Thursday, December 06, 2007

I Am Bound For the Promised Land

I was listening to Jars of Clay the other day. They have a song on their Redemption Songs album that goes like this:

On Jordan's stormy banks I stand
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land
Where my possessions lie

All o'er those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day
There God, the Son forever reigns
And scatters night away.

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land

No chilling wind nor poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore
Where sickness, sorrow, pain and death
Are felt and feared no more

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land

When shall I see that happy place
And be forever blessed
When shall I see my Father's face
And in His bosom rest

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land

And every time I hear the chorus, I get all choked up, tears spring to my eyes, I get chills. And I've been completely puzzled by my own emotional response. What is it that gets me about this song? So, it's about heaven, the promised land. It's just a regular song. Not even any especially provoking lyrics. (Though the musical artistry is amazing.)

I was pondering this in the car the other day. And I had this instant of clarity. The promise of heaven means that I can spend my life on this earth to the very last breath following God on every scary, dangerous, wreckless, extravagant path, and I don't have to be afraid or anxious. Let's see if I can say this right. I can do that, not because life here doesn't matter, but BECAUSE life here really matters. It matters too much to sit around on my hands and do nothing. And since I have the promise of eternal life with Jesus, I can spend this life, I mean SPEND it, use it up, squeeze it out and it's ok because the end is not the end. Then I'll go be with Jesus. God arranged it so that we can live our whole lives here for things that really matter, and, if we have to, even sacrifice our lives, and it's not over. Hmmm... I've no idea if this is coming out right. But there's something about being bound for the promised land that means I can live this life without fear. In fact, it means I can put away the anxiety I keep struggling with. It isn't relevant.

None of this is to say that life here doesn't matter, that the small things are irrelevant. Maybe it's an oxymoron. Maybe it makes no sense. Yet, somehow, the relationships we have here, the community we build, the way we treat people, the things we fight for, the way we live our lives...those things really matter. I believe that. I don't believe that God has us all here on earth living pointless lives. God is a God of relationship, and each one of us is an infinitely valuable image-bearer. In some way, for those who choose God, the relationships we have here will exist for eternity. Though we have no idea what that means or what form they will take.

What we do here is valuable, it's meaningful, perhaps eternally meaningful. And yet, the hope of heaven, the promise of eternal life, the Promised Land that lies before us means that this life here, this human life does not have to be handled with kid gloves. As much as it matters, we can still dive in, drink deeply, live freely, and TAKE RISKS because when it's over, it's not over.

I am not a risk-taker by nature. God has led me into some of the most serious risks of my life recently, and I can only hope that somehow it's because God believes that I am ready for this stretch. I cannot begin to think that somehow I've earned this, nor am I willing to believe that this is God's way of teaching me a lesson. I only know that I am finally becoming ready to open my heart with faith and really and truly live fearlessly.


  1. I am a pastor at a Presbyterian Church in Virginia and found your thoughts inspired by Jars of Clay Song and shared some of them with my congregation in a sermon on Joshua and Israel crossing the Jordan.

    Thank you for sharing your faith so clearly online (and though I don't know you, I have no doubt in life as well.)

    Blessings in Christ, Rachel

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  3. Thanks so much for leaving me such an encouraging note! It's so good to know when others are blessed by reading my journey...even from very far away.

  4. so can someone tell me what chilling wind and poisonous breath is referring to

  5. I think of those things as death and sickness. It seems to me that death is often represented in stories as a cold wind that passes over a house or through the door. I wish I could find examples, but I am pressed for time right now.

    Poisonous breath seems to me to refer to sickness, to the germs and viruses that are borne on our breath. But, perhaps, also poisonous breath could refer to evil speech, to gossip - to the things we say that poison our hearts and turn them cold. I think, given the context, though, that these things are both referring to health.


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