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How Long Does it Take to Grow Up?

Stephanie LeBolt sr banquetMommy, when you are a hundred, will you be as tall as the clouds?

This, my little daughter asks me from her seat on the swing in our backyard. Her sweet up-turned face looks past me to the billowing clouds overhead. To her, growing up means growing taller so she can reach the monkey bars unassisted and ride all the rides at the theme park. Surely 100 years should be enough to reach those clouds, she concludes.

While our growing taller comes to an end during our teens and early twenties, our growth doesn’t stop then; it merely goes undercover. Throughout our lives, our bodies are busy reshaping, remodeling and renewing themselves, not only to heal after injury or illness but as a regular practice. Cellular turnover is part of our programming.

This notion always came as a surprise to the students in my anatomy class who, though quite a bit more advanced than my small daughter, generally assumed that once they stopped growing up they started growing old. Actually, there’s a whole lot of reconstruction going on.

Even our bones, which seem the deadest of things thanks to archaeological excavations and Halloween decorations, are active and changing our whole lives long. Even when they aren’t growing longer, they’re growing stronger in response to the pushes, pulls and pressures they endure. It’s the beauty of weight-bearing exercise. We’re designed to fortify ourselves. What breaks down gets rebuilt, only stronger, given sufficient time, good design and quality building materials. We are always undergoing renovation.

We call this maturation, and I’m pretty sure it’s meant to be a total make-over of body, mind and soul.

Kids think that once they’ve grown up they’re grown-ups, figuring they may have some “filling out” to do but otherwise they’re ready to take on the world. We, who have spent some time in the maturing phase, know that the growing never stops. Though we’re not getting any taller, we’re always remodeling and reorganizing: filling in gaps, replacing old notions, and fortifying things in light of new information.

We who have reached our full height are meant to be filling in: building spiritual muscle, agility and fortitude as God reshapes it along with our minds, hearts and souls. We are clay in the hands of the potter, teaches Jeremiah 18. A contemporary retelling might call us plastic, hardened at room temperature, but pliable at God-temperature.

God’s not done with us yet. That’s such very good news. God’s continually defining and refining, affirming and growing us, inside out, as we will let Him. That’s not just for our own good, but for the good of all of our relationships, including the precious ones we have with the generations to come.

They’re sure to ask us in Sunday school or confirmation class, around the dinner table or after ball practice, on their graduation day or on their wedding day, “Mom and Dad, do your think you’ll ever be able to touch the sky?” They ask, not because they really think we will, but because they want to. And they can’t see ever doing it without us.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 

Oh my yes, little girl, there’s every chance I will reach those clouds because, thanks to God, we’re both still growing.

Drawing Distinctions

Where is the line between heaven and earth? When people pass, what do they pass? Where do they cross from here to there? If we’re headed toward something, shouldn’t we see it so we’ll know when we get there?

I see you…. you line on the horizon. But you are fickle. Yes, as the sun rises, you take shape. But as the sun sets, you fade and I can’t see you anymore. Certainly not in the distance. Up close all I can see is darkness. It feels firm at my feet, yet I can reach into it. The air has a different texture. Which is you? Where are you? Where is the line between?

Ah, when the sun rises, I’ll see! But wait: the fog obscures; the snow covers; the rain pelts; everything tosses to and fro in the wind. Where is the line? Where can I step to safety? Stand fast? Reach across? I just want to know where the border line is, so I’ll know I’m close.

If I crossed and looked back, would I see it then? From over or beyond or within, would the line be clear between terrestrial and heavenly? Between what was earthly and what was not?

No, I think not. Because Lord, when You stepped down from Kingdom into Dominion, You brought the line with you. Wherever You went, the Kingdom was. When you died and returned to heaven did you take this distinction with You? Did you erase the line? Obscure the evidence? Muddy the waters?

Or did you leave it with us?

As we enter our days, could it be that we cannot see the line between heaven and earth because it surrounds us? Actually encircling our travels, an amorphous heavenly goop (okay see-through slime if you will), that moves as we move. It goes before us and behind us and hems us in on each side. Perhaps the earth we see, the darkness and the poverty as well as the lightness and joy, we see through this heavenly plasma around us. Perhaps, it’s meant to tint our sight if we tune our eyes to just the right frequency. Oh, the strain and squint of the effort.

My eyes need rest. I count on them for so much. How can I count on them for this? Why must I work so hard to distinguish lines on the horizon or boundaries near at hand?

I want to trust that You are the line between and the passageway from here to there. Whether darkness or light, You are there in the middle. Perhaps I don’t need to know where the line is, just that it is. Perhaps there is no line, just a distance which is narrowed each time I reach out or over and feel for what’s in the darkness and pull it closer.

Transparent but not invisible

I don’t know much about art. The arts appreciation sessions of my youth were probably mostly lost on me. Oh, I can describe what I see: the colors, the form, the brush strokes, the character, his expression, her touch. Perhaps, if the artist is clever I can even sense three dimensions even though the canvas is flat or the mosaic set in concrete. In this way it has more life but it’s still, well, art.

Recently, though, I’ve been introduced to the “icon” in Christian art. (An icon, according to Wikipedia, is “a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches. More broadly the term is used in a wide number of contexts for an image, picture, or representation; it is a sign or likeness that stands for an object by signifying or representing it either concretely or by analogy.”)

Icons are different. They invite me into what is beyond them, even while they stand their ground. They symbolize a whole, yet they are not whole. They tell a complete story, yet their end is not the end. By their very nature they say, there is more. More than meets the eye. They invite me to explore the more.

I am reading John’s account of Jesus healing the blind man on the Sabbath. (John 9) The disciples, accustomed to ailment or injury as signifying sin, ask, ““Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

Born blind and now he sees. We remark on the miracle, which surely it would be were it to happen today, but there’s more. He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed. We think of him as damaged goods, disabled, needy. Jesus says this has a divine purpose, to reveal what’s beyond. His blindness is iconic. Given to him so that others might see through it to the workings of God.

Was I born with something that was meant to do this? How would I fill in this blank?

she was born _____ so that God’s works might be revealed in her.

A gift, a collection of gifts, an ability, a dis-ability? My uniqueness is my allotment. If I hold them up to the daylight of God, what do I see?

Now I wish I had paid more attention in the arts appreciation sessions. What I hold in my hand doesn’t look like much. Doesn’t shimmer or reflect. Really quite plain. Dusty from lack of use. Pretty heavy to hold up for long. I’m tempted to just tuck it away and pull it out again when it’s sunnier.

But I’m curious. There is a place it fits just so. Never tried it there, but why not? The moment I snap it in, it starts to rumble and shake. There’s a small sound and a bit of light. Does anyone else hear it? Does anyone else see it? It propels me into words and into action, into conversation and activity. My goodness, this _______ seems to have a life of its own!

Can’t people see it has bored a hole right through me? Right through my torso, from front to back, a big gaping hole!

But no, apparently not. They’re not bothered. They say things like, “Thank you, that makes sense.” and “Oh, my knee feels pretty good now.” and “So good to have you aboard.” and “We are excited to work with you.”

Who is this they are speaking to? It’s not me. It’s the one they see through me. My goodness, this _______ has become transparent. Through it, they can see the One who made it, made me. Do you suppose it can help them see the One who made them?

Are we all meant to be “icons”?  Windows through which others can see and be with God Himself? I thought I was just supposed to get out of the way. Make myself invisible. Duck, so those in the back can see. Perhaps the ______ adds a certain transparency.

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