O Father of lights, with Whom is neither variableness nor shadow of turning, from Your hand receive we every gift, each one good and perfect. Naught have we of our own; nothing do we possess that we were not given. Our open hands know not for what they grasp, but discover themselves filled with goodness and blessing from Your bounty.
You are life; You have life in Yourself; You are the source of all living. Our being, frail and small, races ever toward dissolution. Our little existences, propped up moment-by-moment from without, depend incessantly upon You. Ceaselessly Your life-gift pours into us, else we would straight away unform, undo, and unbe. Without life from Your Life, we could neither stand, nor sense, nor say, nor even sin. Your Life is the light that ignites our own tiny sparks.
Made like beasts as to our bodies, we share their need for breath. Athirst, we cannot even weep without water. Hungered, we cannot thrive without food. Naked, we cannot abide without cover. Weary, we cannot mend without rest. Your eye, which sees the sparrow’s plight, perceives our want. Your bounty, which clothes the lilies, attends to our lack. From Your good hand receive we bread and breath, hearth and health.
Made within like You (splendid likeness!) we stand on display, images of Your self-disclosure, each a little lens to focus Your perfections in the eyes of our fellows. Like Your own dance, step-to-three, in eternal, transparent, intertwining compenetration, so do our meetings and partings, our greetings and doings, signify Your personhood. Not made for ourselves, we crave other eyes to peer through us into Your selfless self. Thus we yearn for love and trust and human care, for we are Your image. Before we know our need, You, Who hold counsel from eternity, have already encircled us with multiplied intimacies. Or ever we can speak their names, You grant us parents, brothers, and friends. Before we grasp their purpose, You bestow spouses and children. Delights these are indeed, but not private enjoyments. Lacking their eyes to focus upon You, our little lens would grow dark and our purpose remain empty. Our fulfillment lies in making You seen, in magnifying Your perfections for the eyes of others. We need Him Whom we image; we need also them to whom we image. Your infinite wisdom has foreseen and fore-granted our need in goodness and mercy.
Mirrors we are, made to reflect your person, but mirrors now shattered. Eager to see ourselves in ourselves, we did twist back upon ourselves and did burst the glass. We cannot paste ourselves back into place, for the broken facets of our visage now reflect a contorted mosaic. Is brokenness better than unbeing? Yet still we bend, and twist, and burst again the shards.
You might have swept us aside. In what desolate place should we lie, forever contemned, cast out as a danger? What need have You of broken glass?
But we are not rejected! For He, in Whose likeness we are, came finally to be in our likeness, too. The Original (without ceasing to be original) became image; the Countenance (without ceasing to be the countenance) became mirror. Into our brokenness this Firstborn mediates and radiates the one, flawless representation of Your invisible perfection. Made one of us, but unbroken, He shines as You meant us to shine, and more! For He is we unbroken, and He is You.
Into the vast, liquid expanse of Your brightness You gather all the broken bits of our shattered visage. To be forgiven is not to be ignored! For the sake of His infinite pain You take infinite pains with every still-reflecting splinter. What we could never repair, He refashions in Himself, and out of brokenness You create variegated vessels of glory, reflecting and refracting perfection in thousand-fold splendor.
Thus You are making us in Him. From You we receive the forgiveness of sins (so freely! so freely!), not so that we may escape the pains of brokenness, but so that Your countenance may be seen in its utter wholeness. When the glory of Your presence finally bursts upon every eye, our once-shattered fragments, now redeemed and fused and shaped by Your grace, will sparkle and glisten with the manifold perfection of Your being. Finite eyes that could never comprehend the Whole will behold in our multiplied facets each reflected aspect of Your goodness and greatness and glory.
O Lord Who fills all in all, we marvel at Your great gifts: life and breath, provision and relation, redemption and glorification. These gifts are not many, but one. You have made us for Yourself, to be Your possession, but You have given Yourself to us as our lot and portion. We rejoice, for in the end nothing satisfies us except You, and nothing fulfills us except to be Yours. This is the delight of our souls: to gaze upon You, to behold Your perfection, to lose ourselves so completely in You that we become more truly ourselves than we have ever been, and to know that You are God.
For Yours is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Christopher Smart (1722-1771)
Christ, keep me from the self—survey
Of beauties all Thine own;
If there is beauty, let me pray,
And praise the Lord alone.
Pray—that I may the fiend withstand,
Where’er his serpents be;
Praise— hat the Lord’s almighty hand
Is manifest in me.
It is not so—my features are
Much meaner than the rest;
A glow-worm cannot be a star,
And I am plain at best.
Then come, my Love, Thy grace impart,
Great Savior of mankind;
O come and purify my heart
And beautify my mind.
Then will I Thy carnations nurse
And cherish every rose,
And empty to the poor my Purse
Till grace to glory grows.
|This essay is by Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). Not every professor, student, or alumnus of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.|