Starry Night by Pastor Ryan Freeman

Starry Night
By ryan freemanPastor Ryan Freeman
Payson Christian Church in Payson, Illinois

What have you always wanted?

The other day Steph, Logan and I all went to Springfield where Logan showed us around his favorite shop- Penny Lane. There were tons of great things I wanted- I looked for new rings- Steph checked out the statues… and eventually we all wandered into a room full of posters and movie cutouts. There in the middle was a section dedicated to the classical masters- i must admit, I’ve always wanted a Starry Night painting- so there I was, thumbing through Van Goethe paintings. And my heart leapt as I came across the edge of what I thought was IT.

Has that ever happened to you in your life?

Have you ever had this very distinct idea of how something ought to be, and so when you run your anxious fingers along the edge of what your heart pitter-patters as IT- you are nearly beside yourself.
And then when you pull up what you think is going to be this one thing you always so dearly wanted, you find yourself staring at the wrong painting?

Logan was next to me- the excitement must have been contagious, because he saw my crestfallen face, and told me- keep going- you’re almost there. I remembered hesitating slightly, because I felt for a moment as if I knew by sheer feeling- my Starry Night would never come-

In the TV series, How I Met Your Mother, main character Ted Moseby relates his epic search for his wife to his kids years later. Im nearly done with the series, and in the last episode I watched I was moved because I feel like I’m searching for something desperately- something I’ve been hunting for without always knowing it. Something deep in my heart and soul- like a question or a yearning or a thirst which pangs and smacks- in the show, Ted sits at his favorite seat in his favorite bar chatting with a friend over whether or not he should go to a show he always goes to every year. New people come and sit down all around him- his 20 years in the future self and friend- and his 20 hours later self and his 20 minutes later self all sit down and try to persuade or dissuade him from going. And as he realized something, I realized something too- I dont know what I really want. I know a lot of things I dont want- but I dont know what I really want deep down inside.

In CS Lewis’s Till We Have Faces- the main character finds herself before the gods, finally bringing all her perceived injustices out on the floor. And it isnt until the gods urge her to stop that she realizes that instead of bringing her case before them, she’s really just been repeating the same aching question over and over and over again. I think this is a highly perceptive way of saying we each have this question or complaint we are really saying over and over and over again through how we live our lives- how we treat others- ourselves- how we respond in conversations and especially with our relationship with Jesus.

What do you really want?

It’s not usually a question you can just spout off an answer for.

Personally, I feel like it’s something I’ve convinced myself for so long I thought I knew the answer to. But whenever I finally found myself in a position to say, ok, I have attained what I really wanted- it never works out. It’s never a good place somehow- and this led me to develop deep trust issues with God, because I felt like whenever I really needed him, he would either be silent or not show up- or both. Leaving me feeling awkward and embarrassed and slighted.

And it isnt really until just recently that I’m beginning to get the feeling like perhaps all those things I would answer this one pivitol question with were really a lot of other people’s wills and wishes for me, instead.

One of my life verses is Jer. 29:11-12,
which goes, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plan to give you hope and a future.”

and the rest of the next verse goes, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Im starting to get the feeling like I’m not alone in all this. Like somehow He really does have the best for me- really does have hope and purpose for me… and all the pain and embarrassment are forging me into a better person- the sort of person God sees the potential for when he created me.

Romans 8

New Living Translation (NLT)

Life in the Spirit

8 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

The Future Glory

18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God, I think, wants me to share something with you- and it’s simply this- that no matter what you’ve gone through- no matter how you may think life should or should not be- no matter how people have treated you, good, bad or ugly- that THERE IS A BETTER WAY. He is the better way. He has this vision of you someday- maybe just a little bit more- where this dream, this think you desperately want deep down inside- will be finally, AT LONG LAST, in your hands. This yearning is really joy-chasing- which is really a shadow or echo of Heaven and ultimately Jesus himself. It is that good- that great. This single desperate hope is not forgotten- or marginalized- but is coming like the dawn- as sure as the sunrise.

You think of your idea of Heaven- or even the traditional Christian one- or whatever, and I once had someone share with me how when they read the end of the Chronicles of Narnia, where so many of the wonderful characters are ushered in by Aslan into this heaven beyond all their greatest hopes and fears- that in this moment as this person read, they realized how it seemed as if CS Lewis had shown them something- a glimmer or a spark of something more real and tangible than so many sordid sermons ever could have- because they saw something true, something real, something good, in this joy-chasing Lewis was sharing with us in this moment of the story: if one man’s ability to show us a better heaven far surpassed so many dull modern renderings of the Heaven we all see in pictures, how much more must then must the Real heaven actually be like?

Back to Penny Lane-

Logan was encouraging me to search just a little more- and against my doubts I did- flip, flip, flip- and then- almost as I was leaning back onto my heels to see what Steph was up to in some other part of the store- there it was. My Starry Night.

God has this plan for us which only faith and love can unlock so we can enter into and travel on- and if somehow you knew, retelling your own life’s tale later that the moment of your salvation was only days or hours away- wouldn’t you stay the course all that much more?

Like what you read? Join in with your own insights, stories and art- send them to Thanks and God bless -Ryan

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