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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Good

I was about to turn 10 years old. My aunt and uncle, both of whom have always been like a second pair of parents to me, bravely ventured a road trip to Disneyland with their three kids, my sister, and me. To this day, that trip was one of my fondest memories. I was the eldest kid of the group, then came my sister Nisha aged 8, my cousin Emmi aged 7, my cousin Joe aged 5 and my cousin Lisa aged 2. My uncle drove us for hours and hours as we were all packed in their old station wagon, and I remember watching through the window--the rosy sunsets, the rolling sand dunes, the vast farmland, and the bright stars piercing through the black night. We kids listened to the radio, played games, talked, slept…and sometimes fought or cried. I remember we got to stay at motels with swimming pools, and we loved to swim in the sunshine. We visited Knott’s Berry Farm, Sea World, and of course, Disneyland. It really was a kid’s dream come true. My aunt and uncle were so amazing. I think that of them even more so now that I am an adult since I can better appreciate just how much work it would be to take 5 kids under the age of 10 on such a long road trip! Their station wagon even overheated and broke down in San Diego.  They had to buy a new one for the return trip home! Yet even this did not dampen their joy.  Only one thing bothered me on this otherwise idyllic trip. My parents had given us each some pocket money to spend on the trip. For some reason, I had my heart set on getting a t-shirt from every place we visited as a souvenir. However, every time we came to a gift shop, my aunt would not allow me to buy a t-shirt. I could not understand why. I was frustrated. I was irritated. I was disappointed. After all, it was my money. Why couldn’t I spend it in the way that I liked? (I know, I was a whiny, selfish, brat.) On one of our last days in California, I woke up to a birthday breakfast celebration. It was my birthday. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me. And, as if this memorable trip was not such an amazing gift enough, my aunt handed me a wrapped present. I had no idea what the present could be. I tore the paper, and carefully opened the box. To my astonishment, there inside were all the t-shirts I had wanted to buy with “my own money”. My aunt had lovingly bought and collected them for me to present to me--free of charge--on my birthday. As you can imagine, I felt pretty convicted about being so selfish and pout-y and for assuming the worst of people who loved and took care of me so well. But I also felt humbled, grateful, and loved.

I have often thought of this story as a parallel to the way that I often relate to God. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Too often though, I forget the next verse, Romans 8:29, which gives me insight into what working for my good actually looks like and means: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

I am so short-sighted in what I consider “my good”. I default to associating my good with immediate relief, with maximized pleasure now and minimized pain now--and all in the ways that I see best. As audacious as it is, I get frustrated, irritated, and disappointed with God when He does not orchestrate my life in congruence with MY concept of my own good. Why wouldn’t He give me a child? Why wouldn’t He open the eyes of my friend to see things my way (which is clearly the right way :) )? Why wouldn’t He make it easier for me to walk in holiness? Why did He let that person die? Why didn’t He bring that dream into fruition? Why? Why? Why?

Just like I forgot to trust my aunt and uncle who loved me and had always been good to me, I forget to trust my God who loves me with a PERFECT, UNFAILING, STEADFAST love and who is the DEFINITION of all that is good and right and who has never failed in His FAITHFULNESS to me. I forget to trust that His definition of “good” is infinitely greater than my definition of “good”. The good He has in store for His people is beyond what we can hope for or imagine, and yet we settle for so much less and pout when we don’t get some lesser thing than God Himself. In his sermon, the Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis insightfully observed:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
As Romans 8:29 tells me, God’s vision of my good is that I get to enjoy Him in relationship—unencumbered by sin—conformed to the image of Christ so that I could enjoy being with Him as His FAMILY (the scandal of which is that I don’t deserve to be with Him even as His slave!). There is no greater joy. There is no greater good for me. This good is more than worth every pain as He strips me of my self-reliance, my unworthy affections, and my empty idols and instead carves into my soul with the knife of affliction--steadfastness, character, and genuine faith—making me His in every way...and even using me (as flawed and broken as I am) to draw others into fellowship with Him too. What a God He is!

Psalm 84
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise!
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!
10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!


Amber said...

This is a great post Bina. It strikes a cord on something I have been reflecting on; the way we teach our children today both in Sunday school and at home. This was looking to be a really long comment but I decided it was turning into its own post so I will just do that. Hopefully I will find the time to write it up soon.

Thank you for sharing

Bina said...

Thanks, Amber. Looking forward to reading your post!

joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joseph said...

Oh wow! A trip down memory lane indeed. What an adventure.

Anonymous said...

Love this! Never knew this story and i love it:)

troll said...

Please Follow me,and may his glory be revealed,unto man.Be be blessed faithful and true,his he my savior in whom gave his self ransom that i yes i may go free.
I deliver preaching on facebook everday given unto the world his word.Thank you nand God bless you all........Pray for me ........

prashant said...

I appreciated this reminder this morning of God's sovereignty, of our call to rejoice in suffering..

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