February 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 10-12
February 9. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 13-15
February 16. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 16-19
February 23. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 20-21
March 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Part II, Chapters 1-2
March 9. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Chapters 3-4

The big challenge in writing about fiction will be for us to discuss the book and to write meaningfully without blowing the unfolding plot for those who are experiencing the book for the first time.   We’ll all do our best!

Reflection

I discovered Till We Have Faces in college and have read it at least a half dozen times since then.  I love Orual’s strength, but identify with many of her weaknesses.  Lewis’s curiosity about longing (Sehnsucht) plays an important part in the unfolding drama and whether we choose to call it myth or allegory or metaphor, his references to the numinous are stunning.

I hear Mr. Beaver’s voice echoing all the way from Narnia in this conversation between Orual and her Greek tutor, the Fox:

Fox:  “Why, yes, child.  The gods have been accused by you.  Now’s their turn.”
Orual:  “I cannot hope for mercy.”
Fox:  “Infinite hopes — and fears — may both be yours.  Be sure that, whatever else you get, you will not get justice.”
Orual:  “Are the gods not just?”
Fox:  “Oh, no, child.  What would become of us if they were?”

Let’s Get Started

I’ll be here next Thursday (January 12) having read Chapters 1-3.  I’ll share a summary to get us started, mention some of my insights, and then throw the door wide open for your input.
How do you participate?
Simply get a copy of the book and read along.  You don’t need to register or commit to anything other than just reading the book!

However . . .  I would love to hear your thoughts as we read, so if you have a blog, I hope that you will write a post about each section and then share it here by copying the URL of that post into the comments section below.  It will be fun — and enlightening — to learn from each other’s insights.  If you do not blog, just share your thoughts directly to the comments.

Don’t feel as if you need to share earth-shattering observations.  Just write about what impressed you in the section we are reading.  If something puzzled you, pose your questions to the group.  Let’s commit to reading the book and learning from it in community!

In the meantime, are you planning to read with us?
Will this be your first time through Till We Have Faces or are you a repeat reader?
What else have you read by Lewis?  Do you have a favorite?
Where are you, who are you, and what do you love?
Do you plan to blog about your impressions?
Let’s begin to get acquainted in the comments below!  

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I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Pausing in the In-Between

It was a day like any other day in the life-long ministry of Zacharias the priest.  With Elisabeth’s goodbye kiss still warm on his cheek, he went about his business, reporting for duty in his scheduled commitment to serve in the Temple.

It was a day like no other day when the honor of entering the most holy place fell to Zacharias, and his aging eyes found the burning incense eclipsed by angel light. Startling and strange, the heavenly messenger’s words hooked unbelief, earning Zacharias a nine-month sentence of mute pondering.  God’s four-hundred year silence was broken, leaving an elderly couple blinking and gasping at this new way of understanding the word impossible.

“Well stricken in years” is the delicate, traditional rendering, a state that would have made for a challenging pregnancy in any era — even if you are carrying the forerunner of the Messiah.  Like a spavined barn with tar paper siding, Elisabeth’s olden frame would have been covered with skin already stretched and sagging, but with joy she bore the bone-on-bone pain of an aging back and a heavy load.

Did she understand that her glorious passage from barren to fruitful was more a rending of history than a miracle of gynecology?

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It was a December day like any other.  There was dog hair that needed to be vacuumed.  There were lessons that needed to be prepared.  There were emails unanswered and dishes unwashed.  By my calculation, Advent season includes the routine preparation of at least seventy-five meals on top of all the other holiday baking and decorating.

What does it take to transform those December days?

Capture

Join me at SheLoves Magazine today and ponder with me the challenge of staying present to the wonder of the Word made flesh.

May God’s present-day proclamation land with power on your believing heart this season:
God is with us.
Nothing shall be impossible.

//

captureCounting down the days until the beginning of the book discussion group on C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces. Watch for a reading schedule on January 5!

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Image credit

Rekindling Relationship

Forgetful, we fall away.

We center our faith around the responsibilities that we fulfill or the well-worn habits that frame the seasons, when Christianity, at its core, is not a job description, but, rather, a relationship.  Love for God is foundational to all defining realities of the true believer, and if it has ceased to be, John MacArthur says that it’s time to Remember and Return to that love.

While a devotional book should never supplant the place of time in the Scriptures, this collection of thirty-one reflections begins each day with a Bible passage and then goes on to clarify the teaching with a focus on the deepening of a God-ward relationship.

Deep theological truth can be startling when it is presented as a warning, as it is to the church at Ephesus who, after a great beginning under the ministry of Paul the Apostle, had slid away from a rich, loving relationship with God by the time the Revelation was penned.  Even in the midst of the Christmas season, when we are treated to a steady stream of reminders of the lengths to which God would go to make a connection with humanity, it’s easy to lose sight of the love of God and our love for Him.  When we become “cold, orthodox, and mechanical” in our faith practices, apathy moves in and relationship wanes.

However, when viewed through the lens of God’s love, the process of sanctification becomes the mark of a love relationship, a desire to become like the Beloved.

The rescue of redemption is revealed as a loving sacrifice, made for the sake of reconciliation with a cherished people.

