I have never been a fan of allegory. Or symbolism. I like my stories straight-forward. Many people deeply love The Pilgrim’s Progress. I struggled to get through it. And, while I love my “uncle” C.S. Lewis’s writings (not really my uncle, but I like to claim him as such), I still, to this day, don’t see what others see in The Chronicles of Narnia. There are a few sections that I understand deeply–such as when Eustace has his dragon skin peeled off–but, for the most part, I don’t see it.
Revelation is like that for me.
I listened to a sermon on Revelation 4 this morning. Such an odd book. And I don’t really know enough about it to be able to classify it as allegory or symbolism, or both. Or is it reality? Gosh, if it is, it is strange stuff. Odd creatures, dazzling colors, the number “7” everywhere you look, lampstands and burning coals……and elders wearing white robes.
Who are these elders, in their whiter than white robes, and golden crowns? Three of four different theological frameworks that I examined on this point to these 24 white-robed elders as being symbolic of all of the redeemed. Of Christ-followers.
Of you, if you are a Christ-follower.
That is hard to grasp.
Part of me wants one of those white robes….badly. Because what I am wearing now is filthy rags. The sin of pride. The sin of hurting those I love deeply. The sin of laziness. Of being judgmental. Of lack of compassion—so often. Most early mornings, I approach God with my confessions. I know He forgives me, though I often do not “feel” forgiven–mainly because by noon, I’ve usually messed up again. I’m like the kid who, within 15 minutes of being dressed in their Easter outfit, reaches for the melted chocolate bunny and chows down. Disaster.
I know this verse full well:
So, my desire for a white robe that is permanent–a robe of brilliant whiteness that reflects God’s presence—and that is ironclad, never again to be marred by my foolishness–goodness, I want that. So badly. To be able to stand before God unashamed, instead of the red-faced shame that I so often wear before Him. Permanent.
I long for, ache for, desire for home.
Home, where the redeemed (me?) will fall to their knees and proclaim “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” as they cast their crowns before God’s thrones (though, I wonder, do they just pick up the crowns, put them back on their heads, and then throw them down all over again? See, symbolism does not work well in this literal mind of mine.)
But here’s the thing—here is what has me thinking deeply on this incredibly difficult and challenging Sunday afternoon: I can never, ever earn this shocking white robe. It is a robe of grace, a robe given out of grace. A robe given out of grace and faith, and born out of the sacrifice of God’s son for the forgiveness of my sins. There is nothing I can do to earn it.
And that bothers me.
I want to scrub my ugliness, bleach my rags, earn enough community service points (can you tell I have high schoolers in the house?), share Jesus enough, pay enough penance for my many, many sins, in order to earn that robe.
That, right there, is sin, in and of itself. Sin of pride. Always, pride, always. Always my demise.
But, right behind the pride, is the overwhelming deep-seated “knowing”, the knowing that I do not deserve God’s love. I do not deserve His forgiveness. I do not deserve that robe. And there is nothing I will ever do, that will put me in a place to deserve it.
It is beyond me.
And that is both the most helpless, free-falling, out-of-control feeling, and yet also a tremendous relief. A dichotomy of sorts. Polar opposites.
I must–every single day–return to confession. To those list of verses I pour over in confession. Until the day that I go home. But there is also a sense in which we must recognize that our forgiveness can not be earned, though try as we might. And even though my clothes become tattered each and every day before noon, what God sees ultimately is that brilliant white robe reflecting the glory of His face.
The robe that He grace-iously gives us…out of His work done on the cross, and not ours.
I long for that white robe.
And for the now and the not yet.
I long for home.
***Off topic: Nepal. Good grief. For years and years and years, since I was young, I have been fascinated with the country of Nepal. Mainly because of Mt. Everest and the incredible expanse of blue sky that encapsulates that majestic peak. I have read many books about Mt. Everest and about the people of the country. But I have never been.
But I have often said I want to go. And not just visit…to dwell there. Alone. I’ve even gone so far as to start a Nepal plan spreadsheet (Yemen is on there, too. Yemen and Nepal)–a few years ago, I contacted missionary friends there, just to inquire cost of living and what one would do to actually make such a move.
So, seeing the devastation in Khathmandu, well, my mind is there. My soul is there, with people I don’t even know. Have never even met. My friends are safe, having just returned to the U.S. earlier this week. A YWAM missionary that I am friends with from Hawaii days is also safe-he was in India at the time. But they are aching for their country. And I am, too, for a country that I’ve only visited on paper and in my writing.
So please pray for the people of Nepal. Pray that aid arrives quickly, with little to no red tape. Pray that basic needs will be met, that the grieving will be comforted, and that the people of God will respond with compassion. If you can give, please do so. Below is the link to the SBC International Missions Baptist Global Response fund. Any money given to this fund, will go directly to those in most dire needs–and right now, that is Nepal: