2 AM Redemption
Its 2 AM, and I can't sleep. Not because I'm not tired - I'm exhausted - but I've lain in bed for the past two hours and my brain won't stop racing. There's so much to do between now and Wednesday, between now and next summer, between now and the rest of my life.
Paul says 'Now' is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2), and I wonder 'Is this what redemption feels like?' Being dog dead tired in the middle of the night, thinking about all the things I need to know, about the people who might someday be glad that I know them? Thinking about how it seems like I have learned the most about Christ in the hardest times, and yet how I would still prefer my life be easy?
Actually, this may be exactly what Paul had in mind. After all, he follows immediately with this: "We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;" (2 Cor 6:3-5).
So Paul had trouble sleeping too, although his reasons were undoubtedly more sanctified than mine. Nevertheless, he and I both have something in common - we both get to play our little parts in this uber-drama we call "Redemptive History". Maybe I should be a little more grateful, a little less bitter. It's so easy to think about me. It's so hard to think about others. So I start to reflect on some of the people God has brought into my life over the past months and years.
I think about my new friend, Angelica (pronounced "An-hay'-li-ca"), because she hasn't been sleeping either... no more than 3 hours a night, for the past 3 months. And I wonder if she is awake right now, and I pray for her like I promised. And I think of my old friend Lydia, how in the next six months her life is going to change more than she could possibly imagine, and I wonder how it will affect our friendship, I wonder where God will lead her.
I think of my buddy Barnabas, how we are so similar in some ways, and yet so different in others. And I wonder what it's going to be like ministering together - I know we're going to do each other wrong, and I remind myself how important it's going to be humble and confess and repent, often, even when I may secretly think I'm right. He has become something of a brother to me, and he encourages me greatly in this fight. It's going to be good having him around.
I also think about what God is doing in my family - how he is growing my wife, maturing my kids. And how seminary life is really, really, hard on all of us - how much it sucks to tell your daughter that you can't come to her softball game because you have to study. Life can be so hard, and yet this hardness is somehow good - it's what God uses to expose our sin and draw us near to him.
So by God's grace we'll make it through this too. And hopefully I'll learn how a little more about being a dad, a student, an employee, a pastor, a husband. Maybe I'll learn how to be patient with the weakness of others, how to rest in the strength of Christ. After all, this is God's gift to me: not only to believe, but also to suffer for his sake (Phil 1:29).
Perhaps more than anything, I keep thinking about a passage I read this morning (yesterday now) as I tried to wake up while sitting in the coffee shop. Paul says, "But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:13-14).
There's a lot of conviction in those words. You see, most of us could do with a little more spiritual exercise - we could benefit from the straining, pressing, striving, contending that Paul is talking about. We could benefit from some sleepless nights - how many of us really care so much about the church that it keeps us awake? Paul is doing this for Christ, for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of believers. And he devoted his life to that call. He died to self in order to serve Christ and others. Not many of us really want to die these days...
At the same time, many of us Type A personalities all too easily get caught up in the effort - we're perfectionists, we over-study, we micro-manage, we sacrifice everything - but we miss the mark because we get the goal all wrong. At the end of the day, we're really just in it for ourselves, not for Christ's kingdom. We forget that it's Christ who builds the church. That the show will go on, even when I drop the ball...
I think I need improvement in all of the above. But I'm ok with that, because I see God working in my life, and in the lives of those around me. I know that what commends me to my heavenly Father is NOT the fact that I'm getting all the details right, but rather the fact that I am his son, that I am united to Christ through faith, and he has promised to complete what he started (Phil 1:6).
And that's a good thing, I can rest in that. I can take great joy in this redemption of mine, even at 2 AM...