Forgive the length of this blog, but in order to better illustrate my thoughts I am going to share with you a parable from rabbinic literature.
What is the difference between love and fear/awe? They gave the following parable. To what can this be compared? – To a king who had servants/slaves, one that loved him and feared him and one that feared him but did not love him. The king went off to a faraway land. The servant who loved him and feared him went and planted gardens and orchards with all choice types of fruit, while the servant who feared the king and did not love him did nothing. When the king returned from the faraway land and saw the gardens and orchards with all the choice types of fruit, he set before himself the choice fruits to be in accord with the approach of the servant who loved him. When the servant came before the king and saw all the choice fruits set out before the king, he was relieved/felt satisfied in the presence of the king’s joy. However concerning the servant who feared the king but did not love him the following happened – when the king entered his house and saw all the rubble of disrepair, the king then set pieces of rubble before himself in accord with the approach of that servant. When the servant who feared the king came before him and saw the rubble set out before the king, he was shaking in utter fear before the wrath of the king. As it is written: (Psalms 111:5) “He gives food to those who fear him” – That’s in this world. You thus learn that the reward of the loving servant is 2 portions while that of the fearful servant is one. Therefore the nations of the world merit eating their rewards only in this world while Israel merits doing so in both worlds. As it is written: (song on Songs 8:7) “Vast floods cannot quench love. “House of Israel I am your atonement in all your places of settlement,” for when Israel circumcises their sons, studies Tanach, or studies Mishna, they doit only out of love for their Father in Heaven.
My main thoughts were generated in the first part of this parable, the part that deals with the king addressing his servants and bringing before him their respective fruit or rubble. There have been times in my life where I know that if Jesus had returned then and there that I would have nothing but rubble to present to The King, maybe with a few small fruits scattered on the ground. I would have been the one shaking out of fear before the wrath of my Great and Mighty King. I know that I am not alone in being able to identify the rubble remains in my life. I know that in all honesty, if we were to all look back into our past, maybe even into the present, that we would all find some pretty significant rubble that we would never think fit to present to a king. But of course, in the time that we’re breaking down that beautiful piece of work he calls his children (in this case our own lives) we don’t really think about the fact that we’re eventually going to have to show Him the rubble mess that we’ve created of His beautiful treasure.
But here’s where the sad story of our destructive nature takes a turn. While I know, at least for me personally, that I have created some ridiculous ruins and rubble, that I have also seen some rubble/ruins overgrown by beauty (in this case very literally). In order to better make my point I’ll digress a bit. Being that I’m in Israel this semester I have seen my fair share of broken down remains that have been untouched for x amount of years. While some of them have been reconstructed to help show mass amounts of tourists what they may have looked like, I have also seen ruins that have been left almost untouched, overgrown with weeds (which for the most part look so much like beautiful wildflowers to the point that I can’t tell the difference) and wild plants that there is something even more awe-inspiring about them than if I was just looking at nature without the ruins.
So its with that image in mind that I came to a bit of a realization. While we make ruins out of our lives sometimes, nothing is impossible for our Saviour God to fix. And yes, the ruins are huge, disasterous, and echo of the past that we are mostly ashamed of, but God will redeem them and reclaim them for himself. The ruins are not going anywhere, they become a part of who we are. It is when we turn the mess we’ve made over to God that he begins to grow up the beautiful wildflowers of nature around the brokenness and make them into something even more beautiful than we could have imagined possible with the haunting ruins we thought would never change. So while the ruins remain, they have been taken back by God and made into something that demands that whoever beholds it turn and glorify Him. He makes us beautiful WITH our ruins not DESPITE of our ruins.
There is something more spectacular about ruins overcome by nature than nature alone. While undisturbed nature is gorgeous beyond compare, knowing that something once was and then was destroyed and is now taken back by God causes us to worship the Most High God who reverts all back to Him and to His glory. Both undisturbed nature and the ruins given back to God reflect His greatness. The ruins, however, epitomize the grace, mercy, and love that God provides for those of us who have come in and made a ruin-filled mess of the treasure of life that God gave us. God graciously takes us back and makes us beautiful in a way that a people of ruins can be.
It is in this that I find my comfort. I am a woman of ruins. My ruins echo of things that I hate to admit happened; an empire that I built up that was destined to crash. But, My God, the Great Healer, the Perfect Gardener, Lover of my soul, Saviour King came into the mess of rubble I left and grew up the beautiful garden around the mess and gave me something to be able to glorify Him in every story I share and every day that I live. And it is that beautifully restored ruin garden that I will present to Him in the end, and I will be satisfied in the presence of His joy.