Dipping into a rich reservoir of quotations collected over a lifetime of study, MacArthur shares wisdom from a wide range of thinkers including  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J.I. Packer, C.S. Lewis, Benjamin Warfield, and F.B. Meyer.

John Owen’s observation gives me all the motivation I need for pondering the love of God at this point in history:

“If our future blessedness shall consist in living where He is, and beholding of His glory, what better preparation can there be for it than a constant previous contemplation of that glory as revealed in the gospel, that by a view of it we may be gradually transformed into the same glory?”

May our love for God continue to increase — for our joy and for His glory.

//

This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group,  in exchange for my review.

captureCounting down the days until the beginning of the book discussion group on C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces. Watch for a reading schedule on January 5!

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

A Theology of Happiness

When I pause for a minute to ask my self what I really want in life, my unedited first response is . . . well, embarrassing.  I want to be happy, and my shallow definition of a “happy” life looks something like this:  a vehicle that never breaks down, children who behave well and experience a measure of success, a maintenance-free house, and a healthy body.  Now, truly, there is nothing wrong with any of these lovely things — or even with my desire for them.  However, life on a fallen planet makes their simultaneous fulfillment unlikely, at best.  This is why those of us who believingly follow Jesus Christ must find our way to A Different Kind of Happiness — one that does not depend upon a problem-free life.

Larry Crabb offers helpful clarification for my happiness-seeking heart by tying my understanding of happiness to the notion that happiness comes from loving others sacrificially.  Because this flies in the face of our instinct for self-protection and desire for instant well-being, Larry’s argument unfolds over the course of over two hundred well-constructed and earnestly compelling pages.

We’ve long distinguished between happiness and joy, but Larry uses the words interchangeably, instead creating two helpful categories of happiness:

  1.  “Second Thing Happiness” — which requires at least some of the things on my list in order to feel good;
  2. “First Thing Happiness” —  which is entirely different and “develops when we struggle to love others with a costly love that is possible only if we have a life-giving relationship with Jesus that is grounded entirely in His love for us.”

Does this sound unrealistic?  Does it sound as if it contradicts what we know and experience on this “narrow road that leads to life?”  No one would argue with the truth that the happiness and joy that Jesus experienced in His time on this planet came from giving Himself. And only the gloomiest of theologians would argue against the notion that God is supremely happy, and that He wants to draw us into that happiness.  Yet, at the same time both Old and New Testaments describe Jesus as a Man of Sorrows “and acquainted with grief.”  He was a free agent, entering into suffering — and doing it on behalf of unworthy people, (Romans 5:7,8).

The good news that God draws us into involves life on a narrow road.  For Larry Crabb, this has included a cancer diagnosis, ongoing treatment over a period of years, several recurrences, and now a new episode of treatment being ushered in just as he was grappling with the concepts in this book.  Misery like this is just one of the symptoms of this life under the sun.  However, Scripture, prayer, and a life centered around spiritual discipline offer us a glimpse of life from above the sun in which we pray for grace to relate to others in a loving way that puts Him on display no matter what our outward circumstances.  Larry calls this the prayer “that God always answers.”

The jarring truth that we look for our happiness in all the wrong places is supported by two facts that sound distinctly heretical:  (1)Sinful urges come from a place within us that is experienced on a deeper level than our redemption; (2)Sin delivers a pleasure that Jesus never provides.

If that’s the case, then, how is it possible to find happiness along with a life of holiness?

“In order to compete with sin’s appeal, holy desire, the longing to live a Christlike life that displays the relational beauty of Christ to others, must be rooted in faith.  And that faith exists only when it is lodged in the certainty that soon it will give way to an incomparable experience of joy that will forever destroy the appeal for sin.”

The goal of Christlikeness is always a long way off, but life on the narrow road is designed to “squeeze” the unholiness out of His followers, leaving them free to follow hard after the prize of knowing God at any cost and to hate anything that obscures the reality of God’s loving presence.

The antidote to our persistent “Broad Road Thinking” is a heavy dose of the Gospel which Larry examines in the context of seven probing questions:

  1.  Who is God?  God is relational, a three-Person community of love, fully committed to the happiness of others.  Even His glory is relational.
  2. What is God up to?  He is devoting His unlimited resources to forming those who receive the gospel into disciples who relate like Jesus.
  3. Who are we? We are relational persons with a potential waiting to be realized, created to know joy in knowing God, with potential to put Jesus on display.
  4. What’s gone wrong?  As a race, we’ve rejected God’s identity as “the source of all that is good.”   We look elsewhere for goodness and happiness.
  5. What has God done about our problem?  He killed His Son.  Of course, this will seem of little consequence if we persist in settling for “Second Thing Happiness.”
  6. How is the Spirit working to implement the divine solution to our human problem?  This side of heaven, “we experience the Holy Spirit’s presence most richly in our darkness and distress” and “His power most potently in our weakness and failure.”
  7. How can we cooperate with the Spirit’s working?  By never giving up on ourselves and others; by battling for a better love and seeking to truly know one another; by giving in both word and deed.

What would happen if we threw ourselves into this battle for a better love?  The happiness that Jesus experienced on this Earth coexisted beside the worst kind of anguish and suffering.  It was fueled by deep and significant relationships.  Truly His narrow way is the way that leads to life.

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