February 28, 2015

Don't Forget the Climax of Your Love Story

"The most crippling thing 
that besets the pilgrim heart 
is simply 
or more accurately, 
the failure to remember.  

You will forget.  

I have had enough encounters with God to provide a lifetime of conviction-- 
why don't I live more faithfully? 

Because I forget.

Spiritual amnesia is so likely that from Genesis to Revelation, 
the Scriptures are full of the call to remember.

'Only be careful,' 
says our Lover,
 'and watch yourselves closely 
so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen 
or let them slip from your heart as long as you live' 
(Deut. 4:9).

How then can we keep these things in our hearts?

The author of Hebrews answers, 
'Rehearse the story.
Go over it item by item-- 
particularly the central scene.'

The cross of Christ is,
as T.S. Eliot said,
'The stillpoint in a turning world.'

Everything before leads up to it;
everything that follows flows from it.

It is the climax of the story,
the centerpiece of the whole drama.

We must be careful here
or these will only be religious words.

We interpret them, they carry meanings and associations for us.

And the true meaning gets lost if we forget either 
the Story of which this scene is the climax 
or its meaning for our own story.

How we remember is as important as what we remember.

It seems impossible that the truths about the death and resurrection of Jesus could become lost or rote, but it happens all the time.  Witness the number of dead, lifeless churches in your own city.  This is inevitable when we fail to remember, or when we remember only with a purely propositional approach to Scripture.

This is why we must remember 
the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth 
in the larger context of the Sacred Romance.

We cannot escape the fact 
that the Scriptures are given to us 
in the shape of a story.

Our acts of remembering must therefore involve 
both essential truths and dramatic narrative.  

I believe we need to hold the creeds in one hand 
and our favorite forms of art in the other.

There are films, books, poems, songs, and paintings I return to again and again for some deep reason in my heart.  Taking a closer look, I see that they all tell me about some part of the Sacred Romance.  They help wake me up to a deeper remembrance.

As Don Hudson has said, 'Art is, in the final analysis, a window on heaven.'

The heart cannot live on facts and principles alone;
it speaks the language of story
and we must rehearse the truths of our faith 
in a way that captures the heart and not just the mind.

How did Jesus sustain his passionate heart in the face of brutal opposition?

He never lost sight of where he was headed.

He had a vision for the future that was grounded in the past.

In the story of the Last Supper, we are told that Jesus knew 
'he had come from God and was returning to God,' 
and lived his life of selfless love to the end.
He remembered both where he had come from and where he was going.

And so must we.

we were meant to remember together,
in community.

We need to tell our stories to others and to hear their stories told.

We need to help each other with the interpretation of the Larger Story and our own.

One of the reasons modern evangelicalism feels so thin
is because it is merely modern;
there is no connection with the thousands of years of saints who have gone before.

Our community of memory must include not only saints from down the street,
but also those from down the ages.

Let us hear the stories of John and Teresa from last week,
but also those of St. John of the Cross
and Teresa of Avila,
to name only two.

Let us draw from that 'great cloud of witnesses' and learn from their journeys,
so that our memory may span the story of God's relationship with his people.

Remembering is not mere nostalgia;
it is an act of survival,
our way of 'watching over our hearts with all diligence.'

When I consider all that is at stake in this journey I am on,
how vulnerable are my heart and the hearts of those I love,
how quickly I forget,
I am moved to fall on my face and cry out to God
for the grace to 

The final burden of remembrance does not rest on us;
if it did, we should all despair.

Jesus is called the 'author and perfecter of our faith'
(Hebrews 12:2)

He is the One
who put the romance in our hearts
and the One
who first opened our eyes to see that our deepest desire
is fulfilled in Him.

He started us on the journey
and He has bound Himself to see us through.
Even though we may for long seasons forget Him,
He does not forget us.

Our heart can be restored to life
and the smallest things become heavy with transcendence 
when we ask one simple question:
What is this telling me
about the Sacred Romance?

I found it in the crickets.
After tucking my boys in bed, 
with the requisite several glasses of water,
trips to the potty, and prayers,
the house finally grew quiet.
I stood at the upstairs window looking out on our backyard
and in the darkness, with the warm breeze caressing my face,
I listened.
Perhaps it was the long winter then behind us,
perhaps it was the long winter of the soul that went along with it,
but there was in the song of the crickets 
something that released my heart.
Memories of all the summers past rose and mingled
with the promise of the summer that would now come again.
Beneath that,
something deeper spoke,
something at once young and yet very old.
It whispered the promise of the summer that was soon coming
which wound never pass into fall."

-John Eldredge- "The Sacred Romance"-

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