I had the privilege of doing the wedding ceremony for a young couple last night, an amazing and unique young woman that I met when I first started dating my husband. I saw her leading worship, guitar in hand, dressed in a beanie and converse on a stage of people in a bit dressier garb. I just had to meet her!
At the time, I knew in a way it was God’s reminder to me that He hadn’t forgotten about my heart for 20-somethings, and that I’d still have the chance to do that even after I moved to Boulder and married my soon to be husband. That was 3 years ago.
What began as having coffee and sharing stories turned into weekly dinner, bible study and prayer. I had the chance to hear all the feelings about meeting her (now) husband, and watch them go through some good and rough times as they decided whether or not this was the person they wanted to marry. We had some really good talks. Being from Canada, I couldn’t exactly get to know him well, but they would come to dinner when he visited, and it gave me the chance to get to know him some too.
When he proposed earlier this year, I’ll be honest – I had some reservations. After they asked if I would marry them, we did pre-marital counseling together, and it gave me the space to issue some hard challenges. No relationship, no marriage is perfect, but ultimately they had to choose if this was the person they wanted to covenant with. Could they accept each other, recognize expectations they have, maybe let some go, and choose to trust God was in this?
I say all this because to see them commit to each other last night was beautiful…. and hilarious. They met at a snowboarding conference, and as I sat with a massive group of Canadian friends and family after the rehearsal, I realized just how deep that love went (and how out of my element I was!) Yet it made me realize just how much God was in the message I had planned a few months earlier – because of course I didn’t want it to be boring, so I had a section comparing snowboarding to marriage. I think it worked!
Ok, enough back story. Let me get to the point.
The couple had asked me to share the gospel in the message (in a “cool way”) since they knew a lot of their friends who were not Christians would be coming Honestly, I wrestled with their request not because I didn’t want to honor them, but because the way I see Jesus and what he came to do now just doesn’t fit in a nice little package any more. To me, it seemed like it would sound like a bit of whiplash for folks listening, and I didn’t want that.
So yesterday, I went walking around the lake by my house, praying and thinking about how to reflect the life-giving, world-fixing, invitational aspect of God, somehow tied to the story of the couple. I was feeling this pressure, as if this was the “only chance” those friends would hear about the gospel, and I hated that pressure.
As I walked, I thought about the larger story of God and what He is up to in the world. All the way back from the time of Abraham, all he was looking for were people who would love him and help go about fixing the world by being in relationship with him. I thought about this couple, and the place they would take in it being married and moving back to Canada together.
Only then was I reminded of the passage in Corinthians where Paul tells them that they are “..a letter from Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God” (2 Cor 3:3).
My mind exploded with a new understanding of this verse, now knowing some back-story from Babylon. You see, in the Ancient Near East, the practice of divination was not thought to be evil like we might consider it today. It was simply a term used to describe what ancient people would do to hear from the gods and determine their will.
One of these ways was to inspect the liver of a sheep, because they believed that the gods would deliver the message – like a letter – in the liver.
I know it seems weird to our modern ears, but to me it shows Paul’s absolute brilliance in using his current day understanding, and co-opt it for the truth about how God communicates messages. Not through dead animals, stars, or sticks thrown on the ground. Not through omens in the heavens, but through the lives of living, breathing, feet-on-the-ground people that walk with him
(Not that God can’t speak through anything, sure he can – but the ancients had what they would consider scientific documents on how to read all of this stuff to discern the gods messages. That’s what Paul was freeing folks from – thinking they weren’t able to understand the real God because they didn’t have that training to “read the signs”)
For me, it was a reminder that this couple would, together, carry this message of the reality of a living God that has space and room for everyone, to their new home in Canada – and God’s “letter” would be read in their very lives.
I can honestly say it was a moment that verse came alive for me in ways it never had before.
And so I’d turn around, and remind you of the very same thing:
You, my friend, are God’s letter to the world.
You are evidence that there is something abiding, more full and deep and different than what you see on the surface.
You are proof that He is a creative God, one that inspires beauty and song, hard work and commitment.
You are proof that he cares about justice and the ones pushed to the side, that he cares about the wounds and the brokenness in this world, and uses our very lives to help bring healing
I think a quote from an advent devotional by Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Psalm 31:15 (“My times are in your hand” is perfect in closing:
“Serve your times, God’s present in your life. God has sanctified your time. Every time, rightly understood is immediate to God, and God wants us to be fully what we are… Only those who stand with both feet on the earth, who are and reman totally children of earth, who undertake no hopeless attempts at flight to unreachable heights, who are content with what they have and hold on to it thankfully – only they have the full power of humanity that serves the opportune time and thus eternity…. The Lord of the ages is God. The turning point of the ages is Christ. The right spirit of the ages is the Holy Spirit.” — God is In the Manger (Day 7, week one: waiting)
Blessings, my friends!