Every new year, in the cacophony of resolutions and nostalgia and escapist future-gazing, we look backwards and forwards and sideways all at once in convulsions of reflection and planning as we try to keep our grips on something steady even as we move further and further into the very present future. We aim for new things while keeping ourselves tethered to the known and the comfortable. These are all good things, but as I reflect upon my experience, I know that every new year is accompanied by visions of far-off, grandiose things that are usually more ambitious than my feeble wrists can grasp. My “plans” typically outstrip my reach and remain incubating in my imagination as pleasant wouldn’t-it-be-nices to daydream about. And that’s why this year is so unusual and so exciting. A year ago I was documenting the prophetic pressure being exerted upon me to return to school, and now, well… Here we are! By nature I am an imaginer and a procrastinator, so I am awestruck that God has made this so. My dream of returning to school is no longer a fantasy dangling over the void- God has granted it existence and permitted me to inhabit it. This is spectacularly unprecedented, and that fact alone thrills me monumentally!
As many of you know, the four of relocated back in August and lived in someone’s basement for about a month before landing in our apartment in Minneapolis. We live about a mile from Bethlehem’s downtown campus and I love walking or biking to class and to the school’s library, which is stocked with all of Barth’s Church Dogmatics and Thomas’ Summa Theologica: a treasure trove of fantasticity, indeed! Minneapolis has been good to us and has nourished us in the midst of missing so many loved ones back home in Illinois and Wisconsin. It’s periodically been challenging to juggle school and work and everything else but so invigorating as a process and a mode of existence. And Christmas in a new home in a new city concretized that for all of us.
Refreshment has come bundled in discrete finitudes, many of them the same as last year (Kristin and the boys), but I’ve been enjoying them with revitalized eyes and affections. But even beyond these image bearers who everyday, without making it their project to do so, love me with such deluges of affection and stimulate my thinking and reignite my passion, are the innumerable creaturely goods that enrich our time here: well-ordered bicycle lanes motorists must honor on pain on severe fines, good friends in a small group that meets about a block from our apartment, Christmas lights adorning the gate outside, wreaths bedecking Bethelehem, snow falling in the most brilliant noontide sun, the faces of a dozen different ethnicities at the story time the boys go to each Friday morning at the public library, the alternative station on 93.3 FM that plays CHVRCHES, Bad Suns, Life of Dillon and Wild Cub, affordable-yet-posh cinemas showing Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (and if you’re a TFA hater you can go ahead and get lost right now)… There are so many, and the whole they compose, I assure you, is vastly greater than sum of each individual joy.
Too regularly we seek the remedy to our malaise in a kind of transcendence that pushes the immanent and everyday to the margins or worse- annihilate them completely to grasp at participation in the pleasures of divinity. The problem with this is that the divinity Who is became man and doesn’t hold creaturely reality in contempt. We, in our sin, do, thinking we can usurp the position of God, but in the most tragic irony of all, He has condescended to assume our position, and even now in the exaltation of Christ at the Father’s right hand humanity has not been laid aside or “transcended.” Transcendence and immanence coexist in this God, the living God. So whatever the radio or preachers may tell you otherwise, we were not made for somewhere other than right here. Ignore all such Gnostic incursions that try to strip you of your joy and smuggle your hope into some new, antihuman frame. This world has been consecrated for our blessing and not any other. Don’t despise finitude, for we were created to flourish within it. Infinity holds no allure to the redeemed will, recreated in the image of the God who joyfully took on the constraints of finitude. We are exiles here, yes, but because sin and death rule as tyrants, not because we don’t belong here; if we didn’t belong here, the exile metaphor would be meaningless. One is only an exile when an illegitimate ruler has And that exile is already coming to an end: its reversal and overthrow has begun and will be completed. The God-Man is presently making all things new for God’s glory and your good and will bring the glorification of the created order- this world- to completion. Don’t look anywhere else for relief or joy; cling to the dust of this world, the dust from whence we came, and rejoice that that same dust, the God of impossible possibilities, sits on the throne of Reality.