|May Christ be rooted and grounded in our hearts through faith|
Ann Voskamp writes in One Thousand Gifts
I know it in my veins, and viscerally: life is loss.
What will I lose? Health? Comfort? Eventually, I am guaranteed to lose every earthly thing I have ever possessed.
When will I lose? How much time have I got before the next loss?
Who will I lose? And that’s definite: I will lose every single person I have ever loved. Abruptly or eventually. All human relationships end in loss.
Carol Shield’s elegiac novel The Stone Diaries tracks her heroine, Daisy Goodchild, through blossoming and flourishing, wealth, marriage, a huge house and garden, to her old age in a single room.
When I lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, and attended a multi-generational church, I noticed this pattern in my older friends’ lives. They had once had large houses with swimming pools, tennis courts, but their life first shrunk to a small retirement home, and eventually, sometimes, a single room in the posh retirement communities in Williamsburg.
The way of all flesh. The inevitable arc of life unless you are lucky in your health, mental health, and bones. (A single fall, or a series of fall, with broken bones, can so hamper mobility that one can no longer live alone! As does the slow creep of Alzheimers or dementia)
* * *
We blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree.
We wither and perish, but nought changeth thee.
The arc of life, save for the luckiest.
* * *
And you know what? That’s okay.
We can grow old happily as Christians. While we might exercise, and eat healthily and keep mentally healthy against the dying of the light, continuous spiritual growth is possible through all the seasons of life.
Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day, 2 Cor. 4:16.
While chronologically, we grow older, spiritually we can grow younger, renewed by the presence of Christ increasing in us.
· * *
He must increase, I must decrease. (John 3:30)
How do I provide fertile soil for Christ to increase in me?
1) Our first resort when we want to get something done in our spiritual or actual lives is actually the simplest.
We pray to. We ask Christ to spread his taproots deep and wide in our spirits.
2) Paul prays for the Ephesians, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
When faced with worries—I myself have a daughter applying to university next year, for instance–ask, What is the faith-filled way of looking at this?
3) We read the Gospels again and again, listen to them while driving in the car, listen while we sort laundry, listen while we tidy rooms until we know them pretty much by heart. (Have I practised what I am preaching? Yes, as far as I know, I do know them nearly by heart, after decades of repeated reading, listening, and study).
We do this to get to know how this very distinctive, unique, amazing and spectacular person Jesus thinks, to know what he values.
4) And then, in the hour of testing, we choose what he values.
In little decisions, in big, in matters of scheduling, of spending money, whatever, we consider Jesus. We ask him, “What would you have me do?”
(The answers may well surprise us. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and clothes the lilies better than Solomon. His will, for each of his children, takes wonderfully diverse forms.)
· * *
He must increase, I must decrease. May Jesus so spread his tap-roots in my heart that there may be ever more of him, and less of me.
Every now and again I spend time with a really Christ-like Christian, my good friend, Paul, for instance, or my friend and mentor Lolly Dunlap, or Dick Woodward, and am startled to see Christ flame out, like shining from shook foil.
And I find these glimpses of Christ so attractive, that I want his life to live in me more largely, more hugely.
Oh wind of the spirit,
Blow away the chaff in me,
Let there be less of me, and more of Jesus
Oh Holy Spirit, tongues of fire,
Burn away the dross in me,
Let Jesus shine forth,
Oh Holy Spirit, streams of living water,
Wash away the dreary dust from my spirit,
Let the light, the radiance of Jesus shine forth.
Am I willing for this hurricane of the spirit,
this deluge, this consuming fire
these necessary acts of God to shake my soul
so that I may henceforth dwell in the high
and holy places of joy with Jesus?
I am willing.
Oh, but I am a cowardly lion, nervous
before the wild and good lion
who controls the wind and the waves.
I do not know what I ask.
Still, possess my heart completely, Lord Jesus,
and burn, blow, wash away the dross in me
with as tame
a hurricane, flood, and fire as possible,
so that you may increase, and I may decrease.