Saturday, May 21, 2011

Spiritual Redwoods and Other Trees

     J.I. Packer in A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life compares the Puritan pastors to redwoods, giants among men. Their vision of Christ and living for Him being so lofty we are dwarfed, we stand among the ferns on the soft woody floor, we crane our necks and see dark green boughs against the blue sky, and imagine their tops' in the wind and the fog, standing through the centuries.  In a word, he argues, we need to learn from the Puritans maturity, a maturity gained through spiritual and physical struggle and suffering.  In contrast he describes North American Protestantism as,
" centered, manipulative, success-oriented, self-indulgent and sentimental, as it blatantly is,... 3,000 miles wide and half an inch deep." (p. 22)
      I am afraid this describes me, but did he have to choose the word "blatantly?"  I do love to fool myself into thinking I'm doing somewhat better than that.  However, I do know the kind of conversations I often have with God, the ones in which I do all the whining, and I don't display hardy character, "undaunted and unsinkable, rising above discouragement and fears...."  My hardiness is, in fact, a bit of a laughing matter around here.
     But in spite of being blatantly self-centered, manipulative, success-oriented, self-indulgent (is it the Starbucks ice cream in the freezer?) and sentimental, I am encouraged tonight. I am encouraged by 2 Peter 2:4-9, which I came across in my Bible reading for such a day as this. Peter is describing God's sure judgment of false teachers and the destruction of the ungodly, but reminds us: God rescues and preserves the righteous. If, this is a big if, God saved righteous Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah,
"then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptations, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,"
     God is mighty enough to rescue me from the temptations of my culture of comfort and of compromise.  God knows how to rescue me from my own heart. I will not ever tower like a redwood, but I will try with all my might to watch for God, who plants the seed, sends the rains and sunshine, and gives the growth, whether I reach to five or 50 feet. 

"The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."
Isaiah 61:3

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