Greater love and messy hope

Greater love and messy hope July 4, 2012

“The story of transformation and the story of fixing are two different story lines.”- Bob Carlton

It is a simple observation actually, but powerful in its implication:

The love of heaven is greater than the love of Eden.

Most of us are inclined to want to go back to Eden: innocence, perfection, the cool of the day, rest.

But God has lovingly blocked that gate to draw us, okay force us, to seek another way, a greater way.

The love of heaven is a proven love, a tested love, a love that has suffered and remained true.  A messier, earthier, dirtier, more painful love.

I’ve been reminded of this theme repeatedly this week:

My friend, Bob Carlton, gave an awesome sermon at church on Sunday. My favorite line went something like this:

The story of transformation and the story of fixing are two different story lines.

Bob was wonderfully honest about his own struggles and the love of God that meets him there. He knows the greater love, the messy hope that is rooted in the earth and reaching for the sky.


I heard another expression of the same theme in quite a different context in this blog by Johnnie Moore.  He talked about the power of doing, the power of acting something out.  It made me think of centering prayer, those moments in the day when I sit very still for 20 minutes as a bodily confession that the love of God for me is more about being than doing. Rarely is it easy. Ironic, isn’t it? My not-doing is the doing I need to do to remind me of my being?

I am often very hesitant to give the power of doing its just credit because doing has been so misused in our culture as an avoidance of dealing with all the rest of who we are.  But, to a large extent, acting it out really does work.  It is an earthy hope. A “boots on the ground” way of testing to prove something hoped for. I especially liked the research about clinching your fist to increase inner resolve and willpower to make healthy choices. I’ve often eaten meat and even worn red hiking boots to speaking engagements (no kidding!) to help my body and therefore my voice feel stronger.  Hope is rooted in earthy doing.


My third glimpse of this theme came via this marvelous post by Kathy Escobar about a more honest theology

to me, the kingdom is God’s goodness seeping in, here, now, in little and big ways. it’s love piercing through the darkness. grace breathing new life into us despite our circumstances.  it’s being healed in some areas and still sick in others.  it’s miracles that don’t look like miracles but really are. it’s the weird paradox of dark & light mixed together in the same space.

The love of heaven is greater than the love of Eden. It does not exist in spite of evil or darkness but in the midst of it.  We are not seeking perfection, we are looking for God’s presence. And wherever God is at work, there is hope, no matter how messy the context.


One more: a friend sent me this post about a talk Brian McLaren gave to the Presbyterians this week. My favorite quote was this:

unsustainability has a great way of stimulating creativity.”

In many ways, the church in America is quite an unsustainable mess these days: declining giving, attendance, well declining everything overall.

And yet, at the same time, the body of Christ is being re-born, re-imagined in beautiful pockets all over the place. As my monk friend, Father Peter, says, “The Holy Spirit always wins in the end!”

…and winning (having little to do with Charlie Sheen) usually looks like the greater, suffering tested love of heaven and messy hope.


Where have you spotted God at work in greater love or messy hope?


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