on missing people: 2 Cor. 3


IMG_2249read 2. Cor. 3.  I’ve come to the conclusion that we spend our lives missing people. People grow older.  They move away.  They drift away.  They find new interests, new loves, new obsessions. They die. And not being able to see all the people we love all the time is a sad thing.  Missing people causes a ground note of sorrow to run through our lives, and most of the time we’re hardly aware of it.

But maybe that’s why a sad song, movie or moment resonates so deeply with something inside us.  We have a sad tune going on quietly in our hearts.  So when something outside of ourselves plays the same tune, we experience it as music.

So what are we to do with the fact that we all feel lonely?  What are we to do with the losses in our lives?  How are we to think about the fact that we love so many people we never get to see?  Just celebrate the people we’re with?  Forget about the past?  Look forward to the future?  Rationalize?  Deny?  Find something else to distract us?  Tell ourselves we don’t really miss them anyway?

The Bible makes some beautiful claims about love.  One of them is that we are never alone because God is always with us.  The second is that we humans are “knit together” in Christ’s love.  The Bible talks about there being a “body” of believers, a body so united that when one suffers we all suffer.  When we believe in Jesus, we become brothers and sisters with other believers, united by Christ’s blood.  So one remedy for the fact that we miss people is to know that if we miss anyone who is a believing Christian, they are only a prayer away.

But there’s more.  Saint Paul here says that a Christian is a letter from God.  He writes to the Corinthians: “The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves.  Your lives are a letter written in our hearts: everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you.  This ‘letter’ is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.”  2 Cor. 3:2-3.

The image of a human heart being a letter from God is compelling, because if it’s true it’s an almost mystical solution to our loneliness.  It means that God is speaking to us not just through His words and His stars, but also through the hearts of His people.  We can be walking around the city or countryside, and at any moment, someone can deliver a love letter from God straight to us.  We might not even be aware of it, but the message of grace has been spoken.

This sounds almost impossible.  But the thing to remember is that the letter is from God, not from us.  God uses us, if we let him.  None of us is passing on a letter that says: “I am a good person and you should try harder to be like me.”  That letter is off putting.  That letter divides us.  That letter makes us feel more isolated.  It makes us feel lonely.  Sometimes we all try to convey this isolating self-righteous message.  But we don’t fool anyone, not even ourselves.

This is what Paul is talking about here when he mentions a letter written on tablets of stone.  That letter is the old covenant, best seen in the Ten Commandments.  Remember?  God wrote on those tablets of stone with his finger.  That letter tells us the law in black and white, and therefore it ends up being a letter of condemnation.  Because no one is perfectly good.  No one can live up to the Ten Commandments.  We don’t love God first of all.  We all lie.  We all covet.  We murder in our hearts by hating.  We don’t want to hear this letter of the law. It makes us feel bad. It makes us feel shame and guilt.  It drives us to either deny that these are good rules, or to deny that we disobey them.  But denying the truth drives us into a dark place.  And luckily for us all, this is not the letter of Christ.

On the cross, God took our condemnation and gave us His grace.  He released us from prisons of shame and guilt.  He wants us to have joy and peace and live with him forever.

So we have to lean in to hear what a believing heart is really saying.  We have to quiet down.  We have to get still.  We have to perhaps even hold our breath.  And then we’ll hear the real letter crying out from the Christian heart:

I was once a dead hard thing.  I was ugly.  I was mean. I was selfish.  I hated people.  I didn’t want to be like that, but I couldn’t help myself.  It made me lonely.  I was locked in depression.  I felt grey.  I experienced the world in black and white.  I was desperate.  I was restless. I was afraid.  I felt sorry for myself.  I was bitter.  I was angry.  I was worried all the time that someone would find out how I really looked.  I was the pretender behind the curtain claiming to be Oz.  I spent a lot of time pointing out how bad other people looked, so no one would look at me. And then one day, something happened.  I can’t explain.  I cried out for God’s help.  I apologized for the way I was.  And it was like a letter dropped into me from outside me.  I felt a supernatural peace flood me.  Everything changed.  I woke up, as if from a dream.  I could see in color.  My days became bathed in sunshine.  My heart began to sing.  Time opened up into infinity. An incredible loving presence came to live inside me.  Peace like a physical being made its homie in me.  My heart softened.  It melted.  It keeps melting.  I cry all the time, but the more I cry, the sweeter I feel myself become.  I can hear birds singing as if for the first time. I discover I really love people in a way that makes me want to hug everyone I see.  It’s a supernatural thing.  I’m alive for the first time.  I’m soft and vulnerable and I mess up all the time, but I actually love myself now.  Don’t look at me.  Look to the one who made me.  He loves you as much as He loves me.  He’s the most incredible thing.  He literally died to bring my heart to life.  His heart broke, and it breaks my heart, and it can break yours, too.  It can break you into the warm, kind loving thing your heart has always wanted to be.

God is everything you’ve ever wanted and more.  He’s the thing you’ve always dreamed of, and told yourself probably doesn’t even exist.  He’s the thing you’ve stopped believing in.  He knits us all together in love, and in Him, we are one.

There’s no loneliness anymore in Him.  We somehow miss each other more acutely when Love comes inside of us, because we love more.  But the missing is sweet now, because we realizing the missing is just an illusion.  In Christ, we are all one.  He died to give us everlasting life together in Him.

When we listen to a letter from God, the ground note of sorrow is always harmonizing with the melody of joy.  Together, they break our hearts with love.  That’s the letter on our hearts.  The pen scratched deep into the heart of God.  Our sorrows were tattooed into God’s skin.  He intercepted the letter we deserve.

In its place, He sends us this one:

Dear You.  I love you.  I adore you.  You are my treasure.  I miss you.  Please love me back.  I think you miss me, too.  I think you just haven’t realized it yet.  Maybe you’re afraid to believe in something so good. It’s like there’s a veil over you, keeping us apart, keeping you from seeing me.  If you want me, you can have me.  All you have to do is ask.  I’ve done the rest.  Ask me to tear the veil in two.  I will.  I already did.  Love me.

It’s a letter to every human heart.  It’s a letter written on every human heart who has said yes.  It’s a letter that will go on singing through the ages hoping that every one who hears it will pick up the refrain and join in.  There will be no more missing.  We will all be together, all the time, if only.  If only we look at God on the cross, and see the letter we deserve being ripped to pieces.

What happens next is that once anyone invites Christ in, His presence changes us.  It’s inevitable.  The more we look at Christ, the more we become like Him.  Just as Moses’ face shone so brightly after he spoke to God that he had to veil his face to keep from terrifying the Israelites, so everyone who speaks to God will glow.  That’s why we’re a letter from God.  God speaks through us, despite us.  How do we know?  Here is the beautiful verse with which Paul ends this chapter:

“And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.”  2 Cor. 3:13 (Amp. bible).  Paul here reassures us that the more we look at the Word, the more it reflects Jesus’ glory back to us.  If we look to Christ, He is reflected back to us, just as when God looks at a believing Christian, He sees Jesus.  Our sins are exchanged for Christ’s perfection.

The more we look, the more we will be transfigured.  The veil of mourning can be thrown away and in its place we can see God with an unveiled face.

What we will see is His love.

posted by Caroline Coleman in A Chapter a Day on March