Friday, June 09, 2006

You Stood By Me

I’d like to share a poem by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, which describes his sacrifice of faith to atheistic intellectual pursuits and his later recovery of faith. Perhaps anyone who has lost and found his precious faith can relate to this.

When did I so utterly, totally,
Strew the good grain like chaff to the winds
And shun those same temples where all through my youth
I was lulled by Your radiant hymns?

My dazzling book-garnered wisdom proved more than
This arrogant brain could withstand.
The world with its secrets spread open before me
And Fate was but wax in my hands.

Each new surge of blood as it pounded within me
Lured me on with shimmering hues,
While the faith in my heart, like a building deserted,
Crumbled, soundless, and slipped into ruin.

But picking my way between life and extinction,
Now falling, now scrambling back,
I gaze through new eyes at the life I once followed
And gazing, I shudder with thanks.

It was not my own intellect, not my desiring
That illumined each twist in my path
But the still, even light of a Higher design,
That only with time I could grasp.

And now, as I sip with new-found moderation
From the life-giving waters—I see
That my faith is restored, O Lord of Creation!
I renounced You, but You stood by me.

The whole story could be summed up in the last line—perhaps the story of each of our lives, in one way or another. There is something beautiful expressed here about the nature of God. First of all, He does not deal with us in strict justice, making every punishment fit every crime. But He also doesn’t deal with us in a kind of condescending generosity, either: “You have done evil, but now that you have at last decided to amend your ways, I, in my great magnanimity, deign to grant you pardon.” Instead, He is right there with us the whole time, standing by us even as we renounce Him.

God is the Father of prodigal children. No one has to notify Him of our return, because He has been watching for us with love and longing the whole time. He sent his Son to stand by us as one of us, even as we renounced, condemned and crucified Him through our sin and rejection of his love. But He doesn’t go away; He doesn’t give up. He stands by us, offering us his Spirit of Truth and Love to open our eyes and touch our hearts. He waits as long as He has to. And when our faith is at length restored, his joy is even greater than ours! He doesn’t read us the list of our sins and demand an explanation for each, or force upon us the awareness of what it cost Him to forgive us—though all of this will be clear to us anyway, just by standing in the pure light of divine truth. He can speak only the truth to us, but He does so with infinite tenderness: “You renounced Me, but I stood by you.” Our response determines our eternal destiny. If we remain hardened in sin (if it is possible once we become aware of this divine compassion), then those words will be our sentence, and will burn in our ears for all eternity. But if we have even a shred of humanity left in us, our tears will burn our cheeks long before hellfire can ever come near us, and those words will be the inspiration for endless hymns of thanksgiving and worship.

No matter what, He stands by us. Let us resolve never to renounce Him again, but let us drink from the life-giving waters of restored faith and renewed love as we commit ourselves to follow the ways of his Higher design. And let us remember that there are those in our lives who in one way or another renounce us: let us stand by them, waiting in prayer for the grace of Him who has stood by us.