Tuesday, December 10, 2013

the old year, the reckoning

I've been all wrapped up in the apocalypse lately what with being in the last days of reading the bible this time. Job, Isaiah, Revelation. All at the same time. It doesn't help that I'm usually very tired, trying to wake up, sometimes falling back asleep and dreaming something profound and strange, pulled back awake somehow, wondering what I just missed, trying to read it again. The words wind themselves together in catastrophe and woe--we're all going to die!!--with occasional sweet morsels--but I have come to save you. It's a comforting place to be as the rest of the world starts looking back at the  year and judging what has been good and what has been bad. Who were the winners and and losers? Who is the person of the year? What movie was absolutely the best? Who arrived out on top of the political scramble? Everyone evaluates and writes and makes a pronouncement. Meanwhile, God has already kept his own council. The people who think they've won by December 31 are possibly going to be deeply surprised and unhappy when they look at their maker and find out he didn't think it was all that good.
John writes, "And the kings of the earth, 
who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, 
will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. 
They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,
Alas! Alas! You great city,
you mighty city, Babylon!
For in a single hour your judgment has come.

The line 'lived in luxury' hurt my head rather as I was waiting for the sun to turn the black night at least to gray. We're probably going to get snow, eventually, sometime. A judgment on all my ungodliness. But I'm sitting here in a bed made up with elcheepo Egyptian Cotten, warmed by a dog who has no purpose other than to accompany and heat my every sitting place, adored by a husband who places a tray with a teapot and only one of three cups lest I tantrum about setting my delicate lips to a china too thick, or a shape that doesn't fit well in the hand, about to put my feet into fuzzy slippers and shuffle across a floor that is the color and kind I felt I required, then to turn on the lights of a vast green fir tree whose scent has transformed the foul decay of the basement wafting up through the vents to be as though we actually live in heaven. Or, to put it another way. I am in so much luxury. I am so comfortable. 

I can just see myself, clad in the latest of the day, my eyelids and lips painted with the season's color, my graspy fingers clinging to my crystal vase of carefully arranged evergreen and berries, standing afar off, 
"weeping and mourning aloud,

'Alas, alas, for the great city 
that was clothed in fine linen,
in purple and scarlet,
adorned with gold,
with jewels, and with pearls!
For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.

I am inclined, like Job, to always be explaining to God how it is good and right and fair that so much wealth should properly belong to me. To justify myself and my "suffering" in his eyes. But justification is wrong, and so also is guilt, if it's the wrong kind. God gives us good and beautiful and lovely things. If we wait for him, in his own time, he gives us goodness and beauty and kindness and humility and sometimes a goose at Christmas. I just never want to wait for it. I never want it to be a free gift from him. I'd like to deserve it so that there's no reasonable way he can take it all away at his good will and pleasure. So I wind myself up into a froth of guilt (I have so much! I don't deserve any of it!) and self justification (My life  is such a trial! I must treat myself in order to make it through the day! I'll just have this extra cupcake because I deserve it!). The fact is, at the end, it is all going to go up in a ball of fire. The intentions and state of every heart will be visible and plain. The extent to which I made my own way and grabbed my own stuff and walked all over the feelings of others is going to be clear to me the way it is already clear to God. It behooves me to hold it all with an open hand now so that my weeping is consolable later. The Lord gives and The Lord takes away. He's giving and giving and I'm so blessed. Even if he doesn't take away until I breathe my last, he will give more than I can possibly imagine when the smoke of the fire is cleared away and everyone is fresh and clean and new again. 

There's the snow, now, covering all the brown and gray, hiding the ugliness for a while. What a blessing.

1 comment:

Joyce Carlson said...

I am so glad that, just for a moment, the snow has been described as a blessing. Me--I am so excited to see it sift down again, and I wish it would pile up just a little and really hide the ugly faded grass and mud and tattered dead stalks that YOU haven't yet cut out of the old tired flower beds. I haven't cut them either, come to think of it. He (God) will make our sins like scarlet, and white as wool, or in this case, like fresh snow.