Monday, May 26, 2008

Hopeful or hard-hearted? Wait...

The other night I went to the cinema with the lovely Carol, where we saw Prince Caspian. In the film, as in Lewis's novel, Nikabrik tries to bring back the White Witch to help Caspian defeat his enemies. This was a truly bad idea which fortunately wasn't fully realized. The film adds this line by way of explanation for how Nikabrik ran off the rails: "He lost hope."

This line reminds us about the importance of "holding on," as I have written about before. Recently I noticed that two mentions of "hold on" in this passage act as bookends on the ideas of hardening our hearts and of going astray:
6 ...and we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

7So, as the Holy Spirit says:
"Today, if you hear his voice,
8do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the desert,
9where your fathers tested and tried me
and for forty years saw what I did.
10That is why I was angry with that generation,
and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.'
11So I declared on oath in my anger,
'They shall never enter my rest.' "
12See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 14We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
from Hebrews 3:6-14
Here's what I mean by "bookends":
  • if we hold on, we're his house(6)
    • Don't harden your hearts(8)
      • Their hearts went astray(10)
        • God swore an oath: They shall never enter my rest(11)
      • Don't let your heart turn away from God(12)
    • Don't be hardened by sin's deceitfulness(13)
  • if we hold on, we've come to share in Christ(14)
I heard somewhere that this structure points to the thing in the center as being the key point in the passage -- that is, the concept of entering (or not entering in this case) God's rest.

But what I want to talk about here is how the opposite of "holding on" isn't "letting go" but rather getting "hardened." A hard man isn't more durable; rather, he's one that's about to lose it and let go -- like a rubber band that's turning hard is one that's about to snap.

So the question for me is, how is my hardness today? And how is my hope? Am I willing to be encouraged to hold on? Am I willing to bend, like the sunflower which turns his face to follow the Source of life? May the Lord help us to be so.

No comments: