Tag Archive: Keller


This is a response to a guy’s blog from earlier in the year. It’s pretty much what I think about justice, and is heavily derived from the writings of NT Wright, Tim Keller, Frederick Buechner and the thoughts of my dear friend, Ed Springer. I still find it hard to live this. But in His gracious mercy to me, may His Spirit continue to teach me to love as He has loved.

It’s the hope of the new creation that propels us headlong into the darkest of places. Because this hope was secured by a love from which we will never be severed, the joy that springs from it is resilient. It can withstand the buffets of pain and frustration, at least in part because its source is not our own love for these people. When I burn out or feel weighed down by the brokenness of it all, it’s often because I have been looking to my own resources.

A dear friend once unpacked the beautitudes as resting on the foundation of ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’. From that posture of spiritual bankruptcy, we come to the foot of the Cross and cry for help. Not just for salvation; everything. Including the fight for justice.

When we cry to Him in anguish over the corruption of the world, I think He responds by energising us with two things:

First, the assurance that the in-breaking of His Kingdom has already begun, and there is a Day fast approaching when all things will be restored. Justice and healing are His purposes; and His purposes will prevail.

Second, the love with which to fuel the fight. Not our own limited resource we approximately call ‘love’. His love for people. And with that love flowing through us, to them, from Him, we are free to love – without fear, and without self-regard.

As Buechner says, ‘He says to follow him, to walk as he did into the world’s darkness, to throw yourself away as he threw himself away for love of the dark world.’

Chameleon

“It takes a community to know a person.”

I was at Chatswood station, looking from the train onto the platform, gazing absently at the concrete. I can’t remember what day it was, whether I was coming home from uni, work, or whatever, but I distinctly remember what was going through my head. I mostly plug into sermons on my commutes, because reading is the last thing I can stomach when the space between my brain and my eyes is literally strained with the amount of legal junk cluttering it. No disrespect to my degree.

Actually, a lot of disrespect to my degree. Up yours, LLB.

I treasure this time. The rhythm of the train, the silent and quirky community of the commuters, the headspace it cuts out for your day… it’s brilliant. In moments of self-awareness, I’ll sometimes realise that I’ve been unintentionally staring (for at least 5 minutes) at the crotch of a thoroughly disconcerted business man standing in the aisle; facing the lady opposite with what must have appeared to be an aggressively furrowed brow; or ornamenting the stony silence of the unappreciative peak hour carriage with sporadic giggles.

I do most of my deeper thinking here; I find it hard to think in any useful trajectory when I’m still. The metaphor of movement keeps my mind from its tendency to get bogged down in cycles of stagnancy. (Whatever that means).

But, I’m sitting at Chatswood, headphones in, Keller’s words percolating through my mind. I can’t remember what he was talking about, but I remember that at this point, he brings up the point I quoted above. And in an instant, all my attention came roaring back into my brain. My senses were pricked, and the words that followed were fascinating to me.

I’m about to take Gabby for a walk, so I can’t spend more time searching for it, but he read a story from CS Lewis. It was about how, when a friend in his close circle died, he anticipated greater depth of intimacy with the remaining friend – more time naturally equates to tighter friendship, right? In fact, he perceived that the deceased friend brought out parts of his remaining friend that only the deceased friend could. That’s to say, parts of his friend’s personality were now inaccessible to him.

The point that Keller was making was about the importance of community in order to KNOW a person more fully. Including God.

Gosh. Doesn’t that hit you?

Part of the reason I seriously appreciated it, was that I often interact with different people very differently. And this used to disconcert me. A lot. Granted, sometimes it still does; sometimes I don’t feel like I’m behaving not quite myself around certain people.

But the point of this, is that the complexity of a personality can’t be fully accessed by a single person. It is shrunk down and limited by the confines of that one relationship. Community, on the other hand, broadens a personality, as different people bring out different aspects of the person.

We were made for community.

Leah

As I brushed my teeth this evening, I began to turn over some of the thoughts that had made their way into my head this week. Including something that Tim Keller had said about Leah, Jacob’s first wife, in a sermon I listened to whilst I was at the gym. It was very early, and I didn’t take note of it (kind of hard to on the cross-trainer), so don’t quote me, but it was generally about how just as Jacob had fixed his hopes for happiness and validation on Rachel, so had Leah pinned hers on the requited love of Jacob. The author paints this painfully tragic marriage in which Jacob only has eyes, only has ears, and only has a heart for Rachel. Leah bears child after child after child, desperately clinging to the hope that the next child will secure the love and attention of her husband. It never does. It’s a devastating set of circumstances.

