8:18

The shape of things to come

The shape of things to come

This morning, I am filled with longing.

We just attended our first in-person worship service in half a year.  It’s a church new to us on the campus of our daughter’s university.  Since we were dropping her off, we thought we’d give it a try.  But I regret the decision.  The disconnection between people was palpable, worsened by the pandemic restrictions.

We felt alone in a crowd.  (Which, actually, is worse than just being alone.)

Walking back to our car, I stop at this curious sculpture.  It pictures an internal disconnection – as if the core of who we are (or want to be) is removed.  Distant.  Beyond our reach.

It’s a great visual for my sense of incompleteness.

In Isaiah 65, there is a moving description of life in the coming Kingdom, after the new heavens and earth are created.  These were intended to assuage the longings of a people returning from exile.  But for me, they ignite a yearning I hadn’t quite put into words.

No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
    or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
    so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
    the work of their hands. (v. 22)

The phrase long enjoy is literally wear out.  It could be translated as enjoy to the limit.  On the campus, we pass a tree with branches so long, they have to be propped up with braces.  I long – particularly as I get older – to have time to enjoy and share the knowledge, skills and resources I’ve accumulated.  In the kingdom, those branches will grow and grow.

The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
    and dust will be the serpent’s food. (v 25)

Conflict and hostility will be gone.  There’s no mention of the enemy of our souls, that ancient serpent of Eden.  This serpent is just an ordinary snake on the ground.  I long for an end to warring of all kinds – particularly the tempter’s striving to lead me away from God.

Before they call I will answer;
    while they are still speaking I will hear. (v. 24)

There is a core connection between God and his people.  All the harmony in nature will spring forth from this.  It’s an instantaneous call-and-response.  Jesus spoke to this same synchrony when he said, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”  (John 14:14). I long for this alignment with the will and heart of God.

On a stroll through the campus arboretum, I find these odd stalks, like gnarled, oversized wizard staffs.  They seem lifeless: the error of some overzealous pruner.  But their presence here is a sure expectation of new growth.

I feel like them this week.  It’s why I need the Lord’s vision of the coming Kingdom.

For while we work and wait, hope transforms yearning into anticipation.

Father, thank you for these glimpses you give us of the richest of the future you have for us.  You know us so well!  Yes, Lord – we want all of the above.  Your kingdom come!

Reader: Tell me something you’re longing for right now.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.