“So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 8:12 – 14)
I am thinking back to the story of Jacob and Esau; two brothers whose lives did not turn out as they thought they would. Esau was the outdoorsy type, close to nature and exuding simple minded confidence. And there was Jacob, more comfortable at hearth and home and eyeing what others had and how he could get it. It is hard to say if one was more “according to the flesh” than the other. And my mind wanders back to Cain and Abel, one of whom sought God and one of who sought God’s attention. And then my mind leaps forward to King Saul and King David – one of whom took the lead when it was not his to take, and one who had leadership thrust upon him and fumbled it a little bit. Which of these were lead by the Spirit of God? I don’t have an easy answer.
“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Verses 15 – 17)
Or maybe the answer is easy, if we look at the choices they made in life. Admittedly it is easy to see which of them were “adopted” by the Spirit of God. However, before we judge them, remember they each had a part to play in the Old Testament story of the called and chosen people. If they were not as true to the Divine as they ought to have been, they were true to themselves – as the Divine created them. Most of them made missteps, or at least made life more difficult for the opposing other in their life stories. And all of them did suffer. Some were rewarded for that suffering. And one or two . . . just suffered.
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Verses 18 – 23)
Paul says that the sufferings of the present are not worth comparing to what comes in the life beyond – or at least what we hope will come in the life beyond this one. We could ask if the biblical figures from the Old Testament would endorse that perspective; it would be an interesting theological musing. Or we could simply turn (as we should) to consider if our current suffering is worth it for what will come in the eternal future. And, if it might be worth it, how will we cope with the present? And if it is not worth, does it matter? And what are we going to do about it? Ah, beloved reader, there is the real nitty-gritty.
“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Verses 24 – 25)
I pondered and mused as to whether the title of this blog posting was what I wanted. And I decided, yes. Yesterday we reflected on Jacob discovering and discerning the place he laid his head was what is called a “thin spot”, meaning a place where the Spirit of the Divine is more easily discerned. It meant something to Jacob and I am sure as the years spun out he clung to that memory. It was holy ground for him. We too might have places and times in our lives when we encountered the Divine, and it gave us the hope (sorry Paul) and the courage to continue moving forward. To move through our present, and to look forward to the glory that we want to be assured will come. We hold in our mind those times of hope and reassurance. We hold in our memories that holy ground. As the days and months of our present are spun out, will can and should think back to those places and times as foretastes of what we hope and pray will come. Shalom & Selah!