I am taking a break from practicing the violin to write this blog. Yes, the violin. It’s been a lifelong desire, and I have just had my third lesson. And I can verify that the comments I have heard all my life about listening to a beginning violinist practice being a very annoying experience are indeed true. I once thought my opportunity to learn had passed me by. But I have changed my thinking. My new way of thinking has influenced me in many ways, and so at the ripe old age of….(hey, wait a minute, I don’t have to tell you how old I am!) I am beginning a new instrument.
For—God so loved the world that He gave His only Son! That whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have EVERLASTING LIFE! I am going to live forever! Not as a disembodied spirit, but as a physical being, inhabiting the good earth that my Father created. So I might as well begin a pursuit that might take me a long, long time to perfect. Why not? I’ve got FOREVER.
Presenting my body to God is the spiritual way to worship Him. I glorify God in my body. The message at church last night was phenomenal—revealed all kinds of crazy thinking we have about our bodies. The message Theology of the Body will help renew your mind to God’s view of the bodies He created for us—not base, nasty things, but what He called at the moment of creation “very good.” (get it on the WOLC podcast Tuesday)
So today I happened to be reading Lewis Smedes’ Keeping Hope Alive For a Tomorrow We Cannot Control. I found Smedes less than a year ago, and he has been a real treasure. He is not a new author, in fact, died a few years ago in his eighties after a long career teaching at Fuller Theological Seminary, with many books to his credit. I read his autobiography, My God and I, which was finished just a few months before his death. Every page was a delight. He was a highly intelligent and highly trained theologian with a profoundly simple childlike faith and a vibrant relationship with his God, and an ability to express deep truth in a straightforward and uncomplicated way. I loved a passage I came across today, even read it aloud to Brian, who liked it very much as well.
He tells the story of driving from Los Angeles to Michigan a few years previously–a five day trip, and making the decision shortly after setting out to spend those days in complete solitude–no music, no talk radio, no phone calls, just a time of solitude.
“…..I prayed some to God and talked to myself a lot. What mostly came to me, however, were not deep thoughts, but gospel songs that we sang at the Berean Church in Muskegon, Michigan, to which my mother shuffled the five of us children two miles each way twice every Sunday and where, no matter how it had begun, the sermon ended with either the Battle of Armageddon or the rapture of the saints. So I broke my silence by croaking such verses as I could still recall, surprised at how much the old hymns of coming glory still affected me. One of my favorites was “Beulah Land.”
Oh Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land,
As on the highest mount I stand.
I look away across the sea
Where mansions are prepared for me,
And view the shining glory shore,
My heaven, my home, forever more.
I surely did like to sing hymns about that shining glory shore back at the Berean Church. But now I was singing about it while driving through the pure, purple canyons of Utah, with their pinstriped shadows drawn by a softly dying sun along the screen of parallel crevices in the eastern canton walls, and I knew for sure that I did not now and never really had ever really wanted to live in Beulah Land. Not as a forever guest. This world of Utah canyons and the society of human beings with bodies is where I want to live, linked one day with all of God’s children in a society where justice and peace embrace.
The Bible offers a vision, not only of the soul’s ascent to heaven, but of God’s coming to Earth. It is the hope that He will come back to fill the world with Himself and make the whole world good again, from sea to shining sea. A place where all of His children will finally feel at home together. And at home with Him.
The way I read the Bible, heaven—the place of departed spirits—is a sublime intermezzo. A rest stop where our spirits learn to enjoy God while we wait in bodiless patience for God to shape His earth into His peaceable kingdom. So, when it comes to my forever life, it is in this world, repaired and renewed, my Father’s world, my native place, where I hope to live it.”
Bravo, Smedes! I couldn’t agree more! Thank God for the gift of His beautiful creation! Thank God for our bodies that can sing and dance and shout and roll in the grass and eat fresh raspberries right off the bush. Thank God that even though the body I have right now may wear out, He is going to resurrect it to newness of life, and I will be able to sing and dance and shout and roll in the grass and eat raspberries right off the bush (which I did today!), knowing that my resurrected body will never wear out. My resurrected body can play the violin, and I’m starting NOW, because there’s no time like the present.
As I typed these words, the man who lives with me walked into the room and spied my violin lying on the sofa. He picked it up and tried to play it. And I have to say that the sounds I have been listening to while I have been practicing are FAR more melodious and appealing after just three lessons than the sounds he made! I’m getting better! I’m making progress! Every day in every way, as I yield my life to God and dedicate my life to pursuing Him. And that’s exciting.