We live in an age where “marvelous” and “wonderful” have been tamed. We hear these words and immediately get excited about the “good” things happening! But this definition that “marvelous” and “wonderful” always mean “pleasant” and “positive” things is a reflection of our own shallow age.
Through centuries of human existence, these words have also conveyed dread and fear. A “Marvel” and something that causes “wonder” can flow equally (and usually more often) from “terrible events. Just think of the horrible persecution of Christians in the Middle East, videos of beheadings and the like! Certainly we “marvel” at such cruelty, and we “wonder” at such barbarism!
The truth is we live in a delusional age where the diminishing of the human person has reduced life to nothing more than the shallow expectation of some form of “glee” or “happiness.” Because of this we have emptied all of the sadness of our lives of real meaning. And, in doing so, we have reduced our understanding of just how powerful challenging events can become in changing the course of our lives. Foolishly, we seek out some sense of ease or comfort at the expense of our own spiritual maturity. Then, when bad things happen in our lives, we are left with the damning notion that these events are “meaningless” and “God must be angry with me.” And the continued spiral of delusion grips our lives and we miss the powerful and salvation-filled opportunities in even our suffering. All the while, God gets the blame!
But what if we recaptured the power of “marvel” and “wonder” to to exist in all aspects of life? What if we were able to finally see and grasp the “wonder” and “marvel” of even the hard times? What if even our suffering were filled with import and meaning? Why, we would be free to experience joy even in the the middle of suffering. Talk about living life to the fullest!
In today’s Scripture Lesson, we are given such an opportunity. Look at Isaiah 29:13-23:
And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote; therefore, behold, I will again do marvelous things with this people, wonderful and marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hid.” Woe to those who hide deep from the LORD their counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay; that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. For the ruthless shall come to nought and the scoffer cease, and all who watch to do evil shall be cut off, who by a word make a man out to be an offender, and lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate, and with an empty plea turn aside him who is in the right.
Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: “Jacob shall no more be ashamed, no more shall his face grow pale. For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
Here the prophet declares God’s wisdom to God’s people and insists we not empty “marvel” and “wonder” of their fullest meaning. The Lord confronts His people with the sad and damning truth that they say all the right things but have no true change of life. It’s all just empty words based on a dimming memory of just WHY they say the words they say, pray the prayers they pray, and worship the way they worship. They’ve memorized the liturgy but they’ve lost the meaning!
Wow! What a powerful description of a people who have kept all the “forms” of faith and abandoned the “why” of their faith. They say all the right things but their hearts mean none of it! Because of this God is going to do “wonderful” and “marvelous” things, and, with these lip-serving hearts, these folks are going to interpret these “marvelous” and “wonderful” things as “bad.” And, in doing so, they will miss the power of these events!
Today, in your life, the key to seeing passed your own narcissism is going to be the development of a humble heart that guards your life from the cynicism of reducing your life to your own comfort. When you can see even negative events filled with the spiritual insight of God’s love for you to develop you into the man or woman God created you to be, you empty even tragedy of it’s power to destroy you! And you fill up even sad times, not with the delusion of pretending they aren’t sad, but with the powerful insight of just what these events can teach you and not waste ONE TEAR! What power! What freedom! What a “marvelous” and “wonderful” path for a life!
The “bright sadness” of Great Lent gives you, today, such an opportunity. Every life has ups and downs. That’s just the way of every life. The key to passing through this life well is not allowing any event, whether good or bad, to leave you less than what you are. Taking each moment of life as it is and squeezing every bit of wisdom out of each moment is the gift of grace God extends to you today. Your willingness to say “yes” to that wise path of life will fill every experience of your life with “wonder” and “marvel!” Truly, what god is as great as our God?