Holiness and Wholeness
Read: Romans 8:28-29; Romans 8:20-25
The doorbell rang yesterday, and I went to answer it. It was a delivery of a few things we had ordered. As my husband was unpacking the boxes, he noticed an odd thing. The jar of baby dills wasn't taped shut, and stranger than that, there was no pickle juice in either the jar or the box. After throwing away the pickles, I called the appropriate phone number and the lady who answered the call set things in motion so that we can receive another jar. We will, as it is referred to in the law and insurance, be made whole, meaning that we won't lose money, not even on a little purchase such as a jar of pickles. Wholeness! Don't we wish every inequitable and painful situation in life could be fixed and made whole? I'd even take that thought a step further and say that we long for wholeness and that the world would once again be, as God intended it to be, in the beginning, Genesis 1:27-31; Romans 8:20-25.
Back to that later; however, for now, I remember a good illustration of that very longing from an old episode of M*A*S*H that pictures so vividly what I am trying to convey. That is: How sad life sometimes is when we are reminded that right now, we often can't be made whole. The episode highlighted the fact that Radar, the company clerk, was finally going back home to Iowa. He had a layover in San Francisco where he planned to meet up with B.J. Hunnicutt's wife and little daughter. B.J. was excited that they would receive the toys and hugs that he would have loved to have given them himself. However, when B.J. received the letter which detailed how their little girl Erin loved Radar and even called him daddy, his attitude and actions began to change for the worse. The rest of the episode pictured B.J.'s bitterness and anger because Radar was the recipient of the affection and affirmation that B.J. would have loved to have received. It was during an angry outburst that he lamented that even if he were able to return home on that very day, he could never get back the time that he had lost with his family, and what he would never experience caused him to weep. Even though M*A*S*H is only a TV show, the truth expressed in this episode is real.
We often can't be made whole in this life. More than we would like, longings are not met here, and we weep. Pain and loss have become a part of the fabric of life, a result of Adam and Eve's disobedience, Genesis 3. Since then, grief and brokenness have taken up residence on the earth. No wonder we are reminded that we are to weep with those who weep, Romans 12:15. God has provided this gift of walking together to help comfort and sustain us, and that provision takes some of the sting out of our lack of wholeness. It is not only people who help us when we experience brokenness, God also is at work. He doesn't waste anything we experience. We who belong to Jesus are loved by Him, and He doesn't stand aloof from us when we are in pain, Hebrews 13:5. He is doing a beautiful work in our lives, even when we can't fathom His plan. He is making us holy, and He is using both the sweet and painful circumstances to carry out His work, Romans 8:28-29.
What comes to mind when most people hear the word holy? Someone with head bent low or someone who rarely smiles? It depends, of course, on whom we ask, but holy simply means set apart for a person or purpose. For us who belong to Jesus, it means we are set apart for the purposes of our God. We learn how He wants us to live each day and how He wants us to act and react at any given time. As He uses circumstances of all kinds, He changes us so that we resemble Him a bit more as we obey the Holy Spirit's nudges. He is working all things for good on behalf of us who love Him and are His set apart ones.
I have to be honest enough to say that I don't desire difficult circumstances, but since they are part of life right now, I'm thankful that God is not a spectator on the sidelines who simply watches to see what we will do next. No, Philippians 2:13 reminds us that He is at work, helping us to desire to become like Him and then strengthening us so that we can take each little step that makes up our walk with Him. He doesn't waste circumstances, becoming frustrated because He can't figure out anything to do with them. Rather, He is at work changing us from glory to glory into His image, 2 Corinthians 3:18.
How good it is that God, as Joni Erickson Tada says, uses what he hates to accomplish what He loves. Even so, praise the Lord, this life is merely the beginning of the story and not the end, and that brings us back to the longing that we have that all might not merely be whole but also be made right, as it was in Eden. In Romans 8:20-25, we are reminded that creation also, as it were, stands on tiptoe waiting for freedom from its bondage which came because of sin's intrusion into the world. The sorrow and shame that is all around us was never God's plan; however, He has told us that He will reverse the curse and bring blessings in its place. No wonder we stand in agreement with all creation and long for the beauty in all parts of life to replace the ashes that we presently see.
One day, there will be both uninterrupted holiness and complete wholeness. God has promised it, Isaiah 35! Imagine it! No more disappointments or things to dread! No more sin or suffering! No more pain or punishment! All that we can fathom and all we can't even bring to mind will be a part of the wholeness God will give us.
Father, Thank You for helping us each day. Thank You for Your patient forgiveness and how You sustain us. Thank You for the wholeness that You have prepared for us!