There are so many ironies in our lives. There are the little, Murphy's law types: Mop the floor, and the children will spill the entire bottle of maple syrup on it. Dress up for a night out without the kids, and the babysitter will give the littlest ones Oreos before they give you hugs and kisses. The worst diaper blowouts will happen just as you walk out the door, especially if you're running late or if everybody's dressed up and on the way to a special event. You will see everyone you know at the grocery store, but only when you're just ducking in for milk on the way home from whatever, sweaty, unkempt, and in your crummy clothes.
But then there are those big ironies -- major paradoxes that can reach the scale of an all-out war. St. Paul (Romans 7) describes it so well: "For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. ...I find this law at work: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being, I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin...." This is the grand paradox of a believer's world -- the struggle of a lifetime, between the eternal and the temporal, the physical and the spiritual.
To be a believer -- to say "I believe" -- is to commit to the struggle. It is to willfully engage in the fight to be emancipated from slavery to the law of sin, and to enter in to slavery to the law of Christ. It is to acknowledge that there is a greater reality than this, and that it is as different from what we know as an acorn is from a mighty oak. Just like that acorn contains the fullness of the oak, the fullness of the of the kingdom of God dwells in us! Just as the tiniest roots and green stems break forth in search of light and water, we struggle to break free from the limited perspective of our temporal world, reaching out for eternal light and living water. We take courage in this: even though the tiny seedling struggles frantically to take root and spread its leaves, it settles into peaceful strength after it has gained them. It rests and bears fruit. When we have taken root, and found the strength of maturity, we too will have rest.
In maturity, there is quietness. There is still growth, but it is a steady renewal from our depths, not the frantic reaching of a seedling to find stability and sustenance. In maturity, there is strength to replace the fragile vulnerability of a new life. If we are shaken, or even broken by the storm, we recover. We continue to grow. And if we die, it is never in vain, for death bears us from our temporal world into an eternal one.
Lord willing, we all will reach for maturity in Him, and provide comfort and protection for the young believers among us who are reaching and crying out to be rooted and nourished. St. Paul, a man well aware of his weaknesses and failures, came to the end of his life with peaceful strength that allowed him to stand before the Emperor Nero and face his execution. He, a mighty oak of the faith, was cut down, but in his death fed the flames of the Holy Spirit that allowed the gospel to reach the ends of the earth. He, a self-acknowledged sinner, stood confidently before the throne of grace, certain that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, and taught us to embrace the same confidence, no matter what thorn we wrestle with in our own lives.
"...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."