Kingdom life, like summer, is not worried. You should bask in sheer abundance of God’s goodness.
Winter is when we walk by faith, not sight. God is good, all the time, but winter is when that truth is a conviction we nurture, not an experience we savor. In winter, the goodness of God is our creeed, true always, seen or unseen, recited regardless of present feelings. In summer, it’s our testimony, true because it’s obvious, and deeply felt. Summer is when we walk in the light-we can see, every step, that God is good, and near, and for me. And it’s not that that you take any of that for granted; you just don’t turn your nose up at it.
You bask in it.
As a pastor, I love to help people to enjoy, without apology or guilt, a summer of the heart. For some reason, most of us, even those of us (like me) with pagan roots, carry a residue of Protestant angst that makes us feel guilty if we feel good. This is odd, given that we follow a Savior who is borderline obsessed that His joy fill us to overflowing. Odd, given we worship a king whose first miracle-archè ho sèmion, in the Greek, which could be rendered “greatest miracle”-was turn turn water into wine, for no other reason that the party might go on. Odd, given that we take our ethical cues largely from the apostle who wrote, “Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! … Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 3:1, 4:4)
Joy is our birthright. Joy is the sign of the Messiah’s presence, the wine at His banqueting table. Joy is the savor and the aroma of heaven itself. Jesus didn’t let His disciples fast during His time with Him any more than He would encourage fasting at a friend’s wedding. It would be bad manners, Jesus said, not to mention poor timing. It would be strange, and laughable, and regrettable, like dressing for Antarctica to visit the Bahamas.
I have a photo of Cheryl and me on the night I turned forty, almost a decade ago. We are standing on a beach in Mexico, as the setting sun melts gold into sky and sea. We are thin and smiling and relaxed. Cheryl was in an evening gown she sewed just for this moment, to surprise me with. She has a string of pearls she borrowed from her mother around her neck. I don’t look bad myself. In a moment, I remember, we’ll go in to the restaurant and eat a seafood dinner to celebrate my birthday and, two days belated, our fifteenth aniversary.
It was an amazing season in our lives: my first book was out in six months, and we were just starting a building program in our church to accommodate rapid growth. Our children were young enough that they still loved being with us (as opposed to now: loving us, but preferred to be with friends). They were sad when we were away in Mexico but thrilled they could spend a week with Grandma and Grandpa. (Several years later, when we visited Mexico again, they were happy that we were away but miffed that Grandma and Grandpa were brought in to take care of them.)
It was summertime of the heart for us. Many times since then, I’ve looked at that photo and rejoiced that in that season we simply basked in God’s goodness, without guilt or apology. We took the season for what it was, a brief preview of the kingdom in all its fullness. It didn’t last, not in that distillate form we tasted then, but it beckoned that time when the kingdom of our God will be the kingdoms of the earth, and for that alone it’s a memory worth keeping alive.
As I spoke about it the last chapter, I try not to idealize memories, try not to make them sirens of nostalgia. But I do derive residual joy from them, savoring them like a faint lingering fragrance of a garden I once walked in. (pages 128-129)
Nearly 50 years of age, it is tuff for me to pick just one of my favorite memories spanning from my childhood to now. Sifting through, I could go with my incredible story of how I met my future bride of 25 years. Or I could go with the birth of my two children, or I could tell you about the night my physical birthday and my spiritual birthday collided, or I could go with the afternoon I received my set-apartness to go and serve God even though the way it happened still takes me by surprise. However, with all of those good things that happened in my life, I chose to focus in on one dinner that I had with one of my best friends, at the time.
Just starting Christian college down in Lakeland, Florida, where this is the land called “The Sunshine State,” where one experiences full and sunny days but because of the humidity one gets a brief but ever potent downpour of rain falling down on you every afternoon three quarters of the year. Here I was, in the middle of Florida, just starting college, and I was all alone. A few days past praying that I would find a true friend. Then came along Mark Macri. He was a college year or two ahead of me but are two personalities meshed.
Fast forward a year, and we cemented our time together as best friends. Our time together was irreplaceable, and to celebrate our friendship we decided to go out and eat. I remember it well, and I’m sure that he does as well, not for the food (although the food was par excellencè) but a comment I made at the start of our order. Ragazzi’s Italian Restaurant was the name posted outside. He and I hadn’t taken in the notice of the date. It was the date of all dates where couples would take their dates. In America, that date has a special name for it; it is called “Valentine’s Day.” And for it being Valentine’s Day, I realized just as we were about to order that, indeed, it was February 14th (“Valentine’s Day”), and since the new sexual revolution was experiencing a resurgence (where men with men [gay] or women with women [lesbians]) would have a grand ol’ time flaunting there sexual exploits. But soon we forgot about it, and just kept on going and having a good evening as the time we had there at Ragazzi’s was excellent beyond words.
Now, I want you to think of a time where the kingdom of God was brought down to earth, just for a moment or two where you along with your companions were not worried, but you and any of your companions take delight in basking in God’s goodness. Maybe you want to share it with somebody simply because it is to joyous to keep it to yourself? Maybe you can comment and say how wonderful things are in that certain time of your life, where you basked in the glory of God’s goodness? Maybe…🤔
Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger