Christians are the scent of a sweet-smelling sacrifice; the aroma of Christ, wholly offered as a holy offering. We are the fragrance of full forgiveness. We are the heralds of joy. Wherever we go, we are the royal ambassadors of the gospel, the image-bearers of the infinitely creative Father, and the younger brothers and sisters of the humbled and highly exalted Word. We speak in this world on behalf of the One who made up whirlwinds and lightning and lightning bugs.
Or so we say.
Saying stuff is easy. Meaning it—in the realm of will and emotions—is harder. Understanding what that all means is harder still. Living out who we know we are and whom we follow with total consistency is, well . . . have you ever ridden a unicorn by the light of a blue moon? Yeah, me neither.
We say we want to be like God, and sometimes we even feel like we mean it. But we don’t. Not to be harsh, but if we did really mean it, we would be having much more fun than we are having. We aim for that which is safe and respectable instead of following our stated first principles: that we are made in God’s image and should strive to imitate Him.
A whale spouting liquid life toward to the heavens, a falcon in a fast dive, a mutt in the back of a truck, flying his tongue like a flag of joy, all reflect the Maker more fully than most of of us do.
Examine our rules, rituals, and routines. How do we parent? A litany of legislation. Fears. No’s. Don’ts. Don’t jump on the bed. No high-fructose corn syrup in this house. Get down from that tree. Be quiet. Hold still. We live as if God were an infinite list of negatives and no-no’s. But this is idolatry. He is sheer holiness, the rawest and richest of all purity. But in our twisted way of thinking, that makes him the biggest kill-joy of all.
But how does God parent His children? He gave us one rule at the beginning; He gave a single no in a world full of yes. “You must not eat from that tree. Everything else that your eyes survey belongs to you.” He withheld a tree and gave a planet. He gave us wild animals to discover and name and tame. He littered our fields and prairies with fanged animals with muscled sinews that rippled in the sun. He gave us the Dragon to slay that slew us instead. And then He stooped down save the slain and slay the slayer.
So now we have two rules—love God, love others—along with the imputed righteousness of His own Son, grace for our weaknesses, mercy for our wickedness, and a door through the grave into eternal life. Do we act like all this is true?
Our Father wove beauty and joy into every layer of the fabric of this world. The tapestry is rich and thick with promise. He wove in hidden secrets that would tease us into centuries of risk-taking before we could unlock them—flight, glass, electricity, milk chocolate. He buried gold deep in the earth, but scattered sand everywhere. Since we have now learned the secret of turning sand into china plates and silicon chips we understand that our Father has given us the privilege of walking gilded streets where the promise of wealth gets stuck between our toes.
Our God made things complicatedly simple and not just a little funny—skin bags full of milk swinging beneath cows. Now, skim the cream, add some sugar from cane grass and shards of vanilla bean from tress from faraway lands, surround that with water cold enough to have expanded its molecules and become solid. Now stir it. Keep stirring. Now taste and see that the Lord is good.
We say: “No more for you, fella. You’ve had enough.”
God says: “Try it with the hot fudge.”
God hung easily picked fruit on trees, and he hid the secrets of fine wine at the end of vines. He made equine beasts with strong flat backs, lending themselves to a rather obvious use, and he hid jet wings behind the mysteries of iron and oil.
We should strive for holiness, but holiness is a flood, not a vacuum. Holiness fills the world with light and life. Are you infected with contagious joy? Does your face shine, warming the faces of others? Does your rain cause the world around you to blossom?
We say that we want to be more like God. So be more thrilled with thunderstorm. And laughter. And what causes it. Holiness is neither tame nor safe. It is wildfire on the mountain. This shouldn’t surprise us. Our Father’s whisper is like the sound of rushing waters, our Elder Brother is a roaring lion that crushes serpents beneath His feet, the Spirit is the Spirit of burning. Holiness is fierce. Our God is a consuming fire.
So this means that we should take our joy out of our heads and push it down into our bones. Then, as we open or eyes and our mouths and our arms, we let it spill out into the world again.
The Psalmist said of our Father, “In Thy presence is the fullness of joy. At Thy right hand, there are pleasures forevermore.” When we become truly like him, the same will be said of us.