two women and a baby

I have been thinking deep thoughts and feeling deep felts.

There is Mary (not her real name). Mary and I worked together for seven years in a previous life. I think she would say that we were good friends. She had been a missionary overseas. There were little glimpses of life being difficult for her back then and I tried to listen and to love. Then we went different directions and lost contact, although she popped-in for an event when I started with Langham. In retrospect she did seem more subdued, a little spark-less, on that occasion. Mary went on to battle with clinical depression and one day decided that her best option was to take her own life. I was in Thailand when I received the shattering news - but made it home in time for her funeral.

There is Elizabeth (not her real name). Another mission worker. Another woman in her 60s. Unlike Mary, Elizabeth's story has been in the headlines. In fact she was receiving an award from Obama at the White House just before she came to NZ. Her husband and nine others were ambushed and murdered in a remote area of a Central Asian country a few months ago. I was in Thailand for her visit to NZ - but made it home for the final meeting. It was good to hear her story for myself. I was impacted by the willingness of her little family to remain in a war-zone decade after decade. They became known as 'the people that stayed' and this is what won the hearts of the locals. It intrigued them and their hearts were opened.

There is Micah (his real name, my grandson!). I was in Thailand when my daughter went into labour and she was still in labour when I got home. Being with Barby in labour five times was enough for me. I didn't like watching her in such pain - and now to think that my lovely Lys suffered for even longer... God knows (as do all the mothers in the world) that I couldn't go through it myself. But as with marriage, labour and birth is a picture of profound truth. The groaning of creation, the suffering in life which is healed, finally and climactically, in the second coming of Christ. The midnight gives way to dawn - eventually. It is the big hope that holds us. And it is the littler hope of holding Micah that helps enable labour to be endured.

Mary and Elizabeth and Micah have been happening while I've been studying Jeremiah 29, 1 Peter 2, and the book of Revelation - all at the same time.

Jeremiah 29 was for a sermon tomorrow and just when I am all hot and heavy about putting 'Jer 29-I know the plans I have for you-11' in its context back then and for people now, I discover the church has double-booked and my services will not be required... :) 1 Peter 2 is for a sermon at a conference in Malaysia next month. Although scholars (as far as I can tell) only ever see Jesus' light in 1 Peter 2.11-12, I am convinced that these two verses are light and salt remixed. Then as I prepare for Langham seminars in Asia next month, I am being reminded that Revelation has features in common with prophecy. For example, its symbols remain encrypted so that its relevance can have multiple fulfilments. Fulfilment works like climbing a range of mountains, not a single peak. There are lots of fulfilments, littler hopes, on the way to the higher and bigger hope - the glorious peak of Christ himself.

Jeremiah 29 is true for Mary. Let's stop being clumsy and cruel with verse 11. Let's place it within the eternal timeline with its supreme truth that 'we have been saved, we are saved, and we will be saved'. This is Mary's future and hope.

1 Peter 2.11-12 is true of Elizabeth. The life which intrigued for so long in Central Asia is now intriguing far more widely and will do so for much longer. This is because this life captured the tension in being salt and light: living a distinctive life with distinction right in there among those who do not believe.

There is even a hint of Revelation being true in Micah, together with his mum and dad. He is a little picture of hope fulfilled after hours of labour and weeks of discomfort. In that experience is glimpsed the big fact of history: there is something in the future which pulls us, and our world, through the present.

nice chatting



Jyoti said…
I am sure God has plans for Micah, just as he does for you and for "Elizabeth" - looking forward to hearing her speak during her travels here.
Paul said…
Yes, Jyoti, she tells her story with such warmth and honesty and impact. It reminded me so much of the Elizabeth Elliot stories of the 1960s in Ecuador. I am praying that similar fruit will emerge in the years still to come.
Its such an encouragements and this really has cheered me up to look to more of life in the purview of God...

Popular Posts