Poppy, camera pouncer -- only a few weeks old

Poppy, camera pouncer – only a few weeks old. It was love at first sight.

On Monday I lost my sweet lovie from South Africa; my mom had to have Poppy put down.  I will never cuddle her again, my quirky yet faithful companion for the five most difficult years of my life.  My heart hurts, but this post isn’t really about my dog’s death.  More than any other death I have encountered, losing Poppy has laid me bare.

There inside my dream
I heard the river roar;
I stumbled through the darkened mist,
But I couldn’t find the shore.

Now this might seem silly to you.  After all, it’s way more tragic when people die because people have souls and are more important – right?  But let me tell you something.  Creation didn’t choose sin; people did.  Poppy’s death has left my heart in anguish, but not merely for the reasons you might think.  I miss her because I am human and I loved her – love her still; but that is not what truly hurts most.  You see, the consequence of sin is brokenness, and creation is powerless to stop that which people chose.  Though we deserve the death brought by sin, creation does not; it is subject to the consequences of our guilt.  Creation cannot choose something better.  Poppy could not have chosen to make her life better by thinking better thoughts or doing better things.  Her little body, like all of creation, fell prey to the brokenness of sin.

Sin always manifests itself in brokenness – this is the curse of sin that creation has been forced to bear.  Romans 8:20-22 tells us, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will also be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”  What is this “hope” for which creation was subjected to brokenness?  The hope is the revelation of the sons of God through Jesus Christ, which brings with it reconciliation and restoration – the redemption of all created things (Romans 8:19-25).

I could have asked, “Why?  Why my Poppy?  Why is there so much pain?”

Happy memories of life around the world with my Poppy.

Happy memories of life around the world with my Poppy.

But asking “why?” can become a dangerous addiction when the answer is very simple: brokenness.  So I am choosing let Him flood my being with His peace.  Peace doesn’t take away the hurting.  Instead it allows me to recognize that suffering is part of life in a broken world and, in doing so, exchange my ashes for beauty at the feet of Jesus.  He is revealing new depths of His gracious love in the midst of the brokenness of creation.

A voice within the mist
Said, “Tell me what do you seek?”
I said, “I have a mighty thirst
But I feel so tired and weak.”
He said, “I am the river

Full of power and truth.
You’ve been looking outside yourself
When it’s there inside of you.”

Those verses I quoted from Romans 8 are followed by a well-known, oft-quoted verse: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God…” (v. 28).  I claim that promise.  As tears run down my face, I can without hesitation proclaim my unwavering trust in God’s working all things together for my good.  Not to say that all things are good in themselves or that pain is not valid, but to recognize that I am free to rest in the surety of His goodness.  I don’t live a glass-half-empty life, but I don’t live a glass-half-full life either;  I live a life that is always full to overflowing, everyday living all-out, a testament of the fullness of His gracious love.

My mom pointed me to Ezekiel 47:1-12.  This passage never fails to move me deeply.  I encourage you to read it devotionally when you have an opportunity to do so, because there is so much more than just what I am going to draw out here.  Ezekiel is seeing a vision of the new Temple and the New Jerusalem that God is preparing for His people, which, as Jesus-followers, we understand to extend far beyond mere physical fulfillment to spiritual reconciliation with the Father and His purpose for His creation.

Bursting with vivid imagery of the restoration of creation, these verses in chapter 47 describe the river of water flowing from the altar in the Temple.  As Ezekiel is led forth, the river becomes broader and deeper until it is utterly uncrossable.  ‘“Son of man, have you seen this?”’ asks the man leading Ezekiel (v. 6).  Oh, can you hear what that question means?  Have you seen, have you comprehended what the Lord is doing?  The river flows down to the sea, and by its waters the sea is healed.  Where the river goes, its water brings life and healing: “everything will live wherever the river goes” (v. 9).  And the life of the river brings abundance.  The sweet waters of the river tenderly restore everything receptive to its touch; healing flows as part of the life it gives.

And the river will flow,
The river will flow.
Through all of the times of your life
The river will flow.
And the river is love;
The river is peace.
And the river will flow through the hearts
Of those who believe.

Revelation 22:1-5 echoes, almost word-for word, the vision of Ezekiel – except that Revelation has an expanded vantage point because the Messiah, Jesus, has already lived, died, and rose again.  In the previous chapter John writes of the beauty of the New Jerusalem with a view expanded with the knowledge of Christ our Messiah; here, we need no temple, for “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22).  John speaks of seeing a “pure river of water of life,” flowing from the very “throne of God and the Lamb” to bring abundant life (Rev. 22:1-2).  Then comes the awe as the manifestation of full redemption is revealed in verse 3: “And there shall be no more curse…”  The flow of the River wipes away the curse of brokenness that comes through sin.  All who thirst, all who desire, may come and take freely of the water of life (Rev. 22:17).  So I ask: are you thirsty and dry today?

So put your hands in mine.
Oh, put your hands in mine,
And let us all go down
And kneel by the river’s side.

We’ll cry our tears of joy,
Cry our tears of pain.
We’ll let them fall down from our eyes
To be washed in the sacred stream,
Even the secret tears
Buried in our memories;
Let them all be swept away to the depths of the endless sea.

The lyrics of this Whiteheart song beautifully capture the heart of the River passages of Ezekiel and Revelation.  When the song says that the river “will flow through all the times of your life,” it is explaining a special verb form that doesn’t translate into English very well.  What the song and the verses are saying is that there is already a release of the River, and the River is flowing continuously.  And what is this healing River of life?  It is Jesus Christ, the Living Water who causes His Life to bubble up within us as an eternal spring that never runs dry but flows abundantly through our hearts and lives (John 4:10, 14).  There is pain, there is joy, and there are secret tears – all are swept up in the River and cleansed that we might receive restoration.  Pain should never define us; instead we should allow it to refine us to a place of deeper strength and greater longing for the fullest outpouring of God’s redemption and restoration of creation.

the river will flowLet the River flow.  Come, Lord Jesus, come.  Amen.

And the river will flow;
The river will flow.
Through all of the times of your life,
The river will flow.
And the river is love;
The river is peace.
And the river will flow through the hearts
Of those who believe.


Take a few minutes to listen to the full Whiteheart song here:

“The River Will Flow” — Whiteheart

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