Awake, O Sleeper

Awake_O_Sleeper_1
Awake_O_Sleeper_1

How does one even begin to write about a new life?

Mossy stone walls enclosing narrow footpaths that weave around the village like veins. Checking and checking and checking train timetables. Black, mud-slathered Wellies stomping through puddles. So many puddles. Left side of the road, right side of the car. Cold commute past the cedar planted on the day of Victoria's coronation. Nutella and scones and clotted cream. Earl Grey, Lady Grey, English Breakfast. Lilting accents with dancing inflections. Pound and pence. Walking and walking and walking. Blush and lilac and tangerine sky wrestles Big Ben for the attention of tourists at sunset. Green Park, South Kensington, Covent Garden, Bermondsey. Mind the gap. An office in a castle in a garden in a village a mere train ride away from the world.

Of the million impressions whirling around my head, these are the ones I can capture in words. There are many more that I can't quite stuff into a tidy phrase. Like the weight of watching a group of friends mourn and celebrate the second anniversary of a beloved one's death. Or the ridiculous swell of pride after finding my way to a new place without help. Or clean sunlight that floods onto white walls and slants onto old wooden floors and fills my chest with calm. The sadness of being so unknown by everyone here and the joy of revealing myself a little more each day.

These are the moments and notions and places and things being strung together to make my New Life.

Somehow in the midst of all the new and the different and the other, a tiny sliver remains the same. Unfortunately, some of the sameness in my life is what needed to change long ago, long before This New Life. Somehow, little specks of this New Life feel impossibly stale.

Netflix binge. Oversleeping. Compulsive thoughts. Eyes glued to phone screen. Head there, body here. Insecure. Sleepwalk through this hour. Through this day. Perfectly happy but slightly numb. Slightly asleep.

This too must become new.

In the Lord's ever impressive timing, Ephesians 5 and Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts came into my life simultaneously. I'm fairly certain I am the last Christian female on earth to read One Thousand Gifts, but if I am not alone let me catch you up just a bit. The book is a call to eucharisteo, a life of thanksgiving. In Luke 22, we see that Jesus, "with an expiration of less than twelve hours", counts thanksgiving as most important when He takes the bread and the wine and gives thanks. Ann follows Jesus' pattern of giving thanks to God before He performs miracles and the pattern of those who are healed by Jesus giving thanks to Him. In Luke 17, Jesus heals ten lepers and only one comes back to give thanks to Jesus. "Your faith has made you well." This is how Jesus responds to the leper who had already been made physically well moments before. The leper's thanksgiving lead to soul wellness or sozo – wholeness, abundance, completeness of life.

So if thanksgiving leads to life, Ann postulates, then the lack of thanksgiving leads to death. Think of the Fall. Adam and Eve chose to reject God's gifts, chose ingratitude over gratitude for the good things God lavished upon them. To neglect thanksgiving is to neglect God.

Ingratitude is sin. Ingratitude is choosing to hide from the God-light that reveals His good and perfect gifts.

This is where Ephesians 5 comes in. Paul writes about light and darkness. Light that reveals and darkness that conceals. As I read through the chapter, I quite liked it but was not struck in particular by light revealing sexual sin or idolatry or covetousness. But then I hit this:

Awake, O sleeper and arise from the dead and Christ will shine on you. Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Those tiny weightless words printed on a tissue-thin page slammed into my chest like a truck. Instantaneously, the lines of eucharisteo and light and sin and miracle and awake and New Life all converged. I am the sleeper and I am being called to AWAKE so Christ can shine on me. So my sin of non-eucharisteo can be brought into His light. So I can remember that every second and inch of this new life must be carefully examined in order for me to know how to walk. So I can make the most of these precious, fleeting days. So I can fill my moments, my days, my life with thanksgiving for His gifts.

It's no coincidence that only a few short verses later Paul instructs that we "make melody to the Lord in your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

I don't want to sleep anymore. I want to drink in this new life, and all my new lives to come, with wonder and praise and breathless joy. I want to fill every minute with thanksgiving for the big and the small. For the morning sunlight slanting in. For the blood of Jesus slashing out my sin.

My covenant with God today: I will AWAKE and ARISE. I will be present in this new life. Thanksgiving will bring the illumination to understand His will and the motivation to fulfill His will.

The freshly fallen snow and ivy-covered gates and delightful Britishisms will be a call to sozo, wholeness of life.

No more sleeping. No more staleness. New Life in every way.

Will you join me in waking up?