Monday, July 24, 2017

The Beauty of Inequality.

We are not all created equal. 

As Christians, we must accept this truth.  If we don’t, then we will constantly be living in a state of comparison and disappointment.  We are not equal, nor were we made to be such.  I have never met a man who is able to carry the very breath of a human being inside his womb, nor have I met a woman who has the ability to give life with the sperm of her being.  Without our differences, the very essence of human life would be nonexistent.

Inequality is beautiful.

Last week, my family and I watched as the North Carolina house I grew up in was packed into boxes and delivered 16 hours to our new house in Wisconsin.  As one-by-one the boxes filled the new, unfamiliar rooms, we worked to make our new house into a home.  Full of anticipation, I immediately set to work decorating and organizing my new room, my head spinning with images of what it would look like once it was finished.  A couple of unpacked boxes later, I noticed the pain in my body worsening, rendering my left arm completely useless.  I couldn’t move the boxes.  I couldn’t lift the picture frames.  I was too weak.  Too tired.  Too ill.

One room away, my sister was completely done unloading her boxes and ready to begin helping organize the kitchen.  Emilee is strong.  She is full of energy.  She is completely healthy. 

We are not equal.

In a world that revolves around fairness, where is the fairness in a disease that slows me down?  Where is the fairness in one sister who is strong and able while the other sister is weak and unable?  Where is the beauty in this inequality?  I could spend hours going on and on about the inequality, the unfairness, in the lot that God has given me versus what He has given my sister.  But then, what would I have left but a heart full of disappointment as I spend my days playing the comparison game?  I have another choice, though.  I can choose to rejoice.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, . . . in needs, . . . in distresses, for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

            In God’s great grace, He deemed it good to create a variety of souls in a variety of colors.  What one person can do well, another cannot, and vice versa.  When Paul declares that his strength comes from his weakness, I believe that it is not only God’s strength that empowers Paul to continue on in spite of infirmities, needs, and distresses.  I believe it is also the strengths of the body of Christ that empowers Paul.  Where Paul is weak, others in the body are strong.

“If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing?  If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?  But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.  And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary” (1 Corinthians 12:15-22).

In the same way, Emilee and I complement each other.  Where I am weak, she is strong.  Where I am unable, she is able.  Without her, I would simply be a hand, but where could I go without my foot?  Without me, Emilee would simply be a foot, but what would she do without her hand?

In this moment, there are 7,517,668,970 people in this world.  That’s seven billion souls.  All different.  All unique.  Seven billion inequalities.

We live in a country that calls for equality.  And while I understand, and appreciate, the reasoning and the motive, I think we are calling for the wrong thing.  You see, by striving for equality, we are asking all of the seven billion people in this world to conform.  We are asking them to hide their individual qualities so as not to offend anyone.  We are seeking everyone to paint themselves the same color.

But where is the beauty in that?  We cannot all be the color blue in the same way that the body cannot all be made of feet. 

Instead of striving to paint the world an equal color, why can’t the world just acknowledge that there is a whole rainbow of billion different colors, shades, and hues.  By acknowledging and learning to appreciate the inequalities of each individual, we will not only become aware of our weaknesses, but we will find each others’s strengths.

My sister is an extrovert.  At any given time, her words are flowing out of her mouth in a steady stream of facts, humor, and stories.  She is the life of our family.  This is a strength that she has.  But by acknowledging her strength of being able to talk to a wall, my inability to tell a humorous story well is exposed as weakness.  However, here’s the beauty of the thing::  By my family, friends, and acquaintances acknowledging that I’m naturally shy – my weakness – my strength in listening well is brought to light.  As a result, whenever someone I know has a problem, a struggle, or just needs someone to talk to, I’m typically one of the first people they come to because they know that I will listen without judgement, without interruption, and that I will listen well.

What would happen if this was the question we, as a society, began to ask?  What would happen if we, as a society, began to seek out one anothers’ weaknesses and strengths rather than striving to paint over them the same shade of blue?

There is beauty in inequality.  God created us all with a unique purpose in mind.  He created us with different talents, different abilities, different gifts, different dreams and goals, different hopes and futures, different lives, and different souls.  We were not made to be equal, and because of that, no matter how hard we try to create equality, we will never achieve it.  Instead, we will be stuck in a game of comparison.  We will be left disappointed.

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!”

            There is another choice, though.  We can choose to compare our hand with another’s foot and try to do with our hand as one does with his foot, leaving us feeling utterly useless.  Or we can acknowledge and appreciate the work that one is doing with his foot and rejoice for the abilities our hand has been given. 

