This is a time in my life when my nest is supposed to be empty - for reasons good and reasons bad. No family is immune to enemy encroachment. No, not one. But here in my home, God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemy.
One or two family relationships strained for Christ's sake, but never estranged. Bent, never broken. Grace and truth, working in tandem, both oars in the water, as we navigate. Every day, we talk, text, teach....and pray for the wayward ones. Especially the wayward ones.
We love them enough to live the gospel out - never for a moment quiet about the reality of our magnificent obsession, Christ in us, the hope of glory. Backing down from the reality of Who we know Him to be is not something we've ever done, no not for our closest friends or even our children. This gospel of grace is what makes the cost of discipleship so utterly reasonable.
And so, though the nest is supposed to be empty, the nest stays full. By "full", I don't mean one or two extra. Tonight, there are eight here, gathered round the table, playing board games with loud laughter. We didn't plan it...it just always turns out this way.
You see, in a family or in a church, so-called works of righteousness are a moot point without grace. Love is just a concept in an empty room. There is no love without someone there TO love, to be patient with, to believe the best of. I can indeed give my body to be burned, and be missing the whole point. I can talk about Christian perfection all day long, but if I am talking to an empty room...well, I'm not about the business of loving people, am I? I'm about the business of loving the sound of my own voice.
No one is listening.
Without an understanding of the grace of God, all my disciplines and all my efforts become hackneyed, hatchet-faced hard-ball...and no one builds a relationship on that. No one is listening.
And in families (as well as churches) without at least a relationship, there is nothing to work from. There is no point of contact, no position of strength, no conversation to listen to, no place for tough and tender love to be made manifest.
Life in this cottage is so painful, right about now. Life in this cottage is so good, right about now, and I'm not even kidding. "Good" and "painless" are not synonymous. Sort of like how "perfection" and "beauty" are not the same.
He makes everything beautiful in His time. There aren't enough decades available, not in this life, for everything to be made perfect. But I can look around and find evidence of beauty in my life, at all times in all seasons.
Such fullness. Grace truly accomplishes what the law never could.