January 27, 2012

The Pain and Joy of the Kingdom

A couple of days ago, my good friend Lindy and I were talking about the different Bible classes we're in, and some of the subject matter that comes up. She spoke of the thought that so many of us have about what it will be like "when we see Jesus", in terms of how Heaven will be. That part of our discussion stuck with me, and brought up some disquieting thoughts in me.

He comes to bring a sword, not peace. Not to fight earthly wars, but to attack and pierce my selfishness and contentment. His Word slicing my soul and spirit, judging my heart.

His Kingdom is in our midst/within us. Luke 17:21 can be read both ways. It's in the sometimes vast gap between us, and in the depth of our own being.

The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. But I have to reach out my hand to touch it.

"When we see Jesus." It's so hard to comprehend the light that ends my blindness, but when my eyes adjust I can see Him, here and now, in His distressing disguises.

Seeing Him here scares me, and makes me despair. The hungry, the forgotten, the abandoned and abused children, the wailing widows and the caged prisoners. The people being eaten by disease and trapped in the illness of their mind. The refugees from wars and crimes, and those oppressed in their own homelands. The countless ones suffering in silence and loneliness. Those who are groaning from grief and pain.

In other words, in you and me, and all of creation...

The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It's at our hands. To touch it here in this life means reaching out to touch the pain, the sadness, the fear. Both in the space between us and inside our own souls.

Picking up my cross and following Him brings an exquisite pain, and also an exquisite joy. John 21:7 came to life for me the other night.  As Peter flung himself into the sea to swim to his Lord, Lindy's beautiful daughter runs to me each time she sees me. My joy at her smiling face running towards me. God's joy when we run to Him. Exquisite and ineffable.

The joy of His Kingdom is here for us to grasp, if we are willing to also touch the pain.