On a recent Sunday as my family returned home from church, my three-year-old son began to sing part of a song he’d evidently learned in Sunday School that morning: “And the rains came down and the floods came up.” He sang it over and over. Only problem? He couldn’t remember any more of the lyrics than those. At first it was cute, because what mother’s heart doesn’t turn into a swirl of pink cotton candy when their children first start to sing all the Jesus songs? But after about five minutes of “The rains came down and the floods came up, and the rains came down and the floods came up,” the car suddenly felt very small, like a tiny little box. I began to sweat behind my knees and beneath my bra and so I rolled down the windows.
With the resounding image of pouring rains and rising floods, this ominous refrain had started to sound freakishly like the background music to my present life.
The song refers to the two gentlemen builders in Matthew 7. One wise man built his house upon a rock, and the other foolishly built his house on sand. You can probably guess the outcome when “The rains came down and the floods came up.” Bad news for sand man. And oh how I relate to him, that at any moment this figurative house I’ve worked so hard to construct might “fall with a great crash.”
The current state of “my house” bears an uncanny resemblance to the basement from The Goonies; it’s more like a tomb, laden with things like booby traps, darkened tunnels, uncertainty, and crooked-eyed monsters named Sloth. Forget your average protective ceiling and walls, I’ve basically gone the way of Take Shelter. If it isn’t a cross-country move, or vicious mental health battles, then it’s running skull-first into the side of the monkey bars (on a rescue mission to save my baby who was climbing up the slide), and now I’m recovering from a concussion.
If Christ is in me (and He is – see Eph. 2:10, Gal. 2:20, Col. 2:12, Rom. 6:3, Eph. 2:6, Gal. 4:19, Eph. 3:17, 1 Cor. 6:15, 2 Cor. 13:5, etc.), then what gives with all the sin and pain and chaos running rampant through these hallways, dude? Let’s mellow.
Prompted by the wisdom of a few friends (you know who you are) (okay fine: Cameron Cole and Liz Edrington), I’ve been trying to understand more about what being bodily and spiritually united with Christ actually looks like – primarily because my life as related to The Goonies basement seems neither scriptural nor healthy, at all. So how should the Christ-in-Charlotte re-model, the Charlotte 2.0, present herself to the world? Does that picture look like Carrara marble and notches in my ministry belt? Does it look like that indoor chaise lounge I’m gunning for and no more suffering? As I’m united with Christ, will I have a Japanese toilet and less “emergency bathroom situations”? Or maybe copper accents and I’ll quit thinking all the judgy things?
Liz (name-dropped above), recently said in a fantastic talk,
Jesus invites the rebellious, factioning, dysfunctional, weak, and difficult parts of our selves forward to be blessed, and to be honored. He invites these parts into the light of Himself to live as the beloved of God. Healing and wholeness look like awareness of our need, and deeper levels of rescue by Jesus for every part of us. He longs for us to depend on Him as we become what we have already been made.
In his book, Leaving Egypt, Chuck DeGroat talks about when the womb becomes a tomb (or, when a good thing becomes a bad thing). But I also understand that phrase the other way around. Over and again I see God using my tombs – these places of darkness, dysfunction, where the stench of suffering and death permeate – to birth me into someone who is all at once less and more, someone who is becoming what she has already been made to be.
Jesus wasn’t just wounded on His rescue mission (unlike me vs. the monkey bars). Hanging on two wooden boards by three crooked nails, He died. He was crucified. And for the life of me, on these days when I feel the sting of my own deaths all the way in my marrow – lying right beside Jesus in His tomb – I seem incapable of really consuming the fact that death was only the necessary beginning of Christ’s great restoration project. For He didn’t only die. Three days later, He walked out of that tomb, alive. And just as I have died with Christ, I am also swallowed up in life – His life.
(At the risk of sounding pedantic) Whoa.
Martin Luther said,
But so far as justification is concerned, Christ and I must be so closely attached that He lives in me and I in Him. What a marvelous way of speaking! Because He lives in me, whatever grace, righteousness, life, peace, and salvation there is in me is all Christ’s; nevertheless it is mine as well, by the cementing and attachment that are through faith, by which we become as one body in the Spirit.
Here, in the real and felt knowledge of Christ’s death and life in me, is where I find something resembling a small whiff of fresh air rushing in through the cracks in that basement door, and a glimpse of old One-Eyed Willy’s pile of treasure. He is here. He is with me. And any small thing inside of me resembling grace or goodness belongs to Him.
I think Charlotte 2.0 looks like this: every day is demo-day. Wounds and brokenness abound. And that is Good News. Because a death must precede life in the language of redemption. When I remember this, it makes me want to throw on a hardhat and Hulk-out full-throttle alongside God (were I even capable of such an act).
With each smash of the sledge hammer, every blow of the wrecking ball, with the rip-rip-ripping of the dry-wall, all the layers of my pretty self-salvation and protection come crumbling to the cemented ground, and my knees along with them. That precious, weighty stone is rolled to the side. No more custom cabinetry, no soaking tub, no built-in bookshelves to mask my failures and my hurt; only an everlasting foundation. The more I stay there, bent in helpless surrender (read: depressed, concussed, and plagued with mom-guilt), then the more I see myself as whittled down instead of beaten down. And all that is left in the end is wood and nails and life abundant. God and His workmanship in one body. Pouring through spaces where once were only cobwebs and impenetrable walls is now blessed oxygen, green on green in every direction, scores of leaves dancing to a rustling wind, the soft glow of sunlight bursting through every cranny, and outside a land flows wild with milk and honey: brilliant, luscious, all-consuming life. Like the house built on a rock – when the rain comes down, and the streams rise, and the winds blow and beat against this new, whittled down creation – “here in the power of Christ I stand.”
“Nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).