Drawn by Christ

Titles, labels, are an important thing. We find them on business cards and offer them in initial conversations. They help us place ourselves and others in the world around us.

However, titles do not apply only to people or roles. We read a hundred “titles” a day, sometimes on the spines of books, sometimes as we surf the web for news, and sometimes scrolling by on the ticker of cable television.

Biblically, titles are significant as well. The biblical authors consistently search for language, for titles, that can begin to scratch the surface of a God who is three-in-one, and who surpasses our ability to comprehend him.

In all these cases, titles are trying to capture something, to present the essence of a thing in a way that draws us in. Whether it’s a clickbait article title or a lofty (and perhaps ridiculous) job title, titles are a moment of distillation and clarification.

This is why, as I return to this space with some degree of intention, I’ve been pondering the title. The blog has gone through a number of iterations, all in some way reflecting that particular moment (or year, or three) of my spiritual journey. As a result, “Confronted by Christ” doesn’t feel like a fit anymore. It feels like the pseudo-and-often-pettier-than-I-would-have-liked-indignation of a person in their young twenties who thinks they know a lot more than they do.

Do I still have these less-than-wise responses? Of course, but I’m also increasingly aware that words written even in the greatest fit of passion can too often be empty, particularly if Christ is absent.

My words, in this space or spoken elsewhere, can have no impact unless Christ is involved, doing his work. It is always Christ who draws us, whether to hear a tale of his goodness, faithfulness, and love, or to hear a rebuke and call to repentance.

The phrase “drawn by Christ” is rich with meaning. In addition to the magnetic attraction that the Spirit leads us ever further into, there is also the implicit creative metaphor. We are people who give up our right to draw our own life portrait.

This seems counterintuitive. Our entire lives are spent in rhythms that teach us the opposite. We go through education that empowers us to determine our own destiny,  we get paid for being independent beings, and we look down on relationships that exhibit almost any sort of dependence.

But the Christian life is different. It is one where we give up our right to draw our own portraits and invite God to draw us. It means that sometimes lines are erased that we may have preferred to keep, but the drawing is always a better one as we are drawn by Christ.

If titles are the distillation of a thing, then my hope is that this blog, “Drawn by Christ,” can become a space where we are drawn towards and by Christ, and hopefully, in the process, become people who are more receptive and open to his work.

Thanks for hanging around; I look forward to journeying together.

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Preparing for the New Creation

About a year ago I was having a conversation with my housemate, Jérémie. He’s a very practically minded individual, wanting to serve the Lord by making the most of the time he’s been given. And make the most, he does. His ability to focus and get work done is incredible to me.

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Of course, there are drawbacks to this mentality. When he was considering taking a break to read a novel (one of Lewis’s Narnia books), he struggled to justify why he should spend time reading such fiction.There were many reasons I could have offered—it’s good for your language, it can provide helpful cultural touchpoints, it shapes your understanding of “story,” and it’s simply fun. But I didn’t share any of those reasons. I told him that he should read the novel to practice for heaven.

Reading novels, engaging with art and storytelling, does something fundamental to our imagination. It expands it. As we read about talking animals, a world of possibilities opens to us. As we hear the echoes of the victory of good over evil, we’re given a glimpse of the final victory that is coming. Our capacity to imagine is expanded as we allow our minds to be filled with good stories.

Thomas Aquinas, the great Christian thinker of the 13th century, was also interested in the connection between this life and the next. He described the next life as an ongoing contemplation of God in which all of humanity’s desires are satisfied. However, Thomas also thought that not everyone would have the exact same experience of this vision of God. While all would be satisfied, some individuals would have a greater capacity to appreciate and enjoy it. The reason? They had greater capacity for love because of the way they lived their life on earth.

While Aquinas focused on love, I wonder if there isn’t something to the idea of expanding our imagination, as well.

I was talking with my friend Justin once about the new earth and what it would be like. We tried to stretch our imaginations to envision the possibilities. I think the images we offered were of Super Soakers filled with chocolate syrup and a massive library (not together). While definitely fun, they weren’t particularly awe-inspiring.

Maybe there won’t be Super Soakers filled with chocolate syrup, but the new heavens and new earth will be incredible. I wonder though if some of us who so rarely practice our imaginative capacities will struggle to appreciate the bright verdant colors, or hear the perfect harmonies. Perhaps some of us will have so stunted our imaginations because there are more “practical” things to do that our capacity to appreciate those things beyond our imagination (the literally fantastic) will be stunted.

The redemption of all things isn’t God pressing delete; it’s a restoration. What we do now matters. Fostering our imagination may be one way to prepare for that coming day. It’s just an idea, but it’s a good enough reason for me to pick up that novel I’ve been neglecting.