Wednesday, December 9, 2015

a better country

There is something wonderful about swimming laps. Perhaps it is the rare quiet in my head from the complete concentration required to count to twelve over and over. It always amazes me how difficult it is to count past four laps with any sort of accuracy. I also now know why experienced swimmers drown. About five minutes into my swim tonight I cramped so severely, I thought perhaps my appendix had just ruptured or an alien was about to burst out of my right side. I managed not to completely panic, though, and within a dozen or so laps I was no longer imagining what everyone would say at my funeral about my tragic death by explosion in a pool.

About the time I hit the fourth lap of my third set and lost count again, it occurred to me that these last couple months I have felt that same cramp in my spirit. The thing about physical pain that intense is how much it collapses your world into a desperate struggle for escape. But when the pain is in your spirit, when it is caused by the thorn God has chosen not to remove, it becomes the wellspring of all kinds of temptation.

And I'd like to give a beautiful testimony of God's power being made perfect in my weakness, but I'm still waiting for him on that. There is darkness and pain and temptation and many prayers for deliverance that as yet remain unanswered. This is the place where my faith looks more like trying not to drown from the cramp/alien in my abdomen and less like a Disney princess frolicking with woodland creatures. It is the ugly faith on wandering in deserts with unanswered prayers.

For a number of years, my advent devotional has simply been to read the book of Hebrews, so tonight I skipped ahead to chapter 11, and I let verse 16 soak in:
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
Amen and amen.

The song below, off of Andrew Peterson's latest album, has been my anthem these past few days as I've waited in the darkness, not yet having received what is promised. Yet I know the light will come and I will one day stand at the burning edge of dawn, in the city of the living God, at the borders of a better country and know that I am home.

The Dark before the Dawn
Andrew Peterson

I've been waiting for the sun
To come blazing up out of the night like a bullet from a gun
Till every shadow is scattered, every dragon's on the run
Oh, I believe, I believe that the light is gonna come
And this is the dark, this is the dark before the dawn

I've been waiting for some peace
To come raining out of the heavens on these war-torn fields
All creation is aching for the sons of God to be revealed
Oh, I believe, I believe that the victory is sealed
The serpent struck but it was crushed beneath His heel

Oh, I know the wind can bring the lightning
Oh, I know the lightning brings the rain
Oh, I know the storm can be so frightening
But that same wind is gonna blow that storm away
Blow that storm away

Lord, I'm waiting for a change
I'm waiting for Your change

So I'm waiting for the King
To come galloping out of the clouds while the angel armies sing
He's gonna gather His people in the shadow of His wings
And I'm gonna raise my voice with the song of the redeemed
'Cause all this darkness is a small and passing thing

This is the storm, this is the storm
The storm before the calm
This is the pain, the pain before the balm
This is the cold, the cold
It's the cold before the warm
These are the tears, the tears before the song
This is the dark
Sometimes all I see is this darkness
Well, can't you feel the darkness
This is the dark before the dawn

I'm just waiting for a change
Lord, I'm waiting for the change

I had a dream that I was waking
At the burning edge of dawn
And I could see the fields of glory
I could hear the sower's song
I had a dream that I was waking
At the burning edge of dawn
And all that rain had washed me clean
All the sorrow was gone
I had a dream that I was waking
At the burning edge of dawn
And I could finally believe
The king had loved me all along
I had a dream that I was waking
At the burning edge of dawn
I saw the sower in the silver mist

And He was calling me home