Ephesians 2:4-10 (NIV)
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians teaches us that we are God’s handiwork, body, soul, mind and spirit. We are the composition of God’s making and of all that we make of life; our choices and the legacy we leave behind, of our chosen eternal destiny. Time and experiences leave marks on each of us, and by these we measure ourselves and we are seen by others. It’s usually in our last days and hours that we give most serious thought to the composition of our life; how we see ourselves and are only seen by God.
Metaphorically, our life could be viewed as a woven fabric; start to finish, top to bottom, always in progress on the loom of life, a mosaic of colors and textures which display our humanness and spirituality over the entirety of our life time.
God has set our time on the loom; the number and quality of threads to be interwoven, the length of our life’s fabric, our days to live. Our fabric is made up of threads, some Warp and some Weft. God’s Grace is the warp threads that run vertically and evenly spaced through the fabric. These threads are strong and purposeful for our life and destiny. They catch and hold the interwoven weft threads (horizontally running filler threads) and together, make up the fabric of our life. God gives us free will to choose and weave in the weft threads which reflect who we are. Our choices of weft threads, the resultant mosaic of colors and textures unveil our human condition.
The ultra-brilliant, smooth and intricate threads reflect God’s gift of grace, Christ in us, when we have chosen faith in His redemptive work on the Cross. They form the most beautiful patterns of our mosaic. We gather more brilliant threads when our God-given new spirit (the I, the me of we), together with the Holy Spirit and Christ in us, communes with our Father. Each prayer of praise or petition, each song of praise flashed from the mirror of our heart back to heaven in remembrance of God’s words brings a bright thread to be woven into our fabric.
There are other brightly colored threads representing the active gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of our servanthood. Still more colors, a rainbow of threads depict our delight in our children and love of others. If we are fortunate to love and be loved by a spouse, a marriage centered on Christ, the threads reflect thousands of joyous moments together. The greater our love, the brighter the thread. These many bright colored threads are woven closest to the threads of Christ in us and are illuminated by His divine brilliance. In the texture of our cloth, these spiritual threads are raised to sight and touch like the letters of a fine monogram.
We also weave threads of inferiority and conflict with God’s will and purpose for us. These substandard threads are unattractive, dull in color and rough in texture. We have chosen them over time from spools of worldly deception, discord and distraction from God. Some are stained, as if bruised by unforgettable, painful memories and worries. Some are flattened, revealing un-forgiveness of self and others. Some are soiled and worn thin from addiction, petty cares, meaningless toil and stress, intolerance and self-importance. In places, the weave is open; threads broken by disappointments, the fabric is torn from our falling and stumbling in faith. The coarsest, dullest threads expose our times of doubting God’s word and perfect will for us or when we act as if we are our own god - these threads would dominate the fabric’s mosaic if it were not for the intermingled enduring, brilliant threads of Grace and Christ.
Weft threads are interwoven tightly, left to right, between the warp threads to make up the fabric’s mosaic of our life. The count of intricate, brilliant and bright colorful threads, like that of fine linen, reflects our spiritual richness. In our human condition, these may be in the minority, if the world preoccupies most of our time. Fortunately for us, the threads of Grace and Christ’s brilliance most attract the eye of The Father. He looks to His Son in us and unconditionally loves our spirit that is, by faith, already made new and perfect in Christ. Brilliant and bright, colorful threads represent our new spirit which cannot be shackled but remains free and unscathed, never bound to our human condition. Our new spirit belongs to God. If only we could grasp that truth!
If we could see the fabric of our life, as God does, we would see a landscape of colors and patterns from top to bottom, side to side. The colors and textures represent our emotional moments such as joy, peace, contentment, anxiety, anger, resentment, hatred, revolt, obedience and love. Turned on edge, we would see that our fabric has many peaks and valleys across its width and along its length, like the joys and sorrows and inconsistencies of our life. Whatever the shapes and colors, the quality of our fabric reflects our life’s journey and the legacy we will leave behind. Without Christ in us, our legacy would be disheartening and unremarkable. With Christ in us, even with our flaws and frailty, our legacy will be reassuring to others. We wrap ourselves in the fabric of our lives.
