Hey, guys! This is Colten! Welcome to Gospel Home Brew — a resource from River City Spokane. May the word of God brew in you today as we continue to seek Christ in the season of Advent.
I must admit, the story I’m about to tell is something that I did not want to share, but as I was preparing for this podcast, the Lord urged me to share this story with you.
So let’s just jump in.
About a month before Miranda and I got married we had the opportunity to experience, up-close, a marriage between two of my greatest friends. The wedding was picture-perfect — actually, it was better than that … it was Pinterest-perfect — even to someone like myself who was actually in the wedding (and that’s saying something because things like this aren’t always as they seem). But really, the wedding was beyond beautiful; in fact, I believe someone experienced the Lord’s love for the first time just by attending this wedding! Crazy, right?!
But the Lord used this wedding in another way …
By watching my best friends wholly give themselves to one another, the Lord began to stir within me a few things that were left untouched that needed to brought to light.
The semester prior, I intentionally took a marriage & family class that was offered, a class where we deconstructed cultural conceptions (and misconceptions) and openly hashed-out the paradigm for marriage, family, sex, etc. that God had set forth for his image-bearers. Simultaneously, my Spokane parents were mentoring me and Miranda in preparation for our marriage to come. Both of these were instrumental in the Lord’s work this semester. The Lord was shaping me — preparing me — and it was thrilling. But, as I said before, the Lord was using this season in ways I would have never imagined.
Just days after our friends’ wedding, I became quite restless. Though, this restlessness wasn’t new to me. This restlessness came from the Lord; perhaps it was the outcome of running from the Lord, but, call it what you will, the Lord was speaking to me, and I was being a Jonah by keeping busy and not choosing to listen.
When my restlessness finally caught up with me, the Lord gave me the courage to explore it — and it was terrifying. With my particular past, I knew I was carrying things into my marriage, things that I would never — I mean NEVER — speak of to another person. But, I also knew that I couldn’t be the husband and friend Miranda needed to be if she didn’t know me, the real me. I knew that I couldn’t get up in front of my family, my friends, and my covenant-community and give myself in marriage if it wasn’t wholly true. The Lord made it prayerfully aware to me that if I didn’t lay myself down to Miranda in this way, then my covenant vows would be promised from a sort of willful false pretense. I would be lying. I would be hiding. And, in doing so, I would be rejecting the very thing I sought after, as well as the very thing that I sought to give: love.
Then again, if she knew the person I was, if she knew the things that I was carrying into our marriage, there’s no way she’d stick around — and I wouldn’t blame her one bit.
Don’t get me wrong, I had shared much of myself with her by this point, even things somewhat related to what I am alluding to now, but this — this was an entirely different ball game.
I sincerely believed that I would be abandoned.
But here’s where the story took an unforeseen turn…
With Spirit-courage and yet crippling human-terror, I placed myself completely in the mercy of Miranda. Those things which suppressed me for years — gnawing away at my soul, preaching to me that I was unloveable — they were finally brought to the light and given into the hands of my beloved bride to be.
As I was sharing these secret parts of me, my mind was freaking out, thinking through questions like these: “What would she do? What would she say? Would the wedding be cancelled?”
But before these thoughts took to their disastrous end (as they had done for most of my life), Miranda embraced my trembling jaw, drenched with tears (and probably sweat, it was a humid midwest June after all), with an ever firm, yet ever gentle grasp, and said:
“I love you. I love you for who you are. You are not that person anymore. And even if you are, nothing would ever change my love for you.”
Whatever composure I was able to maintain up to that point was thrown out the window entirely, and we wept there, in that car, for what felt like a lifetime.
~ Love was never so tangible than in that moment ~
Miranda embodied everything that is the gospel. She was Jesus; she was Love made manifest; she was Emmanuel — God with us. Through the Spirit, Jesus dwelled in the person of Miranda, and, in a way never before experienced, she was able to minister the healing presence of love that Jesus seeks to give to us when we radically and recklessly confess our sin before him and the presence of his people. By experiencing this insane, stupid love that Miranda gave to me — which was COMPLETELY undeserved — I experienced but a taste of the overwhelming love of God that is freely given in Jesus.
It was in this that I was able to participate in the liberating-love that the Woman Caught knew so well, the liberating-love that she experienced when she heard the gentle mutterings of mercy and grace from Jesus’ very lips — “I do not condemn you. So, go — and leave your life of sin behind you.” (Jn 8:1-11)
Liberating-love is the mission of God’s Messiah. Liberating-love is also the essence of our Advent hope. When we listen to the prophets of God in the Old Testament we discover that oppression and exile had come about because of Israel’s sin. So, if Israel was set free from oppression and exile, that act of liberation would be, quite simply, the forgiveness sins. Freedom and forgiveness are flip-sides of the same coin — you cannot have one without the other. This freedom-forgiveness, this liberating-love, is the mission of the Messiah.
In chapter three of John’s gospel, the Messianic-mission is communicated like this:
God’s love for the world was made manifest in this way: by giving — and sacrificing — the divine Son, the God-man, Jesus, so that no one remains lost, so that no one remains captive, but instead receives life, a life that is defined by redemption and love.
God’s Messiah did not come to condemn humanity, but to redeem humanity from their oppression and exile, to redeem it from their sin.
Humanity is already bound and gagged, taken captive by its captors, living in exile and suffering from a sort of spiritual Stockholm Syndrome. But with love unwavering, the Messiah came to be a Light, a liberating-light, amidst the oppressive darkness and those within it; and those who come to the Light, those who cling to the Light and embrace the liberating-love of the Messiah Jesus, they will be rescued. (John 3:16-19a)
This is the Advent message; this is Emmanuel — “God with us.”
Today, we find ourselves living between Advent and Advent — (1) between the first great Advent, the coming of the Son into the world, (2) and the second Advent, when he shall come again in power and glory to bring about — fully — the merging of heaven and earth in the Kingdom of God.
The Advent season is simply an intentional season of time where we — the Liberty-people — delight in the of the love of God as we wait for, prepare for, and rejoice in the Advent — the coming — of our Messiah, Jesus.
Just as Miranda loved me, just as Jesus liberated the Woman Caught, just as God remained faithful to his beloved Israel, there is nothing we can do that would separate us from the liberating-love of God.
We live between the two great Advents of God’s Messiah, and we have been commissioned to be mediators — both givers *and* receivers — of this liberating-love. All of us lived in the darkness, and all of us loved it; but those of us who have been liberated by Emmanuel’s love, we know life.
Perhaps the greatest gift you can give someone this Advent season isn’t a gift in the traditional sense — perhaps it is love. I challenge you to use this Advent season as a opportunity to slow down and explore what the Lord doing in your life. Are you restless? Are you hurting? Are you angry? Are you lifeless? Perhaps you are distracting yourself with the holiday rhythms, and, in turn ignoring the Lord and being “a Jonah,” like me.
What is the Lord whispering to you? What is he inviting you to do? What do you need freed from? Pray for holy-boldness and explore your heart — but have courage! For our Messiah, Emmanuel, is with you — always.
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”