Thursday, May 21, 2015

On the idea of the Life Force and wasted maple seeds.

On Tuesday I swept bushels of maple seeds off our deck.

In Liverpool we had a maple tree, and it dropped seeds, but somehow it was nothing like the maple seed profusion we have here.

Maybe it's because we have two trees?  I don't know, because it seems like significantly more than twice as many seeds.  They pile in the landscaping as thick as mulch, and I halfheartedly try to scoop them up with my hands when I go out to weed.  They litter the roof and stick up out of the "gutter guards" that are supposed to shield our gutters, like a scabby blond fringe.  If we don't get up there and clean them off, they might produce a vagrant crop of little maple trees sprouting on high.

A couple of weekends ago, Shawn and I sat out on the sun porch while maple seeds flew off the tree in back, filling the sky like a swarm of spinning insects, catching the sun on their glistening backs as they spiraled madly through the air, droves of them, glancing off the windows with sharp pings.

More will germinate than I would wish, but even so, it is overwhelming to think how many will simply decay and come to nothing.  So much plant potential unrealized.  How much potential life is squandered in this world, I wonder?

Springtime and seeds, new life, goslings, fawns, baby bunnies (Shawn saved a rabbit litter the other day while he was mowing), nests filled with eggs, unfurling leaves and flowers and blossoms, weddings and honeymoons and newborn babies, all these things are precious reminders of the grace of God in our fallen world.

God left this life-force at work in the world, even after sin had stolen in and sullied perfection.  Even though all creation hurtles towards ultimate destruction under the death-force of the serpent who deceived and stole, even though everything in all creation is on a path towards death and decay, God left a life-force in the world as a witness of Himself:  Beauty.  New Birth.  Hope.

I once knew a lady who told me that she particularly loved music and flowers.  "Music and flowers," she told me, "are special gifts from God because they aren't good for anything except just to be enjoyed, just to be beautiful."  She wasn't married, so I was embarrassed to tell her what occurred to me--and I kept quiet--that flowers are the seed-producing part of the plant.  Flowers are all about reproduction, or, you know, sex.

Sex, sunrise and springtime are the beautiful things, the hopeful things that God gives us for encouragement, to bring us joy and hope eternal.  It isn't any wonder that the crafty old serpent does everything he can to mess up our encouragement and our hope.  He can't affect the natural rhythms that God built into the cosmos of a day or a year, but he can get to us where our ideas of sex are concerned.

Sex is good.  God gave it to us so that parents would bond to one another in love and loyalty, and so that people would want to populate the earth, enjoying, marveling in the miracle of new life.  The life force, under the design of God, is a very good thing.

I've been studying Romans, and it is interesting to look at how the descent into sin progresses.  First there is a denial of God, a refusal to acknowledge who He is and that He exists.  Second, after denying God, the person begins to worship something else, a created thing rather than the Creator.  This is also known as idolatry, but it doesn't necessarily involve worshiping a statue.  We were created to worship, and so we must worship something; if not God, then perhaps money, fame, power, popularity, entertainment, pleasure, comfort or even straight-up self.  Third, as humans devalue themselves by worshiping worthless things, they become consumed by trying to fulfill their own pleasures, which leads to sexual sins.  Fourth, the descent into sexual sin opens the door to all manner of sins: lying, cheating, arrogance, backstabbing, murder, hatred, mercilessness.  Fifth, they become recruiters, encouraging others to sin with them.  (See Romans 1:18-32 for more details.)

It is interesting that sexual sin is third on the list, a subtle sin on the way to obvious sins.  This does not mean that sexual sin is less significant.  According to Jesus, the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; to break this command is to be indifferent, to refuse to acknowledge God.  To break the most important commandment must be a very significant sin indeed, but it is the very first sin in the chain of events, a "gateway sin" (like a gateway drug) that leads to uglier sins.  So, I'm not saying that sexual sin (at #3 in the chain) is less serious than other sin.  Rather, I'm saying that sexual sin is sufficiently surreptitious that it draws people in such a way that they do not apprehend the danger.  Sexual sin is harder for the average human to recognize as sin than, for instance, murder or even slander.  Sexual sin appears not to hurt anybody.  But really?

Sex is good, a life-force in opposition to the death-forces that are mostly at work in our fallen world.  God gave it to us in grace, with parameters and safeguards, so that we could see that there is hope of new life, new birth, happiness, love, beauty, pleasure, safety and security.  Of course the devil wants to pervert this.  Of course he does.  It is a picture of the beauty, goodness and faithfulness of the Lord, so the devil wants to scribble all over it and make God's reflection in it unrecognizable.

I think perhaps that the sins God finds ugliest and the sins we find ugliest are at opposite ends of the sin spectrum.  We have more repugnance for sins that show up as ugly, leaving bruises, blood and tears in their wake.  I think God despises the sins that are camouflaged, because they are the ones that lead us astray, deceiving us, and He pities us.  God created both the laws of nature and the laws of morality, the physical universe and the moral universe.  He understands how it all works, while our understanding is very limited.  God knows that all sin leads to death, and someday He will bring an end to all sin.

For now, He is patient, wanting all men to come to repentance.  Yet, He is not patient forever.  In His perfect knowledge, God knows which people will never turn their hearts to Him.  As He waits and prepares for the final Day of Reckoning, He allows localized days of reckoning, days when the end comes for a neighborhood hit by a tornado, a city broken by an earthquake, an airplane full of people dropping into the sea.  These people meet their reckoning, and they are either ready to enter the presence of the Lord in joy, or they are forever lost on that day, like so many billowing maple seeds, swept up and tossed away, never to germinate.

Sometimes survivors get very angry when they see these calamities come to pass.  They insist that the Lord has no right to do such things, no right to bring any destruction on the earth.  They do not understand that every day God holds back complete annihilation from this evil world is a day of pure grace.  This world has been marked for destruction ever since Eve bit into the fruit, but God, in mercy and forbearance, has been working to save and purify a people for Himself anyway.  God's children will not live on this broken earth forever; He will deliver us to a New Heaven and a New Earth, redeemed and perfect, where there will be no more weeds, pestilence, disease, danger or sin.  This present earth is not the New Earth.  This present earth will never be utopia.  This present earth will burn, and God does not want us to burn with it.

Sometimes God, in His great mercy, allows partial calamities, times when people lose much, but not their lives.  This is a mercy, even grace, because He is reminding them that their day of reckoning will come, but it has not come yet.  They still have another chance.  Choose life, He exhorts.  Choose Jesus.

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