• Shanley McConnell

Devotion: The Lonely, Precious Way (New Beginnings, Part Two)

Be strong and of good courage. Do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you, wherever you may go.

---- Joshua 1:9



Causing colours to lose their courage

And your eyes fix on the empty distance

That can open on either side

Of the surest line

To make all that is

Familiar and near

Seem suddenly foreign


When the music of talk

Breaks apart into noise

And you hear your heart louden

While the voices around you

Slow down into leaden echos

Turning silence

Innto something stony and cold


When the old ghosts come back

To feed on everywhere you felt sure

Do not strengthen their hunger

By choosing fear;

Rather, decide to call on your heart

That it may grow clear and free.


---- from John O' Donohue's For Loneliness


~


New beginnings. We marvel at the wondrous mystery of something new. An opportunity to move into a gold lit dawn. There is an eagerness seen in our minds-----wide eyed and awed.


But what if new beginnings meet us in old places? What if new beginnings are birthed in our homes? A transforming of and emergence from what is familiar and worn.


Do we invite this change with steeled resolve? Or, is it weariness and familiarity that keeps our fears alive?

Many times we want a clean-cut change. We do not believe that familiarity and change can co-exist. We believe in weeding-out and removing the present and past before moving forward into something, someone, whole and new. But Jesus says: Come to me. Even when you were dead in the trespasses and sins, following the course of this world and following the prince of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom you lived in the passion of the flesh and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of man. Even when you were dead in your trespassess, I loved and saved you in grace. As it is written in Ephesians 2:1-7:


God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loves us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-----by grace you have been saved and raised with him to heavenly places so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace.


Redemption is radical because it is a gift. Without Christ, no amount of wanting or work can separate us from our past. And God does not demand this of us because He is intimate with our suffering. Having walked the earth as man, He knows the weight of flesh. He bore the burden of offense. Beneath the grave, He battled sin. His perfect body in bodily form.


In the verse above, the apostle Paul comforts The Church with this message: Our redemption is a gift wrapped in the mysterious wonder of God's love and costly grace. When we open our hands and receive this gift --- with curiousity, hesitation or awe --- we are "called to throw off our old sinful nature and release our former ways of life" (Eph 4:22). But this is not what enters us into Salvation. The act is worship: a response and desire to behold the beauty and livingness of the Savior. We are purposed for worship. To remember and meditate on the Lord and His mighty deeds (Psalm 77:11).


It is He who comes to us in our present, with full knowledge of our past. Omniscient, God knows everything and purposed our lives for "an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading" (1 Peter 1:4). His presence transforms us until we are renewed in the image of his mercy. "The old passes away, and behold, the new comes upon us" (2 Cor 5:17).


"Crucified with Christ, it is no longer we who live, but Christ in us. And though we live in the flesh, the life we live in the flesh is lived by faith in the Son of God who loves us" (Gal 2:20).

When we realise that a beginning with God began before we were born, before we were formed in the womb, we understand the faithfulness of God is closest felt in continual change. No less radical in its unrelentance.


When we realise that a newness with God is renewedness -- a return to the one who created us, we embrace the promise of God to redeem our past and reposture our hearts toward present suffering and grace. Apostle Peter writes this in this first letter:



Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed.
In all this greatly rejoice. Though now for a little while, you will be grieved by various trials. The suffering comes so that the proven genuineness of your faith-----of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire---may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ* is revealed.

*Salvation

1 Peter 1:3--7


In new beginnings, remember that God is Alpha and Omega. He has no beginning or end. He knows and sees all. It is in him we are made alive - for eternal purposes.


*


'Beginnings often frighten us because they seem like lonely voyages into the unknown. Yet, in truth no beginning is empty or isolated,' reassures Celtic mystic, philosopher and poet John O' Donohue in his book of reflections, To Bless the Space Between Us:



We seem to think that beginning is setting out from a lonely point along some line of direction into the unknown. This is not the case. Shelter and energy come alive when a beginning is embraced. A beginning is ultimately an invitation to open toward the gifts and growth that are stored up for us.

There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. The journey ahead may be filled with suffering, but God is with us. When we place profound trust in Him, we harvest the art of welcoming the unforeseen. Loneliness was never meant and will never be your inheritance when you place your hope in him.


For momentary affliction produces in us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not yet visible. For that which is seen is temporal, but eternity is in the unseen (2 Cor 4:17-18).