Monday, August 3, 2020

Where Grace Meets Grief

If peace and justice flow down from the highest places like rivers, poured out by God Himself and carving their path through the rocky terrain of a broken earth to reach us, why do these things so often end in tears and sweat? Why must we work so hard for and grieve so deeply over these beautiful things that God gives us so freely?

Again, the image of the river is helpful here, but we have to step back to see the whole thing. We can't just rely on what we see when the river passes us at one moment in time or in one specific place or we'll miss the certain truth about the river. And that certain truth is this:

All rivers run to the ocean.

Rivers are, overwhelmingly, made of fresh water. But they all run to the oceans, which are infused with salt. And then from the ocean, the water is taken back up into the air and rains down all over again as fresh water, which rushes back to the ocean, full of salt.

That means it shouldn't surprise us that God's justice and God's peace so often come in contact with our tears and our sweat. After all, this is the way that fresh water runs. It runs right into the salty places, and what of the human experience has the most salt in it? Tears. And Sweat.

So God pours out these beautiful things, and they come rushing into and through our lives where they meet up with our passions, where we dip our toes in for awhile, where something about them gets down into our soul and starts carving out an even deeper place. And then all that longing that we have for holy things, all that ache we keep inside of us for eternity, all that hope for better days, all that confident assurance in the promises of God, all that deep yearning that just doesn't go away feels the force of that fresh water rolling in, and it moves us.

It moves us either to tears or to action. It moves us to grieve what we do not have, what this broken world can never offer us. Or it moves us to try to put a few of those broken pieces back together, to try to carry this fresh water in leaky buckets to a thirsty world. Either way, the goodness of God meets the salt of our flesh, and something beautiful happens. Something so vast and expansive and tantalizing as the ocean.

And it is from here, from this place where our tears and our sweat meet God's fresh waters that new prayers, new offerings, new longings are lifted up into the heavens, back to the place where the rivers begin again and the fresh water rushes new, poured out again into our lives, into our homes, into our communities. This is how we partner with God in bringing living water that gives life. This is where our faithfulness and His righteousness meet to do a beautiful thing, pouring out and forming another river. Another stream. Another place where peace and justice rush wildly through the rockiest places, bringing promise and hope to a hurting world until they meet up once more with tears and sweat and go back to where they came, only to start all over again.

That idea that God hold every one of our tears? That's this. That's this moment when our deep involvement and investment in His grace creates pure offerings, somehow makes something new and fresh again. Somehow turns oceans into rainwater into rivers of justice and peace that He pours out anew all the time.

This image of the river, then, is beautiful. It has so much to show us about how God works in our world and how we work with Him and how faith makes a difference, how grief makes a difference, how our toil makes a difference. We just have to step back from the banks a little and get a bigger vision for it. For all rivers run to the ocean, just to be taken up and poured out again. 

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