April 17, 2021

cruciforme

travel, Always a step ahead

Tim Keller: Growing My Faith in the Face of Death

3 min read

The second discipline was something that earlier writers like Edwards called spiritual “soliloquy.” You see it in Psalms 42 and 103, where the psalmist says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” and “Bless the Lord, O my soul. And forget not all his benefits.” The authors are addressing neither God nor their readers but their own souls, their selves. They are not so much listening to their hearts as talking to them. They are interrogating them and reminding them about God. They are taking truths about God and pressing them down deep into their hearts until they catch fire there.

I had to look hard at my deepest trusts, my strongest loves and fears, and bring them into contact with God. Sometimes—not always, or even usually—this leads, as the poet George Herbert wrote, to “a kind of tune … softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss, exalted manna … heaven in the ordinary.” But even though most days’ hour of Bible reading, meditation, soliloquy, and prayer doesn’t yield this kind of music, the reality of God and his promises grew on me. My imagination became more able to visualize the resurrection and rest my heart in it.

Most particularly for me as a Christian, Jesus’s costly love, death, and resurrection had become not just something I believed and filed away, but a hope that sustained me all day. I pray this prayer daily. Occasionally it electrifies, but ultimately it always calms:

And as I lay down in sleep and rose this morning only by your grace, keep me in the joyful, lively remembrance that whatever happens, I will someday know my final rising, because Jesus Christ lay down in death for me, and rose for my justification.

As this spiritual reality grows, what are the effects on how I live? One of the most difficult results to explain is what happened to my joys and fears. Since my diagnosis, Kathy and I have come to see that the more we tried to make a heaven out of this world—the more we grounded our comfort and security in it—the less we were able to enjoy it.

Kathy finds deep consolation and rest in the familiar, comforting places where we vacation. Some of them are shacks with bare light bulbs on wires, but they are her Sehnsucht locations—the spaces for which she longs. My pseudo-salvations are professional goals and accomplishments—another book, a new ministry project, another milestone at the church. For these reasons we found that when we got to the end of a vacation at the beach, our responses were both opposite and yet strangely the same.

Kathy would begin to mourn the need to depart almost as soon as she arrived, which made it impossible for her to fully enjoy herself. She would fantasize about handcuffing herself to the porch railing and refusing to budge. I, however, would always chafe and be eager to get back to work. I spent much of the time at the beach brainstorming and writing out plans. Neither of us learned to savor the moment, and so we never came home refreshed.  

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