Friday, August 11, 2006

[springlist] Expectation

Over the last couple years, my struggles with the failing kidney gradually drained my capacity to dream. I learned to find joy in the midst of my struggles and trust God's goodness, and yet I had difficulty looking forward to the future with any expectation.

In the midst of this, I sensed God continuing to challenge me in Scripture to trust Him not just for today but for tomorrow as well. Abraham became a picture for me of someone who was moving toward a vision of tomorrow and yet still lived in the present reality of today's problems. In him, I saw God's grace at work and the essay below is a way of processing this. While others may not have kidney problems, I realize everyone struggles in different ways, and sometimes the weight of today can cause us to lose hope in tomorrow. This is my poor attempt to reflect on that struggle.

Abraham walks across the arid places of my imagination like a memory of time before my time and a vision of time beyond my time.  He is dreaming of a family that will bless all creation. He is following a voice from above, calling him out, calling him forward, calling him into covenant with God. Abraham sees the future: not only his future but our future as well. He sees past the world corrupted by sin and evil to a world that is blessed, restored and glorified in and through the love of God.

Called to be the father of many nations, Abraham dreams of the day when his heirs will cover the earth with the blessing of God. And even as Abraham dreams, he wanders across dry places with no heir in sight. His journey will lead him through famines, wars, family problems, and personal failure.

Long stretches of time will pass with no hope for the future in sight. And as Abraham waits, his vision sometimes falters. Dark clouds of discouragement dim the bright possibility of tomorrow. Today threatens to end the vision with absolute finality.

Suddenly God, in His great faithfulness, appears to Abraham with words of encouragement and promise. These occasional suddenlies give Abraham strength to continue moving forward to the vision of things that will be. God works through this long and winding journey of 100 plus years to continue His plan of restoring His people and His creation into a glory that makes the heavens sing.

This slow kingdom has come and yet still comes. In Jesus Christ, the power of evil is forever crushed and the hope of eternal life is made real. And yet, we wait for the full unveiling of the kingdom when Christ returns in glory. So like, Abraham, we look forward in hope for the glory that is coming.

And as we look, we dream. As children of Abraham, we are dreamers, aching for a future that our present cannot begin to grasp. Our dreams for a future glory also find hope in smaller dreams of our own particular future. In my own life, I've had dreams in ministry, dreams in family, and other dreams, many of which I believed were God-given. These dreams animated my actions and moved me forward to a future where I felt God was calling.

But my desert places often clouded those dreams. The increasing struggles of health over the last several years, made it difficult to see tomorrow. Today threatened to end my visions with absolute finality. Gradually, the dreams diminished and I learned to find joy in the present moment. And yet, this still small voice continued to prick my mind and heart with the word "expectation."

Followers of Christ are dreamers. We see something that the world around us cannot see. We move toward a hope that other dismiss as foolish and futile. And yet, we dream. We dream not only of the end of the ages when Christ appears in glory, we also dream about our future, our family's future, our church's future, and even our community's future. God in His great grace often works in and through these dreams weaving us into His plan and purposes for this world.

Our dreams can lead to action in the present moment as we plan and move toward tomorrow. So whether we are aware of it or not, our future creates our present. If we have no hope for tomorrow, we fail to act or make plans for tomorrow: our present grows dim, our actions will seem futile.

This is the challenge: we move with hope toward the future in the midst of present that may appear to have no possibility for that future. As Jesus goes to the cross, he is talking drinking the new wine of the kingdom. Even as He walks toward death, He sees a life to come.

The present moment often meets us in the work of the cross, and yet we are called to embrace the cross and see beyond it to the hope ahead. Abraham struggled to keep hope alive because he had no heir. Our dreams may die for other reasons: health, age, distractions of the world, failures, family problems and more. We suffer in different ways, and this suffering often drains our capacity to dream of tomorrow.

We live in a world of suffering, but God can even bring redemption through the suffering.

Paul, the great apostle of faith, suffered in body and mind. At times he even despaired of life. Yet Paul came to embrace this suffering as a gift, leading to greater glory. For he realized, the Father's hand continued to transform and perfect him in the midst of suffering. This "slight momentary affliction was preparing him for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."

Like Paul, we walk in the present reality of the cross, with our eyes upon the hope of glory. Even Jesus "endured the cross for the joy before Him." The grace of God calls us into the paradox of suffering and expectation, of dying and dreaming, of death and resurrection. Abraham continues dreaming long after he passes the 100-year mark.  His dreams allow him to obey the voice of God that calls him to sacrifice Isaac. For he knows, God is faithful and he trusts that God will fulfill the dreams of tomorrow.

All of us, no matter our age, our struggles, or our challenges in this life, are called to dream dreams. And to live out those dreams of tomorrow in the way we act, in the way we treat people, and in the way we serve as Christ's ambassadors in the world around us. We live in hope and walk toward the glory that is coming even now.

Grace and Peace,

Doug Floyd
"To find my home in one sentence, concise, as if hammered in metal. Not to enchant anybody. Not to earn a lasting name in posterity. An unnamed need for order, for rhythm, for form, which three words are opposed to chaos and nothingness."
Czeslaw Milosz

"When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale."
GK Chesterton

"Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit"