Absent in the Spring

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This morning I read chapters 12 through 14 in the book of Job, the words of a man alternately addressing God and his deluded comforters in the midst of his suffering. Immediately after, I read the first chapter of Luke. The juxtaposition of the two readings left a strange sensation, a net of chiaroscuro, light and shadow, the sunrise of salvation and the nihilism of pain.

Oddly, there came to my mind, Agatha Christie’s psychological novel, Absent in the Spring, and Shakespeare’s sonnet from which it drew its title.

Sonnet 98

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him,
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

Caught in the pain of loss, the poet’s world is colored by it. What used to penetrate his senses with beauty now sharpens the knife’s edge of absence. Everything is a shadow of what it once was or ought to be and he is deeply aware of it.

Not so the narrator of the psychological Christie novel. She is absent to her own loss, that is, she doesn’t know what she’s missing. For a brief time an awareness of her loss, her failure to “be there” for those she claims to love, all of life that she’s failed to see and missed, cuts into her consciousness. Her grief is almost unendurable and she is overwhelmed by regret. She determines to change and make amends. But the moment passes like a mirage in the desert heat. She returns to her narcissistic life “absent” once again, oblivious to the misery of those who need her the most.

The pain of loss absorbs Job’s consciousness. But he engages with God through it all. While his “comforters” try to justify his suffering, Job goes straight to the One who can get him though it. He will not “curse God and die” as his wife advises. He will not absent himself to his suffering. He will neither deny it nor flee from it. Instead, in his suffering he looks for God. He remembers who God is. He knows that whatever the season, the summer of abundance or the winter of loss, God is unchanging, steadfast in love and faithfulness and sovereign in power. This knowledge emboldens Job and shores up his hope so that he doesn’t fall into the despair with which Satan  tempts us during hard times.

It is the first chapter of Luke that puts it all in perspective. This is where Christ’s birth is announced. Zechariah breaks into a joyful song of expectation and Mary bursts into a paean of praise as her spirit rejoices in God her Savior. Jesus’s birth breaks into history, the history of the world and our own personal history. His birth is pivotal to our understanding of temporal loss because His birth is the moment in time when the eternal becomes more real, more true, more present than absence caused by loss, whether the loss of health or loss through death.

His presence overtakes the absence. His reality in history, in the flesh, through His death and resurrection, overshadows everything. Eternity trumps the temporal. And by the word of God through the Holy Spirit we glean it daily as God who suffered here on earth suffers yet with us, making more real to us the glory that awaits us when we see Him face to face.

Praise God for that day!


Job 19: 25 (NASB)
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.”

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Hebrews 2: 14-15 (ESV) 
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

The Light that Passed and Shone Forever

In the midst of suffering, grief, pain, and loss, the hope of glory we have through Christ Jesus is our sustaining grace. One day we shall see with our own eyes our Redeemer, when with the beloved ones we are reunited with, we shall hear “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!'” (Rev. 5:13, ESV)

What a glorious day that will be!

Wallie's Wentletrap

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The Light that Passed and Shone Forever (348 Words)

Some people will tell you that when you lose someone, you grieve and move on. They tell you, and rightfully so, that the loved one who passed would not want to see you sad. They would want to see you as they knew you, living and alive. But if you have ever truly loved, and if you have lost, how can you not miss the one you will never see in this world again? How can your soul not be shaken by a separation so sudden, so wrong?

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Death’s Shadow

A friend told me once that she was most afraid of failing to die well. It was a glorious warm and sunny day and in the middle of it, just out of the blue, she says she’s worried about death.

We live in the shadow of death. Like winter, we know it is coming. We must be ready. An ominous chill, the harbinger of death, the first frost settles on the green leaves of summer, stealing life, sapping strength, leaves turning, withering, falling in the autumn rain. No power on earth can turn back the hands of time. A casket stands by an open grave.

It’s not simply that life has an end, that death has the last word. It’s not simply that death brings us to the end of ourselves as well.

Continue reading “Death’s Shadow”

At 5:30 A.M.

An awakening: into steady loss
Dreams escaping into the darkness before dawn
Beloved voice cut short, echoing in the void
To a bereaved daughter, groping
Her way past slumbering husband and child
To a lamplit corner in the pulpit shadow of her father
Cold apparition reaching beyond the grave
Promising all he had failed to give her
Had given to countless others in passing
Like confetti, in deliberate clerical abandon,
Overlooking the child craving him, idolizing
With all the passion of the forgotten lonely.

She sat now in disciplined lamplight
Opening the Scripture chapter by chapter
As if to uncover the key to all mythologies
Of the patriarch, under headstone, after all these years
By her alone lamented, having rested in the peace
He had never thought to reveal to her, to say to her,
That she by grace had a Father who chapter by chapter
Spoke to her His love, a Father who would never fail her.

Many times I think of her172px-StAlbansFiveDock_StainedGlass_JesusKnock
And many times in prayer
Many times I’ve wept for her
Wondering through the years
If she ever heard the still small voice
That called her in the dawn
The voice of our dear Savior
Each day
At 5:30 A.M.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20 ESV)