Present? Permanent? Paradox?

Lots of random thoughts, with three threads running through…the paradox of being present while realizing that this is thankfully not permanent.

I ran across this quote today.

“Live each season as it passes.”

~Thoreau~

At first glance, I thought I liked it because it speaks to the restlessness I’m experiencing.  The last few weeks I’ve tried to be aware that while dreams are beautiful gifts, each moment right now is as well.  I’ve been struggling with discontentment and as a result have been trying to be fully present even while attempting to discern what this disequalibrium means.  When I first saw the quote, I immediately knew it spoke to that, but the second part made me realize there is something else.

I think one of my favorite words in the English language is paradox…the whole idea that something can be two seemingly unrelated things.  I’m not talking about jumbo shrimp (the example my high school English teacher alway gave right before the literary devices test), I’m talking this beautiful mess.  I’m talking about L-I-F-E.  You see this quote isn’t just about being fully present, it’s also recognizing that life it is fleeting.  All this from a man whose worldview is drastically different than mine.

In between MAP testing, I met with a group of students reading Tuck Everlasting and oddly enough they brought up this very idea.  For those who haven’t read it, there is a family with the ability to live forever and a girl who must make a choice about whether or not she too will join them.

The conversation went like this:

A:  What would you guys do?  I mean, would you drink it?  You’d never have to die and you could give it to your family and they wouldn’t have to either.

C:  Yeah!  And to your pets too.  Everyone could live forever.

Z:  What’s wrong with you guys! That wouldn’t work.  Ever heard of overpopulation? (This child isn’t your typical 10 year-old.)

C: What’s that?

Z:  Basically the world’s going to get overcrowded.  It’s happening already.  There won’t be enough space or food or water or anything.

During this entire conversation one girl, whose world view and belief system are also very different than mine remained quiet.  When I asked her what she thought this is what she said.

D:  It sounds really good.  Like I hate dying.  It’s scary.  I’ve been to 3 funerals before and my cat died once.  But I don’t think I’d like it but not for the whole running out of space thing…I don’t think I’d like it because everything is just, I don’t know broken.  Like even good stuff.

I walked away thinking about the fact that as much as the idea of dying is not one most enjoy regardless of belief system (truthfully I don’t know a large number of Christians that have embraced the whole to die is gain notion), there is also an understanding that something isn’t right.  That just like this shy 10 year old said, “everything is just, I don’t know broken.  Like even good stuff.” Not wanting to die, but not wanting to always live in this mess.  Knowing that there is beauty in this world, but that even this beauty ultimately lets us down and disappoints us because life after Genesis 3 is still futile and flawed.

Last night at small group, Matt Chandler talked about the concept of “Holy Discontentment.”  Those two words put together were new to me…and seemed paradoxical.  But the more we looked at Philipians 3 and scripture as a whole, you see the contrast.  A Holy Discontentment–not being filled with anxiety or fear, but the kind that want to worship more fully.  The kind that is not satisfied with what this world has to offer, but also knowing that while our citizenship is in heaven, we still have hope.  We still have joy.  We are still called to love our city.

I think this is what I struggle with.  I live my life in extremes.  Tim Keller talks about the fact that most idols are good things that have been turned into ultimate things (i.e. family, career, etc…)  My problem is that when I realize something is not ultimate I have a hard time still recognizing that it can still be good and often times this leads to unholy discontentment.  The kind that leads to anxiety and fear and pride.  The kind that needs to be redeemed and refined out of my life…

I listened to a John Piper sermon a few weeks ago called subjected in hope.  You can listen to it here.

I’ve always loved Romans 8, but his take made me love it even more.  The whole idea that after the fall, all of creation was subjected to futility…but it was subjected in hope.  Creation is groaning with the pains of childbirth, but as I’ve heard pointed out screams of pain in the maternity ward and screams of pain in an oncology unit are two different things.  It doesn’t make the pain any less real, but the end result matters.  The end result matters because of hope.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

~Romans 8:20-25~

I think that’s an example of holy discontentment; knowing that this world is futile and waiting in eager expectation (Romans 8:19), but knowing that there is hope and waiting for it with patience, not with anxiety…

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