A Drink from the Cup of Redemption

Last year, I wrote a blog post about the experience of having Communion as my first meal of the day. This morning, I had my first taste of Communion wine and thought I’d take the time to write another post about the symbolic genius of the Lord’s Supper.

Normally, whenever I have drunk from the cup that is to symbolize Christ’s blood, I’ve tasted grape juice. This juice still serves as a mighty symbol, being that the grapes are crushed and squeezed and poured out as a sanguine liquid to symbolize the blood of the new covenant. However, I have to explain that drinking wine instead affords quite a different experience.

When I first tasted the wine, it was strong and it went down sharply. It was tart and revitalizing, and filled my chest with warmth as it spread down my body. The wine filled me and comforted me, it sparked in me a fire that wouldn’t easily go out, and the taste stayed with me long after the cup had passed.

I know I may love symbolism a bit too much, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that drink of wine and about how perfect God is to choose such a symbol to represent the blood of His son that covers sin and makes us righteous. His body was broken to make us whole. His blood redeems and rejuvenates our souls. Grape juice has a particular taste, but the wine was sharper, it had a kick to it — I could not taste that sip of wine without feeling different inside… Because Christ’s blood transforms me.

Sing your songs of freedom,
Praise the God of Heaven,
Love that never fails me,
Jesus’ blood, Jesus’ blood.

Permission to Kill

Lately, I’ve fallen in love with the book The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. The tale follows a busload of humans traveling from Hell to Heaven, and includes many short stories about the “Hell” the people cling to which keeps them from embracing Heaven.

One such story involves a man and a lizard. You see, this man managed to get on the bus bound for Heaven, but he’s got this annoying red lizard on his shoulder that insisted on coming and whispers constantly in his ear. The man doesn’t like the lizard, he knows such a creature has no place up there in Heaven, but he just can’t seem to make it go away, so he decides to turn around and go back to Hell. Before he can get very far, though, an angel stops him, and asks him if he’d like for the angel to make the lizard be quiet. The man agrees, but soon the angel explains that the only way to do so is to kill the lizard, and the man starts to freak out.

He falters in doubt and fear, saying, “I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here — well, it’s so damned embarrassing.” The angel insists that it’s the only way, and asks again if the man will let him kill the lizard. “Please– really — don’t bother,” the man says. “Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”

The angel continues to offer this man complete and total freedom from his sin, but he’s too afraid to accept it: “Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.”

Foolish man! That is so like us, isn’t it? We ask God for help in a sin, and He says He’ll take care of it, but then we back out and say we can control it on our own, that we’ll handle it, keep it in order… When all He wants to do is take it out of our lives forever. Of course, the man says that sounds like a great idea, but he’d rather come back and do it later, he’s in no shape to handle such a thing now.

The key point in this little interaction between the man and the angel is that in order to free the man, the angel has to kill the lizard, and he must do so only with the man’s permission. He cannot kill the whispering lizard against the man’s will. But the man is too afraid, afraid that if the lizard dies, he will die too. He’s afraid because even the angel’s close proximity to him is burning him, hurting him.

“I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you,” the angel explains.

As the angel comes closer, the lizard whispers fervent lies into the man’s ear, promising to bring him only good things, pleasurable things, natural things such that the angel could never understand.

But the man has had enough. He’s afraid of dying, but he exclaims, “It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature,” and so he asks the angel to kill it.

The angel closes in, a scream of agony echoes through the Heavenly landscape, and the man collapses. But then he rises, a new and glowing Being, full of joy and brightness. The lizard is thrown away, broken and defeated, but then it starts to transform too, changing into a shining white stallion. The new Being jumps onto the horse, the thing that once controlled him, and rides off into the eternal sunrise.

If we give our unclean desires to God, if we let Him kill every inch of us that is not of Him, that has no place in His eternity, He will transform all of it into glory and majesty. Yes, it will hurt, but when we submit ourselves fully to death, we join in the splendor of resurrection.

As the man rides off in peace, Nature rejoices in song, saying: “Overcome us that, so overcome, we may be ourselves.”

God, I want to be overcome by You so that I can fully become who You made me to be. Take these sinful desires, take this lizard off my back. I give You permission to kill it. Please, kill it, destroy it, transform it, and lead me into new life. I don’t want to hold on to any part of Hell, but instead I want to leave it all behind, embracing every inch of Heaven that lies within my grasp.

Chains be Broken, Lives be Healed

Our God is a God who restores.
I love that.

A year and so ago, I wrote about Counting up my Demons when I came face-to-face with a choice to confront my own brokenness. A month or so after that, I wrote more about the process of being broken and our inherent desire to bring restoration, to say I Will Try to Fix You.

Today, on a God-driven whim, I attended the Adventures in Missions Kingdom Dreams workshop. I learned many great things and connected with some awesome people. We also talked a bit about brokenness. For me, though, in trying to figure out my heart and listening to God, I talked about how I want to loose the chains of those held in bondage, whatever that bondage may look like (bondage to religious law, to the lies of this world, to an addiction or sinful practice, to anything, really — let’s bring freedom!).

But right now, all I can think about is how great our God is, that He seeks not only to offer us freedom, but to restore us to new heights we never thought we’d reach.

He will break our chains, He will lift us to our feet,
But He will also heal the cuts and scars from where the bonds dug into our skin.
He will restore.

Through some connections I made today, I started reading Make it Mad, and fell in love with one of Max’s posts on brokenness. He writes:

Listen up, folks.  No one is too contagious to be loved, too broken to be rebuilt, or too sick to be healed.  But just because you’ve been rebuilt does not mean you will never break, again.

This was so encouraging to me. I love that God is in the business of restoring, but I have been struggling lately with the fact that I’m not living up to my restored potential — that even though I’ve been working through this for more than a year, I’m not fully rebuilt, and it feels like I’ll never get there, because I keep falling and shattering over and over again.

But Max says, All that can be asked of us is that we remain authentic.  That we live the lives God created us to live to the best of our abilities.  And if we fall along the way? Grace, baby! We’ve got grace! … “And just in case you mess up tomorrow, your sins are forgiven, again.  And again.  And Again.  Forever and ever and ever and ever because My love for you is relentless.”

Amen. Our God is in the business of restoration, of reconciliation, of fixing and rebuilding. And He is such a wise and patient Builder. Though the creation is clumsy, and slips often, He knows exactly what He is doing, and He’s in it for the long haul. He will not give up on us.

My God is a God who restores. And restoration starts with the freedom to step out of your chains and stand broken before the Lord, knowing that He loves you so deeply and will build you into something you could never have imagined.

Chains be broken. Lives be healed. The Kingdom of God is at hand.