“It doesn’t get any better than this…” I thought as I looked at my infant daughter surrounded by my four other children and bride of 18 years. Something wells up inside when I see the glorious beauty of my family and in the best of humility, I praise God for them and for His grace to afford me such joy in their lives and learnings. Holding an infant is one of those rare opportunities that few people actually experience. I know for my other four children, their infant stages are a blur, mainly due to my double time activity schedule, and pressure of ministry, and the hail storms of expectations I placed on myself during those seasons. But this time it’s different. We are not burdened under a yolk of worldly expectations but under the yolk of Jesus Christ. Therefore, this season in life is superb and grand in the scheme of them all and for this, I am very thankful.
On the other hand, as I peel through the layers of what it all means and discern whether my esteem is idolatry or Christ-centered gratitude, it struck my heart, that this is NOT the best of times and that even though it comes easy to say that “it doesn’t get any better than this” I have fallen prey, just a moment, to the wrong point of focus. I know can hold my family and look wonderfully and joyfully into the reality that is God’s gracious mercy in them and say, “It Sure is gonna get better than this!” I have to think through this carefully so all can follow my thoughts. No better place to start than the beginning…
That wonderful Spring day in 1996 was the first time that I felt such things when the doors of the vestibule opened for my eyes to gaze upon the bride of my soul. Her beauty lodged glory into my heart that quickly grew in my throat as I was unable to swallow and I thought, “It doesn’t get any better than this…” All the dreams and hopes and visions of what will be and for the most part, sans a few pebbles (and larger stones) along the way, it has been greater than I could ever have imagined. But in all reality, as Christ has revealed Himself more and more I see that the fullness of joy that came that day is a taste, a very very small taste of the complete and eternally full joy that will come when Christ and I are together along with my bride and my family, not as we are today, but as siblings in the same body! The marriage of man and woman is a myopic pointer to the day of Christ’s return for His bride for whom He died. My bride stood and still does, at the door of that church in all beauty and splendor, and one day, I too will stand as she stood, not just in dress and intention, but in pure righteousness. It does get better than this, but this is good because it shows us just what we have yet to see! (Ephesians 5:25-)
Now having five children may seem like excess, but among our circles of friends across the globe, we are the minimalists and are about 40-60% complete as some would say. But just in my introductory thoughts, the birth of a child is an amazing thing. It reveals so much about the majesty of God’s power and how He alone can put all things together. (Col 1) The miracle of life is so much more than just being well loved and having a great and deep affection for a child; it bears the image of its Creator, a God who gives birth, not just physically to His creatures, but Spiritually as well. Scripture teaches us that through suffering comes glory. This is true throughout the whole of Biblical history and most specifically, it is true for the Christ, the Son of God who came to die in order to perfectly save sinners who were already dead. Six weeks ago today we had just ended a 21-plus hour induction with cesarean and the fear at times was overwhelming and inexplicable. God’s grace carried us through and through all the suffering, all the darkness, all the fear, and all the “dashed” dreams came LIFE. A new life, not just one working out kinks and trying to be better or different, but NEW. Completely fresh, a new beginning in this world. I reflected on all the other four births and likewise, they all came the same way, though with different circumstances, they all had the same song: suffering yields life. Jesus Christ came to suffer to bring life and the apostles tell us clearly that we who are in Christ will suffer as He suffered but in the end: Glory. See 1 Peter Chapter 1 for more on this. In this way, my wife suffered so that life could emerge. Jesus saves His own through His flesh and blood. How amazing our God is to help us see His glorious good in our suffering. We come out on this side, joyfully aware of this little blessing of life and joyfully aware of the grave suffering that our Lord endured for us. “Light Momentary Affliction” prepares us for a weight of glory.
So now the glorious part of all of this. “It doesn’t get any better” fits really well here. I smile, my wife smiles, my son smiles, my three other daughters smile and life is grand. 3 AM…. not so grand, but we still smile at the prospect of going through all of this again. But no matter how good it is, it is only a small picture, a snow globe of the real that we are just shaking through awaiting the full joy. We are amazed at the love we have for this new child when we thought that there was no more love in us 🙂 we find more. The birth of our new baby has rekindled the superb affections we have for our other children and each other as husband and wife and if we are not careful, we will lose sight of why: so that we can see the love of God for us in a deeper way as His children. The love God has for us is immeasurable in comparison and it blesses my soul to realize that the amazing love that I feel toward my children is nothing compared to the love that God has for us revealed gloriously in Christ Jesus who came to live righteous and holy and die willingly in order to justify us before the Father.
What does it all mean?
It means that no matter how good it is, it is only a small fraction of nothing of the goodness of the true One to whom it all points! God’s faithful and certain promise to save His children and His amazing “great love” with which He loves us cannot be fathomed. So until that day when we stand with Him and our Lord Jesus Christ and see for ourselves, we must look ever so carefully at the small glimpses of such things.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21, ESV)
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39, ESV)