Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Four years ago…

With the Republican convention last week and the Democrats gathered this week there can be no denying that the election season is fully upon us.  And frankly I am a bit out-of-touch with whatever the “urgent news of the moment” may be at any particular point in time.  A year and a half ago or so my wife and I cancelled our satellite TV, (and given that we have no antenna that means all TV, for all practical purposes), as the amount of money we were spending on it was not justified by the time spent watching and/or listening to it. 

In all honesty, there are times we miss it, such as for Packer football and Cubs baseball.  But mostly we don’t notice its absence.  And right now we feel a particular blessing in not hearing the incessant refrain of “I’m so-and-so and I approved this message.”  And also in not hearing news reporters/commentators making much ado over what is most often nothing.   Rarely is the issue so urgent, the situation so dire, as the hyperbole makes them out to be. 

So I gather most of my news through the local newspaper and a variety of online sources, some of which I frequent and others that I stumble upon.  And so it was that I became aware of the “dialogue” between the major political parties around the question, “Are you better off today than four years ago?”  Given our 4-year election cycle this really isn’t a new question as much as something posed with regularity, with only variation being in which party is asking and which is answering.

Anyway, with that question on my radar I attempted a somewhat irreverent response on Facebook, posting this statement:

“I finished a master’s degree, became retirement-eligible at work, let my AARP membership expire and started a blog. My wife finished her master’s degree, quit her job, started a very small business, and writes two blogs. We adopted a daughter who has a stay-at-home mom. We cancelled our TV, sold our house and moved into a rental. These are all part of our answer to the question “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” I’m not sure. I do know that I ran the best marathon of the past 5 years last fall, which was nice!”

That comment generated a bit of interest among my Facebook friends but it also sparked me to think a bit more deeply about the question and my answer.

The question is often posed in a material sense, intending to seek to know if you think that your place in life, in socio-economic terms, is improving or regressing.  But as I started to think more deeply I was drawn in a different direction.  What I started to think more deeply about is my place spiritually, and how it compares now to four years ago.

And the answer is both simple and complex.  In one sense my spiritual place is unchanged.  In another sense it is much deeper and richer.

I remain a sinner saved from condemnation solely by the free grace of God through the finished work of Christ.  That is the simple part, the unchanged part.

The part that is complex, that is deeper, is in my beginning to understand more and more something that can only, at best, be partially known in this world, and that is the character of God. 

I have a greater understanding of God’s majesty, His power, His righteousness, His love, His just anger at sin, His holiness, His glory.  My list could go on and I could tell more of each of these traits of God.  In sum, what I know of them gives me great peace and security.

In my Facebook post I mentioned a number of the changes that have occurred for my wife and I, and our daughter, over the past four years.   There have been others, and they haven’t always been easy.  Some have happened as we have sought to know and follow God’s will, while others have been while we have tried to sort things out on our own, without Him.  In all that has happened in our lives over the past four years one thing I have learned and relied on more and more is the sure knowledge that nothing good or bad changes who God is or His relationship with me.  I find great comfort and complete trust in the Biblical wisdom that underlies the words of the first Question-and-Answer of the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.  He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.  He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.  Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

I am still a “work in progress” and will remain so until God calls me home.  The last four years have been an amazing journey with God.  Certainly not all of it has been easy but through all of it He has been faithful.  I am looking forward to seeing what comes next, what more I will learn of Him, and how I may serve Him.

Where has God led you in the last four years?  What is He teaching you of who He is?  And where is He calling you to?  

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