It’s early. Still dark. The alarm goes off and I hit snooze and roll over, dreading the day ahead. I am anxious about many things, some in my control and some out of my control.
I remind myself that it would be foolish to waste my energy on anxiety*, so I force myself to slow my mind and focus on one breath after the other. In the breathing quiet a thought arises:
Everything broken is already made whole.
Relief washes over me, and tears begin their leaky descent pilloward.
In the Christian world we talk a lot about brokenness. I’m broken, you’re broken, this world is broken, everything is SO broken…and all of this brokenness waits, waits, waits for redemption and restoration. As Jes Kast reminded us yesterday, sitting patiently in that brokenness, waiting in sackcloth and ashes, honors our pain.
But this endless waiting often puts us in a state of longing.
How long, O Lord? How long before you do this thing to make me whole? Before you make this better? How long before you slay mine enemies?
Sometimes Christians valorize this longing and need. C. S. Lewis famously argued that our deep, unmet desires show us our true longing is for something beyond us. “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy,” he says, then “the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” So we wait in expectation of all good things.
In Reformed theology we sometimes call this the tension of “already, but not yet,” a concept articulated by the early twentieth century Calvinist theologian Geerhardus Vos (who, weirdly, grew up in the church parsonage around the corner from my old house in Grand Rapids, and who also, by the way, had really, really good hair).
In the Already Not Yet, everything is already made whole in the Kingdom of God, but for those of us who are imperfect sinners–that is, all of us–we must continually await our perfection until the last day. We never experience the Already in the here and now. No; not now, not yet, not until we are resurrected–with the final arrival of the New Heaven and the New Earth.
There’s a kind of humane grace to this paradox, a gentle acknowledgment that we do the best we can, and then we wait.
But I confess that the Already Not Yet gives me pause these days. Why must we live in this state of longing, I wonder? Why this carrot at the end of the stick, endlessly tempting us with what we cannot achieve? Why this frustrating pattern of reaching and not quite grasping?
To long for something is to experience lack, to feel need, to feel scarcity and absence and an unfilled void. To want something is to be in want.
But Jesus doesn’t say, “Okay, so right now, what you have? It’s sort of good. But you should really be longing for what you don’t have. Stay perpetually discontent, my people.”
What if what he offers is something more radical? Something much more challenging? What if he offers us the abundance we have already been given in the right here and right now? What if it’s as immediate as “take up your mat and walk”?
And yes. Maybe our friends have to carry us to the top of the house. And maybe sometimes they have to rip open the roof tiles. Sometimes they carefully lower us down, descending through the crowd. Sometimes the whole process seems slow and embarrassing and cumbersome and oh so public. And yes; the pain is excruciating.
But then we hit the floor. Grounded.
And Jesus is there.
And he says, just all normal and super casual, Take up your mat and walk. Like, Hey, you didn’t need to make such a big fuss. This was always a possibility. Always your reality. Your faith–that slow-fast, up-down, ripping-descending, embarrassing-and-ennobling faith–that faith? That faith has healed you. Right here. Right now.
The spiritual path we each walk can be long and winding, but I wonder if we eventually find we’ve been circling one place the whole time–Home.
Perhaps we are already home. Perhaps we can stop walking the path at any moment and take up a warm, vibrant residence in this Home–the body, the soul, the resonant space at the center of our spiritual wandering–it has many names.
So I wash my face. I get dressed. I wear my turquoise Converse low-tops because they make me feel bouncy. And I dance through my day.
Because in the fullness of time, I am not broken. You are not broken. The world is not broken.
Everything broken is already made whole.
*Anxiety is a real medical issue. I’ve benefited from anti-anxiety medication at one point in my life, and there’s no shame in seeking a little extra help when we need it. Charles Marsh has written beautifully about his own long history of crippling anxiety and the particular shame Christians can be made to feel by other Christians when they admit to feeling anxious. Sometimes Bible verses just don’t cut it, you know?