Yesterday’s post was set in motion by a fireworks extravaganza that I attended/worked last Saturday night on my employer’s campus. It was a beautiful show that rivaled most city or sporting event fireworks displays.
Our nations independence was wrought through much courage, much blood, and much determination. Near the end of the Revolutionary war, Brittish General Cornwallis settled in at Yorktown to attempt to avert the creeping reality that the upstart Colonialists (with France as an ally) had done the unthinkable and not only held their own against England, but they were going to win the war. George Washington’s army, along with French assistance, besieged and bombarded Cornwallis and eventually made Yorktown the last major war theater on American soil in the Revolution. Cornwallis surrendered his army on October 19, 1781. The Treaty of Paris, ushering in America’s end in the conflict, was signed September 3, 1783.
Notice the dates. It’s interesting the five year, and then seven year, difference between America’s Declaration of Independence, and the end of the war. In fact, it was the Declaration of Independence that began the most bloody and devastating portion of the conflict. This is the reality of war and life.
Spiritually, as well, our declaration of independence comes long before our realization of independence. The in-between time while those two conditions are coming together is what we call “the Christian life”. Theologically there is no lag time. Positionally we are free from the moment the forgiveness of Christ gives us new life in Him, but if we were to think that we suddenly walk streets of gold without care or difficulty from that moment forward, we would be mistaken.
We fight. We scrape. We weep. We trust. We lean. We wrestle. We fall. We rise.
During the fireworks display there was a point near the middle that they began a fake finale’. I’ve read a little about this. Maybe it depends on the company policy, or the amount of money the requester put out for the show, or maybe the guy lighting the fuses just has to be a little bit playfully sadistic, but big fireworks shows will often have a fake finale’. Maybe near the middle, maybe closer to the end, there is an onslaught of rockets and explosions and some that you haven’t seen before, and they are obviously coming with more frequency than before. The sky doesn’t give you as much time to prepare for the explosions, they come one after the other, multiple tails of sparkle in the sky at one time. But then when they dwindle, there’s a temptation to politely clap, or at least go ahead and start feeling cheated. And just as one person, maybe two, have started folding up their chairs, there’s that signature sound of one more rocket screaming into the sky. We hang on our seats, hoping that there’s another, pleading for a sign that it wasn’t just a left over…and then they resume their one-at-a-time, then two-at-a-time show.
This happened last Saturday night. The fake finale’.
How many hard fought victories felt like the end of the Revolution for Washington and his men? I don’t know. But I can almost guarantee that there were a few. A few moments when they thought, “its been tough, but I think we’ve broken their backs now boys.” But then, the next day, more fighting.
How many struggles do we drag ourselves through spiritually? Addictions. Fears. Propensities. Sickness. Hate. Cowardice. All of these things. And how many times do we get through one and think, and hope, and pray, that this was the last one. “Beulah Land bound now”, we think, but the relief we thought we would feel isn’t quite as relieving as we’d hoped. And the water doesn’t taste any sweeter, surely not like a draw from that Crystal River will taste like. We may have a night of rest, or even a week or a month, but the fighting resumes. Our weariness, at times, becomes almost unbearable.
But Saturday night wasn’t over for us. We had drawn our attention to the skies. We had settled in for the promise of dazzle. And we had been fooled by a fake finale’.
But friends, the finale’ came.
And when the finale’ came, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was it. We “oooed” and “awwwed” at the overwhelming number of rockets launched simultaneously. And I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “how stupid to think that fake was the actual finale’…I know a finale’ when I see it.” There was indeed a silent agreement, among the thousands of us underneath that glorious display, that we had all been disappointed before. We didn’t want to admit it right off, but now, we were ready to be honest. THIS was the finale’.
Could it be that we get fooled into thinking that the incremental victories and the small skirmishes that we encounter in our spiritual lives are finale’s? Do we place the weight of our impatience upon those things, praying that those would be the moments that we find the “missing pieces”? Though we might be embarrassed to say it at times, not wanting to offend our families, pets, or our own rational sensibilities, but if we were honest could we at least admit that our souls are desperate for the finale’?
We’ve been waiting. Mankind has been pining for it for century after wide century. We have tried to make this movement and that movement a finale’, but they never seem to fit the expectations of our hearts. And how did those infernal expectations get so high in the first place? And how, for the love of God, did they get planted so deep in us that we can’t seem to alter them and simply be satisfied with a lesser finale’?
Friends, I encourage you today, when the finale’ comes…not one of us will wonder if “this is it”. When our Savior turns our eyes skyward, it won’t be to fool us, nor for us to once again walk away unsatisfied. His flaming eyes will ignite the kindling of our hearts in such a way that not only will we see the finale’ but we will be a part of it. As the band of burning hearts, waiting so long for their spark, catch ablaze the entire world will watch us streak, flaming across the sky to our Lord’s side. There will be no sense of loss. There will be no disappointment. There will be no crevasse of our soul left un-flooded with His majesty and fire.
I talk about the finale’ today because I’ve been told that this is the way we encourage each other. Just as there were whispers in the crowd last Saturday night when the realization of the fake finale’ was apparent, we are told to encourage each other by reminding one another that those small, partially-fulfilling finale’s that we experience are not the real thing.
Hebrews 10:1, 23-25
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.