Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Looking Forward to Forever

People are eternal.

Have you ever thought about this? About the implications? Or about whether that’s even true?

It seems self-evident that we all have an eternal yearning and that, therefore, something drives us to strive for an eternal existence.

I started thinking about this in the throes of infertility as I sought to grapple with why it was so important to me to have children. And I finally realized that we see children as a legacy, a way to continue, a way to exist beyond this life–at least in some form.

I would argue that all people make some attempt at eternity.

The powerful do this by building monuments or statues to themselves. It’s as if they believe–perhaps subconciously–a bronze statue set up in the middle of the square will forever remind people of who they were.

But statues come down.

And the inteligentsia preserve themselves through great discoveries and inventions, or great works of art and literature. And for a time these things remind us of their creators. So we recognize and remember the names of Marie Curie and Vincent Van Gogh and Harper Lee and even Galileo or Socrates.

A Lucille Ball look-alike poses at Universal Studios, FL, with my sister and me

Lucille Ball lives on in our memories and even in people who dress up like her at Universal Studios, FL–at least for now.

But there are many who have contributed to our understanding of the world and of beauty whose names are long forgotten: who wrote Beowulf? And who devised the alphabet? Or recognized addition?

The great achievers are so often forgotten, and perhaps all will be forgotten in the end.

And the regular folks among us–we strive to carry on through a name, through a child (and later a grandchild, a great grandchild, and so on). My father-in-law is an only son (he has two sisters), and my husband is his only son. When our son was born, DH’s grandmother remarked, joyfully, that the family name would continue one more generation. While this urge to bear children may not be a conscious attempt at extending our presence on earth, I believe at least subconciously, that is part of the motive.

But sometimes, family lines end. A family has only girls (a strange phenomenon in our culture that girls don’t carry on names and lines–but that’s another topic entirely). Or a person never meets “the right person.” Or a marriage does not result in children for whatever reason.

But either way, there’s this clear drive to go on in some form or fashion.

I believe this drive for eternity we see exhibited in so many ways is present in us because people are eternal. People are created to live forever.

But how?

If statues and inventions and even children don’t get us there–how do we live forever?

We know we’re going to die. People die.

But I believe we were made to live. To continue.

Beyond the earthly realm, we hear about many ways to a sort of everlasting existence. The quest for eternity appears in many of the world’s religions. A Buddhist seeks nirvana–a sort of eternal bliss state and reuniting with the universe from what I understand. Hinduism teaches reincarnation–a continuing on of the same spirit of a person ad infinitim. Judaism professes an eternal existence that takes different forms depending on which interpretation one follows. And Islam and Christianity both preach heaven–although the path to heaven differs for each.

I would argue that there is a certain impossibility built in to all of these faith traditons. Even those that don’t put their faith in some way in a perfect and holy God teach that the path to eternal existence is based on discipline, good works, perfection of some kind. Hinduism teaches that there are consequences for the life we live: A bad life leads to a less favorable next life–karma directs destiny. And Buddhism teaches that people need to rise above the world in some way, usually portrayed through some kind of self-discipline. And Buddhists I have had the opportunity to speak to acknowledge that the likelihood of ever reaching nirvana is very low. Only a handful of people are considered to have done it. Judaism focuses on living a righteous life. And Islam requires both belief (in Islam) and a balance of more good deeds than bad deeds.*

The problem is, no one is perfect. We all yearn for eternity, but none could earn it. We all fall short. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) Sinning, and falling short, means we put ourselves in opposition of a perfect God. And, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Great. So for even one sin we earn death. We are made for eternity, but we earn death the first time we fall short of God’s standard. And we don’t really have a way, in ourselves, to go back and undo even one bad deed. We earn death, and we can’t unearn it.

It sounds pretty dire.

But, God loves us. And God wants us to be with him in our eternity. The Bible says, the Lord “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Since we can’t live up to God’s standard, we can’t get to God. But God knew that, so he came to us. His Son took on flesh and lived a sinless life–something only God could do. He died a gruesome death on a cross and paid for all sins for all people. He paid the wage we have all earned. And he rose from the dead. This resurrection shows that God accepted the sacrifice made on our behalf and that Jesus defeated death once and for all.

Jesus paid for all of the sins of all the world. But we have to choose if we want to accept that free gift. We have to be able to accept it, and recognize that we cannot earn it. Attempting to earn our way to God will fail every time. Statues fall down. Inventors get forgotten. Family lines die out. There is no way for us to make ourselves eternal on our own. But the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Believing this truth is what is meant by having faith. And the Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If we trust God, we have the everlasting life we are all wired to desire. And we can be assured of it, because it is based on something that God does for us and not something we are working toward or trying to do for ourselves. Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me [God the Father] has eternal life and will not be judged but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). I urge you to notice the present tense here: believing in Jesus means you have eternal life. No need to work for it–which is good, because working for heaven would leave us falling short.

One who believes the good news of Jesus Christ can be assured an everlasting life–thus resolving the urge and fulfilling the yearning ingrained in us because of our eternal nature. This doesn’t mean we don’t still seek to make a noticeable difference in this life, or to have children–but perhaps it can meet the heart’s need for life that continues, making the accomplishments and desires of this life less pressing.

This truth is something I believe with all my heart and something I’d stake my earthly life on. It got me through the hardest parts of dealing with infertility and it will get me through this life with the ups and downs we are going to deal with. It’s the hope that I have. And it’s about time that I made that clear here.

If you’ve read this and chosen to believe in what Jesus has done to grant you a life that does not end, I encourage you to talk to someone about your decision. If you want to talk to me about it, please let me know in the comments or send me an email at dwellsinme (at) gmail (dot) com. I would love to talk to you!

By that same token, if you’ve read this and don’t know if you want to believe, or have some questions, or think I’m way off base here, and want to talk about it–well, shoot me an email. I’d love to talk to you, too!

*I’m not an expert on Islam–or any world religions–but found this article helpful in understanding an Islamic view on salvation compared to the Christian perspective.

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What Can Separate Us?

I will place enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

I’m going to try not to get too theologically deep with this one, but I have been thinking about this verse quite a bit lately. In context, this is part of the curse on the serpent following the first sin. The crafty serpent convinces Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the process he displays all of his evil wiles and powers of deception. Eve eats the fruit and passes it along to her husband, who appears to have been standing passively by and waiting for her to make a decision. He follows along (first peer pressure?) and before you know it, God’s good and perfect creation falls to sin.

For satan, this seems like a battle won. In the war of God vs. lucifer, it looks like God: 0, lucifer: 1. He has deceived God’s image-bearers, leading to the first death and to the end of innocence.

All three persons are found guilty before God: Adam for eating the fruit he knew he shouldn’t have eaten, Eve for doing the same and, really, for choosing to listen to satan over God, and the serpent, the “craftiest” of all of the beasts, for pushing them to sin. All three will be penalized. Adam will henceforth have to work to draw forth sustenance from the ground. Eve will suffer pain in childbearing. And the serpent? He will crawl on his belly in the dirt. Oh, and one more thing: God “will place enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

Most people understand this verse not just as a general statement about the relationship between people and snakes. It is called the protoevangelium, or “first gospel,” and refers to God’s plan of redemption for man. And satan fails to realize that he has just set himself up for ultimate destruction.

From the beginning, satan has worked to try to separate people from God. And from the beginning, God has had a plan to redeem us from our sins. The ultimate offspring from the woman is Jesus. While the serpent will attempt to strike a blow at him, the injuries satan can cause are minor compared to the final destruction God has promised the devil.

I find I’m moved by the idea that God would allow satan even a minor jab at Jesus. And I think the injury satan ultimately inflicts is in Jesus’ death on the cross. But this is not really the fatal blow it appears to be, for Jesus rises again, triumphant in the defeat of all sin (of death). But satan? His doom is coming. He has already lost, though maybe he doesn’t see it yet.

And when I think about how this applies to my life, I wonder if things like infertility, uncertainty, difficult circumstances and challenges, and all of the things that seem like the worst.thing.ever are the equivalent of satan striking at our heels. He hasn’t given up, though his mission has proven futile.

What has happened in my life when satan gets his jabs in? Infertility has undeniably strengthened my relationship with God. Uncertain circumstances have provided me the opportunity to see how God is working in my life. Challenges with doctors, insurance plans, and unexpected bills have given me chances to turn to God, laying my burdens in his hands and learning to trust that he will take care of these things.

Does it sting? Sometimes it hurts more than I can believe or express.

Is the pain lasting? Will it defeat me? I know that it isn’t. I know that it can’t.

Could these jabs from satan draw me away from my Father? Nope.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Satan loses, my friends. In fact, he’s lost already. Nothing can separate me–not infertility, not heartache, not loss–from the love of God. Praise the Lord!


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Learning to Listen

I have been looking in the Bible and crying out to God in prayer and meditation in hopes of finding a certain answer or an answer to a certain question. You’ve probably guessed the answer I’m looking for is “Yes,” and the question is “Will you give me a child?”

But today I realized that this is the wrong way to be approaching God. I knew that already, but I don’t think I realized how much I have been treating God as some kind of magic genie. Instead, I need to be listening to God to hear what he wants to teach me and see what he wants to show me. I need to be growing closer to him so I will know him better and see him moving in my life. I need a relationship with God, not a vending machine for my every whim.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

I heard recently that when it says “desires of your heart” here, it doesn’t mean that you will get anything you want from God (that’s back to the vending machine thing, huh?). Instead, it means that God will put desires in your heart that are in line with his will. I like that interpretation. It makes sense to me.

I thought I hadn’t been hearing much from God lately, but as I look back, I see that he’s been communicating with me all along. He just hasn’t necessarily been talking about what I thought I wanted him to talk about. What he’s been saying instead is, “Trust me. Do not be afraid. Do not worry.”

And as I trust him more and allow fear and anxiety less of a hold over my life each day, I can see that these things are changing my life. 

It turns out he’s been giving me exactly what I need exactly when I need it.