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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Defining “Glory” and Finding Joy

This post is sort of a part two to my previous post. If the last post was confusing or muddled, this one may be worse. Apologies if that’s the case.

When I had my “wrestling day,” I came to realize that I don’t value my salvation the way I should. To truly value the price that was paid for my sin, I need to recognize that my sins are great. So many people testify about salvation by saying things like “God has done so much for me, I can’t help but love him/be joyful/serve him/praise him/[enter any number of nice things for God here].”

I’ve always wondered about those people. I mean, they must have been really bad before they were saved, right? And I’m sitting here praying like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.”

I am embarrassed to say that I often think that my sins aren’t so bad. I mean, I know (head knowledge) that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) but I’ve been lacking any conviction of that (gut faith).

So two nights ago, I was dutifully answering my Bible study questions (we’re studying Hebrews; this week is 2:9-3:6). And I get to: “Look up ‘glory’ in a dictionary or Bible dictionary and write its definition.”

I was feeling moved, so I pulled out my old Greek reference books (I’m a total geek, in case that wasn’t already evident!). The word used for glory is δόξη (transliterated: doxa). And my Greek word study dictionary had about 5 pages of definitions and explanation of the word. A lot of the definitions were tied to specific verses. I found it fascinating.

It had a special part about Romans 3:23. My book said that when Paul writes “fall short of the glory of God,” it means that we don’t live up to what God has intended for our lives, that we don’t line up with the image and character of God.

For some reason, that got through to me.

I may not have murdered anyone or cheated on anyone, but I do know that I have not lived up to what God intended for me. I know that I don’t align perfectly with the image and character of God. And because of that, no matter the nature of my sins, I needed a savior just as desperately as all those people who may or may not have done really bad things by our worldly definition.

And if I can see how desperately I needed salvation, how truly short of God’s glory I fall, then I can have such gratitude for what God has done for me.

And I think that gratitude is where joy begins. I can be joyful because I know what a great thing God has done for me. That gift of forgiveness–of making up for my shortcomings–outweighs the temporal pain of barrenness. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel that pain or that I don’t suffer now, just that the joy should remain throughout.

I haven’t quite gotten there yet. Still working. But as long as I am still wrestling with these things, I think I am moving forward.


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Feeling Sheepish

So I guess I’ve been whining a lot lately. Not just here, but also at home to my husband and to one of my dearest friends. I really appreciate how nice they’ve been to me while I just keep rambling on about my problems. My husband has been so helpful in talking through all the crazy things I’ve been thinking about and helping me find perspective.

This morning when I woke up I had a message from the one friend I’ve told about this blog. She texted to see how I was doing. I guess the blog is good therapy, though, because when I woke up this morning I was feeling a lot better. The combination of blogging, talking to DH, and letting my brain process overnight seems to have worked wonders.

I think the reason I was so upset yesterday after Bible study was that it forced me to confront the possibility that our infertility might be God’s desire for us. Until then, I had been comfortable with the idea that it was just a side effect of living in a fallen world, something that happens because the world just doesn’t work the way it should all the time. That’s why there is pain and suffering–from the very tragic, like what happened to four students in Nigeria a few days ago, to the seemingly horrific but survivable, like infertility. Not, I believe, because God wills it.

I don’t believe that God’s will is always done on earth. That may sound like heresy to some, but I think if God’s will were done all the time, the Lord’s prayer wouldn’t include “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Why would we be told to pray for something that already is? That said, I do believe that God can use what happens to us–even the terrible things–for our benefit (Romans 8:28). And it is, of course, possible that our infertility is somehow in God’s plan for us. So I imagine some good will come from our infertility. And I hope I will be wise enough to see it.

I also want to thank GardenGirl at Journal of a Subfertile for having such a positive outlook on infertility in her blog. She’s dealing with the same pain and challenges but seems to choose to live in the moment and enjoy the present. I could learn a lot from that. And so I’ll try. (I’m not promising not to whine, but I will attempt to also notice the positive things while we’re waiting.)

 

P.S. Did anyone else see Modern Family tonight? That Phil and Claire were jealous of their friends who had been unable to have children made me laugh. I guess these things go both ways sometimes.