1. A song from my college play-list still comes in useful these days (however *feminist* it might be). A certain sentiment in Ani Difranco’s “32 Flavors” still comes to mind every now and then:
” …God help you if you are a Pheonix
and you dare to rise up from the ash
a thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
while you are just flying past…”
I reckon I’ve both soared and smoldered.
2. This afternoon, I cried over the final pages of Enger’s Peace Like a River, aching over countless gorgeous moments in the story. One that took up residence in my spirit was a scene in which the 11-year old narrator, Reuben, responds to his father’s complete humiliation. Reuben burns with anger as the repulsive superintendent, Mr. Holgren, spits false accusations at the God-fearing janitor (Reuben’s father) in front of all of the students, ultimately firing him. Just when Reuben is sure that his father will raise a hand to slap Mr. Holgren’s disease-infested face, his father instead gently reaches his hand out and heals the man. In front of all of the students, Mr. Holgren’s face is instantly transformed its red, blotchy repulsion into a healthy suntanned glow. Reuben can barely face his father afterwards, wrestling with his father’s choice to love his enemy; not just “forgive” him, but to aid in his betterment. To be the source of his soaring.
3. Then I think about the conclusion of sermons about the prodigal son and his faithful father. You know, the sermons that use the final five minutes to recognize the older brother who whines that his rebel brother is forgiven and blessed so easily. Five minutes doesn’t do justice to a common struggle amongst all of us in God’s family. Too often, we who say we love God and the Church, want the most blessing, the most favor, and the most honor for ourselves; and it’s genuinely difficult to consistently rejoice when our brothers and sisters are rejoicing over blessings… especially when we really don’t *like* them to begin with. Or, especially if we helped them to be reconciled to God but suddenly they’re soaring beyond us. (Do I write as if I have some experience in these matters?) To what do we owe this struggle? A false sense of entitlement? A misunderstanding of unity? An imaginary competition (see Donald Miller’s thoughts about the life-boat phenomenon in Searching for God Knows What)? Perhaps the credit just goes to that pesky sin nature that we are to be constantly putting away from ourselves. Perhaps one of the deepest layers of our sin nature is our jealousy of other Christians. May we continually walk away from its smoldering eyes.
If I am a part of the Bride, why wouldn’t I want all of her to soar? And consequently, to soar, too.
from Galations 5Â
16So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
Â 19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Â 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.