Saturday, October 1, 2011

Brighter by the Minute

The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what they stumble over. (Proverbs 4.18-19)

To Make the Day

With each turn of the earth comes that silver moment, when light’s promise stills darkness’s confusion, when bitter cold of night surrenders to refreshing coolness. It’s my favorite time of day, an enchanting, innocent interlude that holds all of nature—as well as human ambition and mischief—in abeyance. It lasts no longer than a kiss. But there’s peace in the kiss, and with it, an ache to linger in the new day’s gentle arms. Knowing it’s just a moment sweetens it with melancholy. Brightness will slip over the horizon, shattering the silence with compelling brilliance that conceals a simple question: What will you do with this day?

Our answer teeters on how we greet the day as it unfolds. If we’re overly idealistic, each step into time will become heavier with regret, as dawn’s silvery promise fades into daylight’s ironclad realities. If we’re prone to cynicism and defensiveness, our jaded outlook will only find confirmation in the harsh light. Either way, we’ll discount our power to make the day happen—not only for us, but also for those who need us to make their day. Either way, we’ll settle for bemoaning injustice and selfishness, rather than responding in ways that restore balance. As people of faith, however, we have within us a bottomless wealth of compassion, tolerance, and kindness to make the day, because righteousness exists in us. In 2 Corinthians 5.21 we’re told God specifically ordained Christ’s sacrifice as the ultimate sin offering so that we might “become the righteousness of God.” Coupling this supreme gift of grace with the gift of sunrise empowers us to make the day—to bring to it the serenity and promise that announces each dawn.

Truly Awesome

I flinch when I hear the word “awesome” tossed around. God is awesome; we aren’t. Nature is awesome; human achievements and invention are not. Although heights we reach often surprise and baffle us, our success proves they’re neither inconceivable nor impossible. To inflate regard for our accomplishments with puffed-up awe diminishes our ability to perceive truly awesome miracles and might at work in our world—not the least of which is truly awesome goodness God endows in us. The righteousness of God is so far beyond us we’ll never fully comprehend it. Nor will we ever replicate or implement it purely by mortal means. We can manufacture light. We can raise mountains, dig valleys, plot rivers, and plant forests. We can even engineer new species and life forms. Righteousness, however, forever exceeds our scope, as we haven’t the innate wisdom and will to be infallibly right. “There is no one who is righteous, not even one,” Romans 3.10 insists, implicitly defining righteousness as an exclusively divine trait—which is why God’s provision through Christ enabling us to become righteous is a truly awesome phenomenon, a cherished gift to be shared at all times. (It’s also why self-righteousness is such a dangerous, foolhardy, and wicked proposition.)

Being confidently aware we possess God’s righteousness allows us to seize the promises of daybreak and greet every waking moment as a sacred opportunity. “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day,” Proverbs 4.18 explains. We arise in peace, burst forth in splendor, and grow brighter by the minute. Propelled by an insatiable desire to reflect our Maker in all we say and do, we nurture justice and mercy where cruelty and resentment thrive. We dispel shadows that blight unenlightened souls with fear and ignorance. We answer chaos with clarity, despair with hope, doubt with faith, and hatred with love. Before speaking, we seek God’s infallible wisdom and will to say the right words. Before acting, we ask divine guidance to do the right thing. Before forming opinions and striking attitudes, we remind ourselves it’s within our power to govern our thoughts and emotions rightly.

Does this sound like a far-fetched, utopian fantasy? Of course it does. Resisting self-serving logic and dark impulses is a constant battle. The sun seldom, if ever, sets without witnessing momentary lapses. Rather than surrender to weaknesses, however, we defy them. Knowing God’s righteousness exists in us confirms our passing failures are out of character. We tap into the assurance Paul expresses in Philippians 1.4: “I am confident in this, that the One Who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Faith in our God-given ability—and God’s faith in us—to do what’s right carries the day.

The Dark Side

To grasp the relative insignificance of temporary setbacks in a rightly led life, consider Proverbs’ depiction of those who reject righteousness. “The way of the wicked is like deep darkness,” it says. “They do not know what they stumble over.” (v19) Can you imagine a more dismally frustrating existence—repeatedly tripping over hidden obstacles, blindly falling into mean snares, fearing danger with every step, and never feeling confident of one’s direction or progress? This is how many around us live. Navigating the dark side is their daily reality.

Thus, growing brighter by the minute surpasses the peace and clarity we experience. It radiates God’s grace and love, giving those who neither see nor know true righteousness a glimmer of the goodness it affords. Because it’s completely alien to human nature, it’s unlikely they’ll understand it any better than we do. Indeed, many will be so confounded they’ll suspect ulterior motives drive our words, deeds, and attitudes. They have that choice. We need not qualify our behavior and we definitely shouldn’t respond in ways that suggest it’s any of our doing. There is no one righteous, not even one. All we are—all we can possibly be—are recipients of God’s righteousness. Since it’s so far beyond us, it shines through us despite our frailties and faults. How awesome is that?

Most Righteous God, we stand in awe of this unfathomable gift You place in us through Christ. And, like the psalmist, we pray, “Let the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to You.” Amen.

Each sunrise asks, “What will you do with this day?” Confidently aware we possess God’s righteousness, we greet each moment as a sacred opportunity. Our path grows brighter by the minute.


Sherry Peyton said...

Perhaps on of life's ironies is that our "fix it" brain undoubtedly pushed by the need to survive, is so way out in front of our "common sense" brain. We are like overgrown children in china shops, with all the exuberance of our "abilities" making us frantic builders, all the while we knock over the china.

We get all caught up in our superior aptitude for making things, and we have grown in our human relationships barely at all. We are still brutish much more than compassionate and empathetic.

We are singularly unaware most of the time of God's offering of Christ to us, allowing us to grow in the ways that really count. Rather we continue to flail at windmills.

Your words do so much to make us think again, about what you say is really awesome and what is not. Blessings,


Tim said...

Your point is well-taken, Sherry. Too often we're preoccupied with the busy-ness of life, we neglect the real business of living: serving one another, nurturing peace and goodness--in short, reflecting our Maker.

Over time, I've become increasingly convinced righteousness is a state of being first and foremost that we evidence through thought and action. Doing what's right isn't how we become righteous; becoming righteous is how we're able to do what's right.

It really is a gift, isn't it? If we can only accept it by faith, we can minimize these klutzy moments you describe, when our rush to act--our busy-ness--sends so much of what is fine and good about us crashing to the floor. And that will pay the added dividend of decreasing our busy-ness, since much of our time is spent picking up the pieces and cleaning up after ourselves!

I'm so grateful for your thought here. It underscores a key aspect of this idea--and, of course, hearing your thoughts never fails to brighten my day!

Blessings and brightness,