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Monday, June 06, 2005

Glorious Ruins

You've seen them haven't you? Glorious glimpses of the past now in ruins. Places like the Parthenon, the Roman aqueducts, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Or more modern ones like my husband's desk or my house after a pint-sized birthday party.

Or me.

A pastor friend uses the term "glorious ruins" to describe our human condition. Writers like Scotty Smith and John and Stasi Eldredge expound on this thought with powerful words of how we were created for more and yet we fall far short in our attempts to find Eden in this world.

Instead of reflecting the glory of God, we are glorious messes that make a mess of things every time we try on our two-year-old attitudes and insist, “I’ll do it by my own self!”

Even so, God has a plan and purpose that He is working out in the midst of our messes.

I’m finally starting to get this, but it’s taken a long time and a lot of wrestling with God. See, I’m a lot like the Prodigal’s older brother. I would rather believe I’m not a ruin at all, but that I’m becoming more holy the longer I walk with the Lord.

But the opposite is happening. The closer I get to the Lord, the bigger a mess I see that I am.

Scotty Smith in his excellent, excellent book titled Objects of His Affection speaks about believers in terms that are hard to accept. He calls us an unworthy bride and relates our story to the story of unfaithful Gomer, the wife of God’s prophet Hosea. “As with Hosea’s wife so with God’s people, Israel: Unfaithfulness abounded.” And so it is with us. We chase after other lovers and hide from or forget the Lover of our souls.

In busyness. In making ends meet. In being a good wife and raising good children. In self-improvement. In church work. In just about any thing or activity under the sun.

When we try to find life and love in anything other than God, our relationships and activities become our idols, our other lovers, and merely a means to an end~ making us feel good.

Sounds ugly doesn’t it?

It is.

If we are honest, our attempts to find life apart from God are so very far from the “not too bad” designation we like to put them in. They actually leave our lives in ruins.

Take a hard look in the mirror. What do you see? Do you see tired eyes filled with longings? Me too. I see the mess I’ve made of life by running after many things that left me emptier than when I started.

But before you give up in despair, look again. Do you see the cross? Look closely. If you are a child of the King, He’s with you. Always.

Scotty Smith says it this way, “To see our sins, wounds, idols, and failures apart from God’s grace is simply too much. We will either minimize our condition, thus marginalizing our need of grace, or we will run away in hopeless despair to the arms of a lesser love or to the worship of lesser gods.”

But when we take a redeeming look in the mirror we will see both the seriousness of our sin and the awesome deliverance of our great God. To see both is to be changed.

How do you take a redeeming look in the mirror? Hosea 2:14 gives us a clue, “Therefore I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” To really see, God will take us to a barren, lonely place to win our hearts away from the unfulfilling loves we’ve run after. There He will speak His words of love and truth. There we will see the true nature of our idolatry, our sin. And there we will see Him replace the emptiness of our other lovers with His very self.

A line from Scotty’s book brought me up short one day as I read. “Greater love cannot be conceived than God dying for a thankless adulteress.”


That’s me. And that’s my Savior. After a number of recent trips to the desert, I’m learning to look in the mirror and see my sin, my mess, for what it is. At the same time, I’m learning to see it all in light of the cross. It’s paid for. In full.

Even after seeing this truth, there’s another facet of being a glorious ruin that leaves me struggling still. It’s the fact that no matter what I do, there remains more in me in need of change. It’s an ongoing process that won’t end this side of Heaven.

That really bugs me.

I like marking things off my to-do list, completing a project, typing THE END to a manuscript. I like seeing the finish line and crossing it.

Good thing God doesn’t see with my eyes. Instead, He knows He will complete the work He’s begun in me and He isn’t in a race with time to do it.

Even in the midst of this cycle of growth and more necessary growth, God says this, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; YOU ARE MINE. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” (Isaiah 43:1-2)

And this, “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

God not only saves us and calls us by name, but He DELIGHTS in us. He rejoices over us with singing. That’s the glorious part. The part of us that dares to grasp hold of this truth and run with it. The part that steps out of the boat, like Peter, and walks on the water.

That’s where I want to be. A little calmer waves, maybe. But right there, doing the “impossible” with Jesus.

For the times when I resemble C.S. Lewis’s quote, “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily satisfied.” God answers with words that stir my soul to remember.

Words like John Piper’s restatement of a line from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.”

And so I remember.

I remember the cross.

I remember my Heavenly Daddy’s love for me.

I remember I need Him.

I remember that I’m a glorious mess in the process of living up to that which I’ve already obtained. One day this ruin will be clothed in white and made new. One day.

Until then I try to remember... Only One Thing is needed… choose wisely.


Sally Datria said...

Well said, dear friend, well said!!

Amy Wallace said...

I'm so glad you're my friend, Sally! God blesses me through you all the time.


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