Friday, September 25, 2009

Gatekeepers of Eternal Beauty

A while ago I used the phrase “Gatekeeper of Eternal Beauty” to describe a very dear friend, and it’s become a recurring theme ever since. As Christians, we long for transcendence. We want our lives to count for something infinitely bigger than just the random nothings that the world tells us are so important. But how do we do it, especially when we face so many distractions in our daily lives. I want to offer a suggestion: we need to surround ourselves with Gatekeepers of Eternal Beauty and follow their examples.

In the New Testament, Paul personally taught Timothy how to be a pastor, and then exhorted Timothy to teach others, and for those others to teach others, too. Today, we also need these kinds of Gatekeepers, these friends and mentors who are further down the road of the Christian life than we are. They’ve seen the beauty of God, the Gospel, and eternity better than we have yet, so we spend time with them because we want to think their good thoughts after them, and follow their example. We mimic their hearts and lives so the eternal beauty that’s reflected in their lives gets imprinted onto our lives, too, so that we, too, can increasingly reflect that same beauty to others.

Gatekeepers are not easy to find. They are few and far between, but they are definitely worth the search. If you find a Gatekeeper, befriend him or her as if your life depends on it—because, in one sense, it does. A Gatekeeper watches out for our best interest, often because he or she has already been down the road we’re about to take and knows the dangers we will face. If we want a victorious journey, we must take heed to their exhortations and encouragements.

A Gatekeeper of Eternal Beauty is a student of beauty, a lover of goodness, and a seeker of truth. A Gatekeeper is someone who sees beyond the façade of daily life, and even of a whole lifetime, to eternity, to heaven, to the Gospel, to ultimate reality—the way God sees things. A Gatekeeper is someone who understands that our preoccupation with eternity and the Gospel doesn’t just affect our future status in glory, but our daily life today as well. God has woven His story and His beauty into our daily lives, right here and now. Gatekeepers love life, not because their lives are perfect, but because their hearts know the One who put all the beauty into life, and they are blissfully overwhelmed by Him and by what He does in their lives.

A Gatekeeper is not only a pursuer of beauty, goodness, and truth, but is also a guardian, a sentry who makes sure that we do not lose touch with those issues which matter most. In a metaphorical, shepherding sense, they help us know which gates to enter and depart from, and they send us in the right direction.

Becoming a Gatekeeper happens to those whose worldviews are entrenched and wrapped up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This world is utterly dark until we understand and receive the forgiveness of God through Christ, who died in our place, as our Substitute on the Cross. That truth, the Gospel, is the cornerstone of all beauty in our lives. Sadly, few of us plumb its depths and its massive implications for the beauty that our lives can enjoy. Why? Because we do not understand how to take the truths we hear and read and reach to the depths of our worldview.

Reprogramming our worldview is not as easy as we may think. Changing our worldview is not about taking a class or reading a book. We can change our beliefs fairly easily, but not our worldviews. They are deeply hidden inside us, and though they get easily programmed when we are children, they get harder and harder to change as we grow up. In fact, it’s difficult to even identify them. A worldview is not what you think about; it’s simply what you think.

Very often our beliefs and our worldviews are polar opposites, even though we don’t necessarily realize it. For example, we can truly believe that life is beautiful, but have worldviews that “know” on a deeper level that life is sad and disappointing. Or we can truly believe that our bodies are good, because God made them, but on a worldview level we may hate our bodies. We can adhere to something in principle, but not really “buy it” internally. And in the contest of belief versus worldview, worldview always wins.

Gatekeepers are people who have deliberately asked God to push eternity into the depths of their thinking and to reprogram their worldview. In Romans 12, after Paul plumbed the depths of the Gospel, the very first way he applies that great theology is by exhorting us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. God wants our minds—our worldviews—renewed.

God takes such willing servants and grants them the desires of their hearts, which He Himself planted there. He shapes them into seasoned warriors, passionate poets, more prepared than ever to minister grace to those around them. He makes them better able to cry out to God in prayer than ever before. He gives them eyes to see the angels coming down from the mountain that no one else can see. He helps them see that He really does bring beauty from ashes.

As God transforms our worldviews, He puts into us a greater capacity for joy, and a deep gratitude for the good things in life that He grants us. But whether every dream of ours comes true or not, we find ourselves realizing more and more that life’s beauty does not come from God becoming our personal Genie Who grants all our wishes. We find that beauty is already all around us. Our eyes lose the scales that were over them, and we find our hearts welling up to the point of overflowing. We find ourselves smiling at everyone we meet, not because our lives are perfect, but because no matter what storm we may face, we have the settled conviction that God knows everything that is happening in our lives and has a plan for our good and His glory.

A heart set on fire with that worldview cannot help but want to cherish life and soak in the beauty all around us. The Gospel takes us to the point where we want to give and give and give, to be “wasted for Christ.” A heart set on fire for God knows how much it’s been chosen, forgiven, loved, wooed, cherished, and protected. Gatekeepers put all of life’s circumstances through that paradigm—that filter, that grid. As with all of life, any particular situation isn't just about that situation; it's about something much bigger. It’s about the Gospel and about ultimate reality, about how the circumstances of our lives reflect or explain God's character, His salvation plan, and heaven. There is a always massive theme going on behind the scenes, and though we can't see it yet, it's there.

If your heart is focused on God’s beauty, you will find that you will naturally surround yourself with Gatekeepers because those cherished moments in their company are what make life seem healthy, whole, and beautiful. You’ll find yourself asking them what they are reading, what they’ve been thinking about, what songs they’ve been singing, and what kind of art they’ve been enjoying or creating. You’ll find that you have conversations that you look back on with amazement. The cheap stuff of life—the gossip, the celebrities, the tv shows, the pursuit of more and more “stuff”—will show its true colors, and will sicken you. You won’t reject the cheap side of life because a preacher told you to, or because you read about it in a book; you will reject it because you really want to, and you will replace it with the true beauty—God’s beauty. Changing our worldviews is not about setting up a list of dos and don’ts; it’s about truly wanting to pursue God, from the heart.

Some of us might feel discouraged by these concepts because though we want that kind of life, we feel like it’s out of reach. If you don’t feel like much of a Gatekeeper, like you really want to be but can’t imagine how you’ll ever get there, take heart. Chances are you’re already on the path and don’t realize it. The key is not our perfection, but our direction. We don’t need to focus on where we think we should be or could be by now. We need to ask ourselves what makes our heart soar and what makes us feel like we are home. We need to ask ourselves what are the deepest desires of our hearts. If what you want most in life is to tell others about what God has done for them in Christ, and to glorify God with your life, and enjoy and share the beauty He’s given us in Himself and in His creation, then you are already well on the way to being a Gatekeeper. You’re already marching to the beat of a different drum than the world; keep marching. May we not grow weary.

To all that is beautiful, good, and true,

--Tim

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