Saturday, May 7, 2016

What we give up, and what we secure

Dear E.,

Here are some thoughts on  two qualities of the christian life:

1. Giving up what needs to be given up.
2. Securing what needs to be secured.

First, regarding giving up what needs to be given up:

Yes, it is true. The one who trusts all to Jesus gives up himself, but not as an offering found in himself, as though coming up with a form of payment in order to receive something in return.  Rather, he surrenders all because, in Christ, he has come to the end of himself. His hands are now empty. If he is to find life, he must receive it as a gift - without money, and without price.

On an imperfect, human scale, consider the nature of your union with your future husband.  In joining yourself to him, you will vow to "forsake all others".  Allow this word, "forsake", to have its full weight.  You will renounce, abandon, relinquish, dispense with, disown, discard, give up, jettison, and do away with all that threatens to come between you and your beloved.  You will make this vow because you have come to the end of a previous way of life, to a life that now cherishes (and is bound to) someone "other".  This forsaking will not make it "hard" to love.  It is not a burden or "hardship" that you bring to the alter as the cost of holy matrimony.  It is the fruit of your love for your husband, a love ready to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. What you receive as a gift casts out fear. Without fear, lies lose their grip on you. And the truth sets you free - free to give up yourself.

You see, it is God's loving kindness that leads us to repentance, not the calculation of costs and benefits. I do not forsake in order to find.  Like the bride and groom, I forsake because of what I have found.  I forsake because I once was lost, but now AM found.

Make no mistake, your life "from this day forth" in Christ will be a life of repentance. Is this life of repentance, this life of forsaking, going to be a life of ease or self centered gain?  Of course not.  There is real hardship that lies in store. But your strength and assurance will lie, not in treating the hardship as payment for a reward, but in understanding hardship as the first part of a promise -- "In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." ... "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace." (Jn 16:33)  It is through His promises that you will look back and say, "His yoke is easy, and His burden light."

Second, regarding securing what needs to be secured:

Here I will be brief but no less urgent. I've already hinted at this most vital truth: We do not forsake in order to secure. So what does securing the promises of Jesus look like?

The marriage analogy may break down here, but I'll trust you to apply it to the one who first loved us, and made us alive while we were yet sinners with no strength to contribute and no merit to bring to the alter.

What will it take to secure the love of your husband?  Understand when I say that you will do NOTHING to secure his love. Securing his love will not depend on the quality of your sacrifice to him. The security of his love for you rests on a quality of who he is, not who you are.

For the bride, the "true faith" question, then, becomes this... Does she trust HIM that the promises he has made, (to love and provide for her always), are secure, apart from anything she can bring?

If faith is "hard", it is because, when faced with this standard, where the adequacy of our savior puts an end to any adequacy in us, we of ourselves can't even come up with a mustard-seed sized portion of this kind of trust. Faith of this nature is a gift from God.

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