What We Have Seen Today

“And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when He saw their faith, He said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’ And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, ‘Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ When Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered them, ‘Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Rise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the man who was paralyzed—’I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.

And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen extraordinary things today.'”

Luke 5:18-25

We have seen extraordinary things. I think it is interesting that the people used the plural here. Presumably it was particularly “remarkable,” as another translation says, that the man was able to walk home. It was shocking that Jesus forgave his sins. What else surprised them? Were they caught off guard by the faith of the man’s friends? Or that Jesus knew the Pharisees’ and scribes’ thoughts? Whatever it was, it led them to 1) be amazed, 2) glorify God, and 3) be filled with awe.

These are things towards which I strive as well. I often pray that God will be glorified in different situations, particularly ones that I find incredibly confusing or challenging, but often in less exciting ventures, too! I recently sat down and wrote out some goals for my time in graduate school, which probably fits into all three aforementioned categories and many more. Number one on the list is that “I want to do all things for the glory of God and to show love to others.” I want to know God better, to know how to serve and love Him, and as a result, to serve and love like Him. I want to see and note the extraordinary things that He does every day and to take the time to appreciate them, to be amazed and filled with awe, and then to glorify Him. Even when I’m not feeling completely bowled over by something I’ve seen, I want to be thinking about it and reflecting on it. I want to be a part of His extraordinary.

I’ve been asking myself every day, “What did I take in (see, hear, smell, taste, touch, etc.) that was extraordinary?” Today it was “watching the sun set over water.” A couple of weeks ago, it was “the capacity of human emotion.”

In “The Valley of Vision,” a book of Puritan prayers, there is a prayer called “The Great God.” I highly recommend reading it, and the last portion of the prayer captures the heart of my thinking and hope with my little venture into seeking the everyday extraordinary:

“Nothing exceeds thy power,

Nothing is too great for thee to do,

Nothing too good for thee to give.

Infinite is thy might, boundless thy love,

limitless thy grace, glorious thy saving name.

Let angels sing for sinners repenting, prodigals restored,

backsliders reclaimed, Satan’s captives released,

blind eyes opened, broken hearts bound up,

the despondent cheered, the self-righteous stripped,

the formalist driven from a refuge of lies,

the ignorant enlightened,

the saints built up in their holy faith.

I ask great things of a great God.”

 

 

 

The Years of My Sojourning

Happy New Year!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really one for resolutions, but I understand their value. Culturally we measure things in years, so the beginning of a new calendar year seems as good a time as any to evaluate how we’re doing and what we can improve going forward. People may also do this at the beginning of a new school year or year of life (yay birthdays!). Some of my friends ask for advice on their birthday or reflections from others as part of this evaluation process. But in any case, we’re pretty good at measuring how much time has passed and trying to consider how much or what we have done in that time. The questions and answers are fairly simple:

What year is it now?

Well, it’s 2014!

What grade are you starting?

Oh, tenth!*

How old are you today?

Yeah, I’m turning 26!*’

(*Please note that these answers are not intended to bear any resemblance to particular persons, living or dead, and there are indeed no 26-year-old tenth graders running around as far as I am aware.)

Apparently on at least one occasion, and perhaps more, a similar question was posed differently:

How many are the days of the years of your life?

Okay, that’s a little odd, but it seems you’re asking how old I am. [Simple answer.]

However, on at least one occasion, someone answered very differently than I may have. His name was Jacob. Here’s what he said:

“The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.”

He then blessed the highly regarded person to whom he was speaking. Suddenly “I’m feeling 22” seems wildly inadequate. Factual, in some cases, but maybe not as informative as this response. There are a few things that jump out at me about this.

Firstly, Jacob is 130 here. He is also what some might call “a Bible hero.” At the very least he is referenced in the Bible and part of Jesus’ genealogy. This said, he describes his 130 as “few” and “evil.” That’s a very interesting perspective and basis for comparison for a 20-something struggling regularly with a bevy of things described on this blog and many, many more. Then again, his basis for comparison may very well be his perfect Creator and the ancestors that he references. These are people who were cited in Hebrews for their outstanding faith and walking in righteousness. In those cases (particularly the former), “few and evil” sounds about right.

Secondly, Jacob uses “sojourning” and “life” interchangeably. Life is a journey, some canvas on Pinterest tells us, but what does that actually mean? Is it even true? I’m not quite sure of the answer myself, but the fact that Jacob describes his life as “sojourning” gives me the idea that it’s not a time for being stagnant. All the more so when we don’t have a lot of time to get there (the days are few) and we’re constantly tripping over our own faults and those of others (the days are evil).

Well, this is a great New Year’s message so far, Marissa. We’re going to die soon and we’re evil disasters. Thanks. Sorry, sorry! But let me explain why this is actually making my new year happy.

1.) We have examples.

Another reason that I don’t really do resolutions is that I take commitments very seriously and I have trouble coming up with resolutions that aren’t too extremist. In response to an end-of-year questionnaire asking about what I might like to let go of in 2014, I thought of the single versus married people blog war (Don’t get married yet! You’re young! You’ll throw your life away! versus If you haven’t gotten married by X years of age, you’re doing something horribly wrong! Meanwhile, everyone’s insulted.). I thought of the times I flipped through someone’s pictures and lamented my own perceived lack of beauty. If I wasn’t doing so well at repressing school thoughts during my holiday time, I probably would have considered the times that I felt so unintelligent there. So I wrote “comparing myself to others.” Seconds later, I erased it.

In a sense, comparing myself to others is good. Paul offered his behavior as an example to the church in his letters (“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about here things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me- practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”) as a point of comparison. I am constantly comparing myself to Christ and those who are striving to be like him. What about their faith encourages me? How can I be more like them, and ultimately, more like Christ?

2.) We have time.

I know, I know, I just said that the days are few. But there are days. The days are not zero; they are few. We are a vapor, but typically a breath is not indicative of death. This just means we need to “make the best use of the time” that we do have (Ephesians 5). This is why I’m a Christian. I don’t have a whole lot of time, but I have some. I look to the One who gave me that time, to the One who is good, and I am awed by what I see. I am in awe that He not only made me, but loves me, and loves me sacrificially- with the greatest love. Not only that- He loves everyone with that kind of love. So I seek what it is He wants out of the time He has given me because whatever it is, it is good and it is based in love.

So Happy New Year, everyone! I am thankful for the days given and those yet to come; I am thankful for the sojourning and praying that it follows the steps of Christ’s time on earth as closely as possible. His days were few, in a sense, but they were good. May this brief but new year be a time of growth, blessing, gratitude, and mirroring Christ all the more as He makes us new.