Miracles

Psalm 107:1; 15; 22

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!

22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

I’ve doubled back around to Psalm 107 because it has been on my mind the last few days. If I were to break it down further, it’s really these three verses. March 10, 2018, Hannah and I had our first child, a boy named Julian. I foresee some of this blog ultimately turning into things that I want him to know about the world, about life, and about God, but that’s for another time. Right now, I want to give thanks.

I want to give thanks to God for the miracle of childbirth. I have never witnessed something more awe-inspiring. It will stop you dead in your tracks and give you all the emotions at once. I already thought pregnancy was a really amazing thing, and I still do. Pregnant women literally grow humans inside of them. It’s mind-boggling that this human boy that I can now hold was once roughly the same size as the diameter of a single strand of hair.

But Birth? Birth is the process of all that internal effort coming to fruition. The baby begins to physically separate from the mother and stake his claim in our world. Julian has existed for the last several months, but his existence changed 3 days ago in a way that I can’t comprehend. In fact, even if I understand the biology of what’s going on, I still can’t comprehend the ways in which his personhood will be shaped and developed. There is, of course, a biological element to this, which is already imprinted in his DNA, but there is also an environmental element, which is a future that I can’t see. He will be a combination of both me and his mother in some ways, but in many many other ways, he will be uniquely himself.

I’m elated to witness this process of change and development upon which he will embark. I’m overwhelmed by the possibility of things he can experience, positive or negative, far more overwhelmed than I have ever been about the possibility of things I could experience. There’s a lot of mystery moving forward, but what I do know is that God’s steadfast love endures forever. I’m confident in this. I’m largely confident in this because people for multiple millennia have testified to it. This very passage from Psalm 107 could’ve been written over 3000 years ago. The same steadfast love that’s testified to in verse 1 is the same love that I feel in moments like this, and it’s the same love that will be there for my son as he grows into the man that he was created to be.

So, how could I not give thanks for His wondrous works to children of man? The only response I can fathom is to tell of this love and to tell of His deeds (verse 22). I witnessed a miracle at 12:13 A.M. on March 10, and the amazing thing is that it’s so commonplace I’ve taken it for granted my whole life. Children are born every day, 250 times a minute, in fact.

I started this blog to help me find truth in every day occurrences, but I wasn’t expecting to find miracles. Thank you, Lord.

He Hears

Psalm 107:1-3; 17-21

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

Today is a day for joy. It’s hard for me to read a passage like this and not feel gratitude. In some ways, I can’t speak for the experiences of every person, but deep down there are things that I know are true about us all. I know that we have all experienced hurt, and if you haven’t, I’m confident that you will at some point. It’s not that I like to be overdramatic about these things, but I do like to tell things like they are. So, at some point in our lives we have or we will experience brokenness. We’ll have to come to terms with our failures and our shortcomings. We’ll have to grapple with the fact that we are far from perfect. We are, in fact, sinful.

We like to always paint this as a complete negative, but I’m not always confident that it is. We are sinful, but it’s our sin that exposes our need for others and ultimately for God. We realize that it’s really hard to go through life alone and that we can’t always naturally pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We need a supernatural help from the Lord.

The good news is that a passage like this tells us some things about who God is. He has gathered together in one body, the global church, to be his heirs and to encourage, equip, and love one another. I know that this isn’t everyone’s experience with churches. Unfortunately, there are many people who have distorted the image and function of the church to be something that it was never intended to be. It was never intended to be oppressive, yet that’s many people’s experience. It was never intended to be abusive, yet many experience abuse at its hand. Despite the deeply distorted portrait of the church that some communities portray, it isn’t always aligned with the biblical vision of how things should look and function.

19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.

God does not promise deliverance from hardship in this lifetime, nor does he promise to end discomfort on your timeline. God is in this for the long haul. He has eternity in mind and is concerned with a spiritual freedom that only he can promise. Nevertheless, he has called the church to seek justice and relief on behalf of others. One of the charges of the church is to care for those who are struggling. We serve a God who hears the cries of his people. We serve a God who heals and who delivers. God hears your voice when you cry out to Him. It’s a time of joy and a time of thanksgiving. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Prayer and Reflection

If you feel like you need to cry out to God about something, do it. If the Psalms show us anything, they show us that it’s okay to do that. Cry out because He will hear you.

Digest

Wilt thou love God as he thee ? then digest,
My soul, this wholesome meditation,
How God the Spirit, by angels waited on
In heaven, doth make His temple in thy breast.
The Father having begot a Son most blest,
And still begetting—for he ne’er begun—
Hath deign’d to choose thee by adoption,
Co-heir to His glory, and Sabbath’ endless rest.
And as a robb’d man, which by search doth find
His stolen stuff sold, must lose or buy it again,
The Sun of glory came down, and was slain,
Us whom He had made, and Satan stole, to unbind.
‘Twas much, that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.

Holy Sonnet XV – John Donne

Poetry like this can feel antiquated.  The language is confusing and disorienting, but I’m still drawn to it. I think I’m drawn to things like this because it forces me to slow down. It forces me to read carefully, then to reread it. I’m thankful for things in my life that force me to do this because I’m always reminded of how much richness I miss. This poem is beautiful, but it takes work to understand.

I first encountered this poem in one of my favorite seminary classes. We boiled this poem down to a simpler, more understandable idea. It’s a poem about downward mobility. It’s about God humbling himself for us. It’s a Trinitarian poem showing how God the Father, Son, and Spirit, has exhibited this downward mobility for our sake. It’s in the Spirit, served by angels, making His home in us. It’s in the Father who has a Son, making us co-heirs with Him. It’s in the Son, putting on flesh and being slain to unbind us from sin.

Trinity Painting.jpg

Prayer and Reflection

God humbled himself for us and for our benefit. How can we have a heart like that? What can we do to live into that beauty? In what ways can we humble ourselves? I’ll leave you with a prayer. Pray it with me.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

– Peace Prayer of Saint Francis