Monday, September 23, 2013

The Certainty of Faith

“God is not dead, not doth He sleep . . .”
-H.W. Longfellow

Night is coming. The pounding of door after door, the closing. There is no room. No room, and the woman great with child, her time nearly upon her. No room . . . the echoing, the haunting phrase, until a stable door lies open before them. God the Father makes a way, prepares a place, for His beloved Son. And the One in Whom He is well-pleased is born in the lowest place, a place for keeping donkeys and sheep and cows.

Nightime upon them and maybe there was fear . . . will we find a place? The hushed-aching-agony never spoken-will He make a way for us? The dread of not knowing, not understanding why. The closing . . . the pounding clenched fist upon door after door after door. Until an unlikely place lies open, a stable. The Glory of God wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Was she afraid? Was she afraid when the world seemed so raw, so unflinching, hard as nails around her? Was she afraid to travel when her day of delivery loomed so close, when her swollen body moaned with each bump in the road?

They were poor, a poor, newly married couple with barely anything to call their own. They were poor and they were despised and the sting of rejection still hung a heavy weight. The whispers, the taunting, the wagging tongues and the sideways glances. The rumored whispers, it was his child, Joseph’s, although she wished everyone to believe that God had sent His angel to her. Was she out of her mind? What would become of all of this?

And the Roman tyranny hung a shadow over them. Hung like the men upon crosses that littered the landscape. Like a millstone around their necks, the Romans who shackled their freedom and taxed them to their clenched-jawed chagrin. It was an uncertain time, a time of change, a time of chaos and unrest in the world around them. A time of shiftiness and unease and distrust.

And here she was, great with child, ready to pour out the agony of her labor and to bleed heavy on the unfriendly straw, on the hard, crusty earth, and to wail the pain of childbirth that only a woman knows and that only a woman can understand and embrace and forget as soon as the new baby lies warm in her shaking arms, the tears of relief running down.

Could I even imagine, begin to taste? Was she afraid to give birth in a stable, with a man who she had barely begun to know? He was her first baby, the Son of God, the One who opened her womb. And the completion of her travail was the Salvation of her soul.

And I remember my own labor, the joy and the fear and the worry and the deep, soul-sigh of relief when it was over and a baby lay sleeping in my weary arms. And at the time I thought that I couldn’t do it, until the searing, indescribable pain became a dull ache and the final pushing began. And then it was over, and the uncertainty became a blur and a daydream as she lay sleeping, the tranquil hush of heaven, embodied in a tiny baby.

Peace. And the quietness of the hospital at night, the daybreak looming bright and steady in the distance. My husband, concerned, even his growth of beard a halo around his face, and our baby, asleep.

For a child of the living God, the most difficult times, the days of uncertainty, the nights of unrest and agitation ultimately usher in the most magnificent grace. He may bring us to that point of breaking, to the utter travail and agony of our souls before His deliverance comes. And often it comes with pain and with blood-agony and with the soul-body tearing and shaking. What will the child of our travail look like? Will he be a shriveled corpse, a tragic shadow of what our joy may have been? Or will our agony usher in the salvation of our souls, the gratitude of a heart filled with love toward our God, kissed by the grace of peace and the full arms of love and acceptance of His will?

What will my response to uncertainty in my life be? Will I trust Him when the future seems grim, when the culture seems to be crumbling all around me, when the “floods of ungodliness make me afraid” and the government control becomes constricting, unbearable, like labor pains that will not be quieted? Will I trust Him, or will I give way to my fears and allow them to control me? Will I let His peace wash over my heart and hope in Him “though all around my soul gives way,” or will I crumble at the sight of war and give up?

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last . . . He will have the last word, and His people will be saved, though it be through fire and blood.

“My heart trusted in Him and I was helped . . .” (Psalm 28:7). And like Mary, may the Son of God be brought forth through our lives of trust and obedience, through His Spirit, by His shed blood, for His Name’s glory. And “He shall see the labor of His soul and be satisfied” . . . (Isaiah 53:11) in His blood-bought-ones, the travail of His heart.

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