Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
– Revelation 21:
I HAVE A DREAM (IT FEELS LIKE HOME) ended with a wedding, the beautiful apex of a long engagement. The faces of all in attendance filled with wonder and anticipation as all creation gathers to celebrate the redemptive reunion of Creator and created. “Finally”, sighs bride, creation and Creator alike – “all is as it should be”.
No more death. No more sorrow .No more pain.
This is how our story will end. But today’s not a whole lot like that, is it? It’s not what was. It’s not what is. It’s what’s to come. We live somewhere in the middle, and we’re not exactly sure where.
So what do we do now? Sometimes what passes as Christian thinking leaves us feeling like the point to Christian living is dying, going off to a spiritual heaven when we finally kick the bucket. But this doesn’t seem right, or Biblical: The Bible seems pretty concerned with how we live and has an awful lot to say about it. And as for this life: it’s filled to the brim with joy and pain, mountaintops and valleys. It’s wrapped up in birth pangs and birthdays, death and resurrection.
And for the two years in between I HAVE A DREAM and HEART we saw our share of this — what people sometimes call ‘real life’. Joyous things like marriages, babies, the realization of something you’ve longed for – but then also terribly painful things like seeing a friend’s marriage collapse and a band mate and close friend of fifteen years (our bassist, Eric) get cancer at twenty-six. For over a year we toured with “life at home” looming overhead, wondering to ourselves what would come of it all and how we could help.
Thankfully, and by the grace of God, when we got together again with Eric to write HEART he had been cleared of cancer and was fighting to recover his strength — fighting just to feel normal again. And this is the context in which we wrote HEART and its introductory track, ‘Here & There’: we’ve been spared – there’s life in these bones yet. But what for?
This was the question on our minds when we set out to write an album of songs for worship and prayer that attempts to process what it means to be, and become, human.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
– Genesis 1:27
Right from the beginning God made us humans for a purpose. And that phrase, “in his own image” has some incredible implications. It means that every person has an inherent dignity – that we are valuable. But, there’s more to it than that. What’s an image for after all? So that you might just know what something looks like! God placed us in his Creation much like any Roman temple architect would place a statue (For a summary of this particular observation check out the NIV Application Commentary on Genesis by John H Walton). He gave us dominion in the world with orders to be good stewards, to represent him well and a simple enough arrangement – but an arrangement we wouldn’t keep.
And so, we’re left with the consequences of a choice made. Birth pains, work, struggle, toil, sin – an obsession with dehumanizing ideas, an obsession over ‘us’ and ‘them’ an obsession with playing god. But God: He hasn’t given up on us. As we wrote ‘Here & There’ we were struck with the contrast of our finiteness and God’s infiniteness. That an infinite God would pull us through the mire, through this brokenness, to have infinite life and joy in Him — it’s a shocking concept. It’s a new way to be human, after all.
“And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.”
– 1 Cor 15:49
Jesus tells us we need to be born again if we’re to live this new way. If we’re to live His kind of life. And being born again, like being born the first time, has its birth pangs too. Like Paul on the road to Damascus it’s eye opening and blinding all at the same time. Sometimes it seems like God finds us in our darkness and flips the light switch, and though we kick and scream we ultimately calm to see that God is with us, not against us.
Heart beat, little heart.
There You are, there You are.
I came kicking, I came screaming
I was so used to the dark
An infinite God, with just a whisper (Gen 1) calls light out of the darkness, new life from nothingness, a heart accustomed to cold not beats warmly to a familiar song. Like the man of dust we live and we die, but this Heavenly Man, this second Adam… He rises again.
You whispered “light” and lit a spark.
There You are, there You are
I’ve been living, I’ve been dying
And Your heart beats ever on.
We become disciples of this Jesus, little copies, ‘Christian’ means ‘little Christs’ after all. This discipleship is, if a genuine pursuit of Christ, an endless road of increasingly selfless pursuits, and the call upward and outward has been echoing since the dawn of history. It is not simply about our transformation, but Christ. We aren’t the subject, but the medium. Worship is not just a moment in time. It is an opportunity to be a part of eternity – in being fully alive we glorify God, as we find our joy in this we are achieve our chief end.
You are to come
Christlikeness is why we are here. It is what’s hoped and struggled for today and realized in full tomorrow. It is now but not yet. Still, we go on if only so that the world may know something of who God is, what He is like, what He has done for us. And all too often we can barely keep it together: grabbing at the tatters of His cloak if only just to be reminded what it means to really live, only for Him to turn and be wits us, as He is always with us.
If I’m barely hangin’ on
Here You are, here You are
I come crawling, I come running
Here You are with open arms
No, my heart’s not giving up
Here You are, here You are
You’ve been living in my dying
Now I’m dying for Your heart
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain – Phillipians 1:21
The heart is like Pandora’s box
With just a crack it’s opened up
To beat anew when all is lost
To run, crawl, come…. Home
You are to come.
-Here & There
In Greek Mythology, Pandora’s box once opened up and welcomed evil into the world. In the Christian faith, we know this welcoming was our own doing, and sin has left Creation and our hearts marred. But now, we open up this heart — this strong-will of ours — afresh. And like the Prodigal Son we are welcomed home and dressed in His finest cloak. We look something like a young son in His father’s suit. It doesn’t quite fit, but it just might someday.
It’s in our nature to be self-determined. It comes with the package. This new way to be human, it starts with a genuine will: the realization that we need a changed heart. It is this creative force of will that so often reminds me that we are made in the image of God, and in this new way to be human, constantly remade until finally the birth pangs of this age give way to the satisfied exhaling of the next.
“All is as it should be”.