In the Shadows

Chandolin Oct 2008 194One morning I was sitting at a window-side table at a hotel in the Alps (Switzerland); the sun was rising behind our mountain, and I watched the sun’s rays reaching ever lower on the far mountainside to the west, the villages slowly beginning to glitter as the morning light awakened them.  The sun had been above the earth’s horizon for a while, its light growing ever stronger, revealing more and more detail of the landscape.  The air slowly warmed, but it did the village little good to see the sun’s effects afar off; until the sun’s rays reach their homes, their fields, their stalls, it will remain cold and dark.  And those places the sun doesn’t reach at all will be burdened with lingering snow lurking in the shadows through spring and summer.

I often think our lives are like that village:  Without the light of Jesus in our lives we live in darkness.  Those areas of our lives we choose to hide in the shadows will remain burdened – untouched until we ourselves bring it into the light, or allow the light to penetrate our defences.  Jesus is a gentleman and will never force himself on us – never wedge in where he’s not invited.  But when we have the courage to drag those snow-covered old things into the path of righteousness, the Son rejoices at melting away the cold hardness, healing the frost-bitten wounds of our lives and turning that snow into spring water for the seeds already planted in the furrows of our lives, knowing that those seeds will one day produce a harvest.

Malachi 4:2 (NIV) says, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”

I love that imagery!  If you’ve ever watched young calves just released from the stall on a spring morning, you can’t help but laugh with their joy, their pleasure.  And that’s exactly what Jesus wants for you and I – that spring-feeling freedom.

Reflections:

If, like that village, you have something lurking in the shadows of your life, bring it into the light and let the Son of righteousness come with healing.  Take that leap of faith with Jesus, and you’ll soon have every reason to leap!

Psalm 28:6-8; Matthew 6:22-23; John 8:12

 

The Who’s Who of Heaven

Once I was looking through a year’s summary, an annual magazine that comes with a Swiss newspaper.  I noticed the obituaries, tucked away at the back.  Two stood in stark contrast, and they made me think about life’s true meaning, and its consequences after this life has breathed its last in our fragile frames.

Elizabeth Taylor is a household name.  Famous from a young age, she’s never left the limelight even when she had limelight fever and ended up in rehab.  She’ll be talked about and referenced for decades to come; she’ll be mourned by fans, praised by media, and kept alive in the collective cultural memory for the foreseeable future.  She acted in over 50 films, and was married 8 times.

Silja Walter

Silja Walter

Then there was Silja Walter.  Who?  The fact that she made it into an annual report says that she was known in some way, but I suspect those who know her name are a drop in the bucket compared to Elizabeth Taylor.  She was a Swiss nun poet.  The only thing mentioned about her life is that she wrote poetry around the topic of faith, religion and the monastic life.

But what struck me most about these two lives is the difference that makes all the difference in the world to come:  It’s not about how many they knew, but about Who they knew.  It’s not about how many knew them, it’s about Who knew them.

Though heaven and hell are controversial topics, it doesn’t change the fact that both are very real (I can personally confirm the existence of the former, but am very grateful to say I cannot do so with the latter!), and that our spirits go to one or the other based on the decisions we make during our lifetime, to trust in God through Jesus’ redemption offered through his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave – or not.  No other decision or action ever made or done carries as much consequence for our lives as that one.  And though none of us like to face it, it is a fact that if someone dies having denied or rejected the Messiah, they relinquish their place in His presence (heaven), and are consigned to the place of punishment meant for the demonic horde, having sided with the enemy.  There is no middle ground.  Jesus himself said in Matthew 12:30, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

All of the glamour of this world, all the fame, is meaningless beyond this realm of mortal life.  Beyond this life, Silja Walter’s name is known.  She’s been welcomed home with “Well done, my Daughter!”  From His depths, God rejoices in her home-coming.  From His depths, God grieves for the loss of lives like Elizabeth Taylor, or Amy Winehouse.  Only God knows what was in the depths of their hearts as they drew their last breath.  He’s a merciful God whose driving motivation is love; but He also gave us, as creatures made in His Triune image, a free choice; and if we use that free choice against Him, He must abide by our decision.  Silja has gone home to where her heart had at length found a home, having been known in heaven far longer than Elizabeth Taylor will ever be known on earth.

 

In the Light of Years

Taken from Törbel, Vallais (Switerland), 2003 © Stephanie Huesler

Taken from Törbel, Vallais (Switerland), 2003 © Stephanie Huesler

As a hobby people-tracker I have tracked missing persons, people off the grid tucked away in mountain cabins, put parents back in contact with children, and tracked friends from decades past.  As I do so, I am aware of the risks:  Perhaps a friend is now divorced, or dead, or walked away from their faith in the Lord that once made them strong.  As I reach out I risk the pain of learning sad histories where I would have otherwise continued to remember them with the rose-coloured glasses of our past memories, or be faced with giving others such news.

Having said that however, the joys of reunion make the risk worthwhile:  Those friends who are surprised and glad to hear from you, to catch up, to stay in touch; to rekindle the friendships as older and wiser friends; to know that you are well, and that God has been good – these things are spontaneous encouragements, refreshing the soul.  Solomon, the wisest of all men, said it best: “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.” (Proverbs 25:25)

I just spoke with a friend whose husband just barely failed an important exam.  Seen in the stale light of the week it is devastating; but seen in the light of the past decade, God is good and life has truly been glorious.  The perspective thrown on our lives as we step back and examine them in the light of years rather than minutes gives us the courage and the motivation to pull closer to God, and to keep going when the going gets tough.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, for only in that context does life ever really make sense.

Reflections:

Are there trees in your life that seem too close to see the forest?  Take a step back, and try to see them from the perspective of eternity.

Proverbs 12:25-27; Ecclesiastes 3:10-12; Hebrews 12:2