“As we have heard, so we have seen in the city of the Lord Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever. Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” –Psalm 48:8–9
I woke up before the sun on a recent morning, just home from some overseas travel. The discomfort of jet lag is one of my favorite embodied metaphors of our spiritual reality. We live in liminal space. We are pulled between two time zones. On the one hand, by faith we are held secure in the love of God. We have received full redemption. On the other hand, though we have been made secure in Christ, we continue to experience uncertainty. We are sojourners, not yet home.
Psalm 48, which on the surface is a song about the temple in Jerusalem, acknowledges this truth. “As we have heard” is the first phrase, a suggestion that we know certain things to be true even if we haven’t seen them. “Seeing” often comes later. Present grace pushes us toward the future, while future grace comes to meet us in the present. Grace propels our movement toward restoration, even as we run forward in the strength God gives us.
But often just because something is true doesn’t mean it feels true. What I believe often feels out-of-sync with my circumstances. Reality unleashes pervasive brokenness: job loss, abuse, oppression, poverty, divorce, illness, and persecution. But in gospel hope, we are supported by the good news that God’s restoration is tenaciously breaking in. He is with us.
Sometimes we don’t sense that God is with us. Our understanding is often delayed. In suffering we wait with expectation, but it takes time for our hearts to catch up to the reality of things.
Not long ago, I traveled to Israel and walked around in Jerusalem. I circled with others and sang a hymn in an ancient chapel. Our voices reverberated in all directions, bouncing off the stone and marble surfaces. As we live in these two spiritual time zones, we hear the echoes of grace and strain our ears to hear the words of truth.
Psalm 48 is a song about the temple in Jerusalem. In the Old Testament, this place signified the presence of God. But since Jesus came to dwell with us, we can meet with God without making a pilgrimage. By the Holy Spirit, God comes to meet us right where we are.
Visiting the old city in Israel, I was reminded that in Jesus, we ourselves are the living stones. He shapes us to resonate the memory of his unfailing love, within our own physical bodies. We are each a holy chapel; in the particularities of our fingerprints, our shoulders, our smiles, and the color variations in our eyes. Hearing, seeing, and resonating, we are living sacrifices, echo chambers of praise.
Jet lag is oddly comforting for me because it reminds me that much conflict in life takes time to resolve; there’s no way around it. Our bodies—and our hearts—require patience as they acclimate to new surroundings. In seasons of doubt or slow change, I come back to the truth of this gospel hymn: “Time is filled with swift transition / naught of earth unmoved can stand. / Build your hopes on things eternal. / Hold to God’s unchanging hand.” Above my uncertainty, I am secure.
When I come home to an empty house, God is my provision. In my parenting failures, I am sustained. When I grasp for control, I open my hands to receive forgiveness. No penance required. Patience is the practice of faith. His love draws us with great gentleness.
With Psalm 48 as my companion, I pause to list moments of God’s steadfast love in my own story and when I have felt close to him. Some are celebratory, some sorrowful. They are not necessarily a promise of happiness. These moments are like stars, forming shapes and constellations. The more I study the patterns, the more I see the beauty of their shape. Friendship with God is richer than glad feelings—it is like sitting together beside him beneath those stars.
When I get restless and make a mess of things, grace upon grace rushes to meet me in the in-between. In these echoes of jet lag, I’m learning to resonate the memory of grace.
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