The following excerpt is adapted from Philipp Nicolai’s The Joy of Eternal Life, a systematic theology of God’s gift of heaven. Below, the first of Nicolai’s “six properties” is featured.
Sometimes, I read a familiar Bible passage or story and it comes alive in a new way. This happened recently with the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5, which I recall from childhood Sunday School as being a simple story of the faith of a servant girl leading to a man being healed of leprosy. As I read it as an adult, however, I can see that it gives us a dramatic account of how our expectations and God’s actions can collide.
The first time I heard the hymn “Thy Strong Word” (LSB 578), I was at a friend’s church choir concert. The beautiful architecture and stained glass windows combined with the multiple choral voices almost had me in tears. I heard the words “Give us lips to sing Thy glory, Tongues Thy mercy to proclaim, Throats that shout the hope that fills us, Mouths to speak Thy holy name” in a whole new way. I felt this same newness to familiar lyrics when I was visiting a church and watching a newborn get baptized while her uncles played their instruments and sang.
When my husband and I were first married, I made him a fleece pillow covered in a pattern of moose and trees. This pillow is one of the ugliest things we own. I have tried at length to get rid of it. I have set it in the donation pile. I have set it in the trash pile. I have tried to suggest it reside in his office. All to no avail.
Sometimes, it is easy to forget to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. If they are exciting, sure! Joy and thanks are a natural response. But what about the little necessities God provides for us every day? Can we consider them any less?
The summer after my freshman year of college, I worked the same job I’d had for the last three years. With this level of experience at a gift shop, I was sometimes put in charge of training new employees. These would often be girls a few years younger than me, girls I went to high school with, or people I knew from 4-H. Because of this, there were several fellow employees I knew well. This is important context for the story I’m about to tell.
When you hear the term “gender roles,” your first thoughts may be of gender stereotypes. This may bring to mind ideas such as women raise the kids and take care of the home while men are the “breadwinners.” Or guys enjoy physical pastimes like sports and girls like dolls, fashion, and dance. You might associate gender roles with past eras of history and the “traditional family.” Or you might think about modern tendencies to break stereotypes: women can work outside the home, men can show emotion, and so on. You may believe that gender roles are antiquated.
Our church recently lost a long-standing elder who was loved by many. His wife and he had been together since they were teens, and at the time of his death, her beloved husband was 85 years old. His widow, and those who knew him, loved him, and were loved by him, are grieving.
On a steep uphill climb during a college retreat, this freshman and first-generation college student felt rather lonely. For multiple days before the retreat, I had been steeped in the challenges of dissecting financial aid nomenclature, navigating an obscurely written campus map, and combing through my nearest Bed Bath and Beyond to stock my empty dorm room. My parents weren’t there to drop me off (we could only afford one plane ticket from New York to Chicago), and I had no compass to guide me through the uncharted territory I faced. Thinking about all of the unknowns ahead, I lay in my twin bed the night before the retreat feeling totally and utterly alone as a single tear dropped down my face and onto the dry, brown carpet below me.
I keep a relatively busy schedule and often feel like I have a lot on my plate. Some weeks it feels like my husband and I are running on several different schedules from one another, only connecting for brief moments maybe at dinner or a shared responsibility.