More Life Lessons from County
Luke 23:44,45 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
At our local jail yesterday for bible study, I was greeted by a big smile and hug from Tom. I asked him how he was doing and why he was smiling. He is always smiling, but I thought I would ask this time. He responded that he, like the apostle Paul, could say, I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content… I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11,13).
There he was, sitting in jail for at least another eight months, smiling and telling me that his joy does not rely on his temporal circumstances. I tried hard not to be annoyed by the lesson I knew to be true. I was irritated though, not by Tom’s joy or wisdom, but by my own defect. The truth is, I often allow worldly circumstances to undermine my peace and joy. My mood is frequently soured by the smallest inconvenience as I allow other people or events to choose my attitude.
Tom’s point was that though he does not like jail, his ultimate reality brings him true joy. While penitent and sad over his destructive behavior, he has the perspective that even incarcerated, he can enjoy a right relationship with God. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, he can spend the rest of his life in the manifest presence of God.
As Jesus gasped his dying breaths on the cross, the sun darkened, the earth shook and the temple curtain was torn in two. That curtain, which had hung for centuries as the symbolic and tangible barrier between a holy God and imperfect man, was rent, allowing all free access to the father. This means that because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can live perpetually in the presence of the One who created the universe.
Tom admitted that jail had made this reality obvious to him. On the outside, distracted by the desires of the flesh, he had sown the seeds of his own destruction. Here, in jail, where so much had been stripped away, he was able to see his greater reality.
This life will bring pain and sorrow. There is no escaping that fact. If we rely on this temporal existence for joy and peace, we will be subject to its violent inconsistencies. Though our fleshly, temporal existence often seems more real, it will, in the end, turn to dust. Our earthly lives are temporal and as but a drop in the grand river of time. A thousand years from now, very little that we deem important today will matter. Only our spirit lives will remain.
In jail, Tom gained this perspective. Though he has very little of the freedom that you and I enjoy, he is able to live the reality of the torn curtain. He can see that his joy and peace are not subject to his sad, painful circumstances but rather depend on living in the continual presence of God.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.