We sit together on those old wood planks, warm in cotton just dried. I am folding and he is slowing my progress, keeps undoing what I've done. I give him his own pile, hope he'll leave mine be, but I can't distract him. I don't have anything he wants badly enough.
Morning sunlight is streaming in through a dated window and he notices. Tiny dust particles hover, illuminated. Suspended.
He is up on his fat, firm feet. He is gazing now, little mouth open. And he is taken by the light ... taken by what has become visible. He reaches to catch dust in his hands. He is captured by the sun.
I am captured by him.
And this new faith life was a work in progress for years and I wish I could say I was a quick convert.
I had always believed in this God, even loved Him, in the infinite smallness (like dust particles) that I could grasp. Looking back, I don't regret this lengthy journey ... I know now that it is ongoing. I do regret disobedience and its fallout. Most of all, I regret wasted time to love and serve in this lifetime. Lost time to say "yes" more and "what about me" less.
But this is how it all played out and it is how He took me to my knees and then up again onto firm feet. And all along, I had one constant, competing problem:
my own self.
In a sermon from his home church in the heart of New York City, Tim Keller asks, "How do we become less absorbed with our own individual needs?"
He says this is how real change happens, how we begin to look up and see all around us. Really love. Really spend this life. It starts with a wrestling and a realization of who. we. really. are.
He speaks about Isaiah in the temple, how the angels cried Holy, Holy, Holy, and how this prophet was humbled in a "traumatic" sense. His self-image was demolished. Keller goes on to quote Job:
"My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent..."
People all throughout the bible had this same experience.
These men saw God and then they really saw themselves. They liked themselves a lot less as their self image plummeted through the floor. Not because they had "chronic low self-esteem" as Keller said, but because they had really seen the glory of God. They were changed in a moment of clear vision, then they were used in mighty ways.
Keller goes on to say that God "as a concept" is nice and convenient. He fits into our lives and we stay unchanged. But what of when we experience the "weight" of who He is? When we see (just) a glimpse of his reality?
And what if we experienced God in this way and then got over ourselves? Encountered this God who loves us and uses us in spite of ourselves, even while we think far too high and way too low of our abilities and our positions?
What if we finally encountered Him in a way that grabbed our attention, captured our gaze, caused our jaws to drop in wonder, sent us to our knees in surrender?
Keller says this happens in a progression. We first see ourselves as we are. Then we see Him as He is. We are astonished because He is bigger and more lovely and more fierce than we ever knew. More holy. We realize we have believed all along ... but perhaps never seen.
But when we do see ... the only reasonable response then, is to get up from these knees and go out into this world. This is where our lives may truly become an offering.
Friends, let the spending begin!
This sermon is so worth listening to in its entirety. These are his (T.K's) ideas. It is a commitment of thirty-eight minutes. Can't sit at your computer for that long? Have a phone with apps? Download Redeemer Presbyterian Church App for free. Go to New This Month. Sermon Podcast. Scroll down, down, down to The Gospel and Your Self (July 1). This will not be wasted time.