            The day I couldn’t move the heavy boxes, I could have chosen to sit in my room and complain to God about the lot of illness He had given me, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t do that a little.  But here is how gentle my God is…  While I was comparing myself to my sister, lifting my complaints up to God, in His great grace and mercy, Jesus lifted my head and showed me the beauty of my inequality.  I couldn’t move the boxes, but Emilee could do it for me.  Later that same day, Emilee couldn’t reach the top shelf in the kitchen to store some glasses away, for she was too short, but I could do it for her.  She had the strength; I had the height.  We complement each other.

“But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).

We are not all created equal.  And it is time we realize that inequality is necessary.  Inequality is okay.  In fact, it is beautiful.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Made to Adore.

            There is a moment during a wedding in which all time seems to stand still.  It is the moment when the doors to the sanctuary are opened, revealing the bride arrayed in white.  She has never looked so radiant, her face alight with joy as her smiling eyes seek out her groom.  The groom, standing at the altar, gasps the second his eyes fall upon the bride walking towards him.  The bride and groom’s eyes meet.  Time slows.  For this is a moment not to be rushed, but enjoyed.  As the bride places one foot in front of the other, the couple cannot seem to take their eyes off of each other as smiles grace their faces, tears glisten in their eyes, and they lovingly gaze at the other.  In this still moment, with a gentle song playing in the background, all others disappear until it is just the bride and the groom beholding the other in pure adoration. 

            A few weeks ago, I was at a MercyMe concert.  The night was cool, the crowd was excited, and the band was energetic as one song after another rang through the Milwaukee ballpark.  And then they played my song.  The same song that has gotten me through many-a tough day and sleepless night.  As the music slowed and the group’s voices drifted on the breeze, my ears became attuned to the words.

I know You’re able
And I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand.
But even if You don’t,
My hope is You alone.
I know the sorrow
And I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word.
But even if You don’t,
My hope is You alone.
You’ve been faithful.
You’ve been good
All my days.
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may.
‘Cause I know You’re able.
Yes, I know You can.

            As the words flowed out, they resonated in my heart.  I could feel the Lord’s love for me, like a gentle caress to my soul.  And as the group continued to sing, tears began to flow down my cheeks as I sat in awe of my God.  As I sat and simply adored my Savior.  I didn’t want anything from Him.  I didn’t ask anything of Him.  My only desire in that moment was to hear Him, to see Him, and to utterly adore Him.  Like a bride gazing at her betrothed as she takes one step closer to the altar, I sat gazing at the beauty of the Lover of my soul.

            Isn’t this what Christianity is all about?  Isn’t this the point of creation?  Is this not our ultimate purpose in life?

            Friend, we were made to adore Christ.  “Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!” (Psalm 96:9).  This is more than a call to observe the holiness of God.  To worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness is an invitation to gaze upon His loveliness, His beauty, for our pleasure.  Like one standing in the midst of a garden in full bloom, we are invited to stand in the midst of Christ’s holiness and simply gaze upon the beauty surrounding us. 

            In the Westminster Catechism, the first question posed is profound, “What is the chief end of man?”  The answer, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  To gaze upon His glory.  To admire His loveliness.  To worship Him in the beauty of holiness.

            As the bride in white stands at the sanctuary doors, gazing upon her groom, her heart fills to overflowing with love and adoration.  In the same way, as we learn to worship God in the beauty of His holiness, doing nothing but gazing upon our Betrothed, our hearts will be filled as we fall in-love with our Creator.

            Don’t miss this!  To worship our God is to adore Him.  That is all He wants.  That is all He asks.  He wants nothing more but the adoration – the pure, undefiled love – of our hearts.  God is our Groom, standing at the altar, waiting until our eyes meet His.  His heart has never been so full of love, and He longs for nothing more than for our eyes to meet His, allowing us to gaze upon His beauty and be filled with adoration for our Groom. 

            In an evening sunset which paints the sky in glorious hues of blues, pinks, and yellows.  In the ocean waves as they kiss the sand, smoothing its rough layers.  In the laugh of a child as he sings a silly song and prances around the living room.  In the colors of fall, adorning the mountains in breathtaking splendor.  In a gentle smile through tears as the broken-hearted find joy in spite of pain.  In the blood that flowed down Calvary’s hill as an innocent Man gave His life for the guilty so that they could rest in His victory.  This is the beauty of Christ, my friend.  It can be found in the most joyful occasion or the most painful of seasons.  It is all around us – in every new dawn and ending dusk.  But oh, how easy it is to miss when the garden is surrounded by threatening weeds.  How easy it is to become so overcome by the task of pulling the weeds that we miss the splendor of the colorful blooms.

            The loveliness of our God is all around us.  He is standing at the altar at the front of the church, waiting for your eyes to meet His.  He is ready to reveal to you His beauty.  But first, you must look.  Look into His eyes.  See the love glistening there.  Allow yourself to simply gaze upon the beauty of His holiness, and watch as the mountains of weeds crumble among the weight of your adoration. 

Choose today to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.  After all, you were made to adore Him.