Our Heavenly Father sees our entire life’s fabric as a mosaic of His breathed spirit. He unites himself with all our sorrows and all our efforts. He sees our glory in Christ, as well as our frail human condition which culminates from our life choices and experiences. We are that woven fabric of life which He lovingly began in the womb with strong warp threads, to which we have added our choices of weft thread, intricately brilliant, bright and dull – a fabric of life that only He can complete, when He calls our Spirit home.
“..and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecc. 12:7 NIV)
When we have reached the number of our days, when our last breath is drawn, God removes us from life’s loom. He completes the work he began in the womb, when He gave us a spirit to seek out salvation. He will act on His immutable promise made when we confessed our belief in Christ. (John 3:16) Taking hold of our expended life’s fabric, he gently unravels the thousands upon thousands of weft threads. The dull, soiled, tarnished and broken ones fall away. He discards them forever. Only the brilliant intricate threads of Grace and Christ and the bright ones of our spiritual communion and servanthood remain. These He gathers in His Holy hands and transforms into our complete, perfect spirit that is forever set free from the fabric of our mortal condition. He places these holy threads in the immaculate, waiting hands of Jesus Christ - just as He purposed for us from ancient time, and in answer to His Son’s passionate prayer at Gethsemane.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17: 20 -23)
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”(John 17:24)
At home with Christ, we will be fully aware of God’s incomprehensible glory. God will manifest our spirit in a supernatural form such that we will see, hear and feel Him. We will be able to comprehend His magnificence in a way which escapes the fragile, human mind. We will know the completeness of perfect, divine love and will unconditionally love our Triune God. Being so loved, we can only love perfectly those whom we leave behind.
As a hospital Chaplain, I witness bereaved family members expressing thoughts about their loved one on death’s bed. Their recollections reflect the legacy of the dying to the individual; a survivor’s mind filled with fond memories and a hopeful heart. Another harbors un-forgiveness, with a hurting heart and despair. Some stand silent, unable to speak their cluttered thoughts. Some cry. Some pray. Still others are uncertain about eternity for the dying and themselves. Some openly share memories of a life passing. Others blurt out cruel remarks from long pent up anger or resentment.
In all instances, the family seems to be only aware of the physical aspect of the one dying. After all, that’s how they have experienced life with… or without that person. They cannot see one’s fabric of life. They cannot know one’s entire life story nor comprehend the culmination of God’s indescribable grace that is close at hand. Those who are closest may know one’s best qualities, where mutual love prevailed in those relationships. Such love is fostered by the mosaic of brilliant and bright threads known only to God. Most seem to be unaware of the human spirit that God made a real part of their loved one, a spirit perfected in Christ. They grieve, in part, because they cannot grasp the wholeness of God’s creation that is passing into eternity.
But God has always seen the wholeness of his creation; from first breath to the very last…always with a laser focus on the human spirit that He desires to make new in Christ and to set free by His grace. It is our new spirit that eternally belongs to Him and will soar home to Him at last breath. Our Father has seen the fabric of our life in its entirety. We are His handwork.
At the bedside of the dying, I imagine our Father reaching out to take the hand of the confessed believer in Christ, a blessed spirit long waiting for heaven. If in our last moments, at our last breath, we finally surrender our stubbornness and silently cry out for saving grace, God is willing make our spirit new. Heaven’s saints wait with baited breath for our decision. For, as paradise was promised the thief Dimas on the cross in his last hours (Luke 23:42-43), even one brilliant thread of our Redeeming Christ hastily woven by desperate faith into our fading fabric is sufficient for God to complete His reconciling work in us. This is for the sake of His infinite and magnificent glory. This is Gospel truth and must become the hope of our survivors. We know that our eternity depends on the indescribable and boundless grace of God.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death his faithful servant. (Psalm 116:15)
Heavenly Father, for your glory, make us keenly aware of the reality that our spirit was made new and perfect in Christ Jesus. Remind us that you created and purposed us for good works for your glory. Teach us that we are far more spirit than fragile flesh, that our new spirit is never bound by our physical condition nor can it be trapped in death. Grant that we may live, not encountering life in a physical, needy sense but in a way that honors you and sustains our spirit. As we walk in our human condition, let us always be content with Jesus Christ in us. Remind us, Great Shepherd, of your promise that we will dwell in your house forever. We thank you for your grace, for Christ our Redeemer and Your divine purpose for us. We eagerly await the day when you will gently unravel the fabric of our lives and take our spirit home. Amen.