But when God saw that Leah was not loved, to paraphrase Genesis 29:31, God loved her. He gave her children, and one of those children would go on to have their own children, who would have their own children, and so the line of Abraham would continue until a baby name Yeshu was born to a teenage girl under dubious circumstances.

It isn’t Leah immediate reaction, but by the time she has her fourth child, she has moved away from the misery and self-pity of her desperate longing for the love of Jacob, and says, with something like resignation, ‘This time I will praise the Lord’. I don’t know that it’s true, but when I read this story, I imagine a wave of freedom flooding Leah’s heart. No longer is her heart aching with the cavernous emptiness of Jacob’s indifference to her; she has eyes to dwell in the approval and affection of the One her heart was made to delight in foremost.

The second thing that I was thinking about, this time as I tidied my room a bit, was about this phrase Keller used in speaking about how Jacob went to bed with who he thought was the beautiful object of his heart, Rachel, only to wake up and find it was Leah. First of all, WOW would that have been an awkward morning; I can’t even imagine how crippling the anxiety would have been for Leah. She participated in this deceit; but, indeed, it was in a similar fashion that Jacob had deceived his own father to procure the deathbed blessing intended for the firstborn.

“We always wake up with Leah.”

No matter how much we pin our expectations on a new relationship, degree, job, country, diet or outfit to make us feel better, we always ‘go to bed with them’, esteeming them as the Rachels of our life, held on a glossy pedestal; only to wake up the next morning to find that what we thought was the Rachel who would make everything better, is in fact the painfully ordinary Leah.

Let me be clear: I am terribly prone to idealising men romantically. On the way to the beach last night we were talking about how strangers can seem so perfectly RIGHT for you, until you hang out with them and realise that they are just normal people, with flaws and irritating mannerisms or ways of thinking that jar with your own. As Sufjan says,

Or so I’ve come to realize life is not about
Love with someone (ordinary people are everywhere)
Extraordinary people are, ordinary people are, ordinary people are
Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn’.

(‘I want to be well’, Sufjan Stevens)

Expectations, ill-placed, can embitter a heart and cripple your capacity to love with abandon. Partly, I think, because you feel let down by the object of your expectations or affections when they don’t deliver. People are beautiful. Goodness, yes, they are! But when you place on another person, or a job, or anything, the weight of an expectation that they will deliver what your heart was designed to receive from God, I think you can crush the relationship itself with an intolerable burden. Maybe you’ll disagree.

A few of my friends have been getting married, and one of my closer friends recently got engaged. Another friend from the same group at school couldn’t get his head around this. “Are they crazy?! How can they seriously think that they KNOW they can do life with one another for the rest of their lives? They haven’t even lived together!”

I get that fear. Heck, I am the biggest relationship-phobe of them all!

But I don’t think that attitude works. Because it’s based on the premise that there is such a thing as a person with whom you’re going to be, if not perfectly, then very compatible with.

I don’t think marriage is about that. Not that I am an expert on marriage in the least, but I think that if you go into the whole marriage thing expecting that your spouse is going to be a Rachel, a stunningly beautiful and perfectly compatible partner, then your world is going to be shaken when you wake up with Leah. Ordinary, inconsistent, frustrating Leah.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally realise and definitely acknowledge that some people get along way better than others. I’m not talking about that kind of compatibility. I doubt you’d be dating someone in the first place unless you were compatible! But the whole living together before you get married, try before you buy, thing doesn’t seem wholly convincing to me. “They might have intolerably frustrating habits!”

If they are a human, then they DEFINITELY will.

I’m not going to labour this point any more, because to be honest, I haven’t really thought it through more than 2 minutes whilst changing my bed. But I think that there is no such thing as a person with whom you will be perfectly compatible. I think part of the point of marriage IS that there are disputes and disappointments and frustrations, and that you stick it out throughout all that. And that that is what refines you; that is what refines your relationship. It will take work, totally. It will be scary, and maybe even lonely sometimes, not feeling known by your own spouse. But when your identity isn’t wholly tied up in your spouse, or the expectations of their affection for and affirmation of you, you can endure the buffets of those uncertainties. Because you can be confident that the steadfast love of the One who made you, and delights in you, holds you securely.

That is freedom.