“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 5:1-8
The first time I read this verse there was an instant connection with the sense of groaning, longing for that day we when we will be free of the sin scars of this life and we would see Jesus face to face. In that day all of the sorrow, suffering and scars of this world will have melted away. I was so moved by this passage that i wrote in my bible. The date was 6/12/1988 and I had been visiting someone in the nursing home. It was a combination of watching the devastating effects of aging on others, and a grieving over how the world has been so out of control that resonated with that verse.
While i can tell you that in those days I thought I understood groaning, but truthfully i did not. For those experiences did not compare with midlife adventures when i wondered if the stress and tension would ever disapate. Groaning, that deeply coming from somewhere far inside yourself and expressing in gutteral sound what words could not adequately capture. Groaning, as of the weight lifter under the load of a large amount of weights. Groaning under the burdens of this life. Crying for release, knowing there is better out there.
Hope… A hope that says i will not be left here in this sin scarred body, in a world that is decaying. Hope that says there is more than this life. And a hope that understands us deep inside, knows that we are not home yet. And a hope that tells us that provision was made for us after this life…. provision of a home, a dwelling, and clothing. Even Maslow would concur that the greatest needs of a human is to be loved, to have shelter, and to have clothing.
I love how Paul makes sure to say we groan, not to be unclothed, but that we want a better garment, laying down the rags of this mortal life for the beauty and perfection of eternity. I can only try to capture that in my imagination. The closest I can come is that brand new outfit bought for a special occasion – pristine, crisp, beautiful for just a short time, then it is passe, outdated, wearing out, and done. But out new garment in heaven will never wear out, will always be wonderful.
We need to give heed to the Spirit – In small and big ways God’s Spirit prompts us, encourages, admonishes, leads us through this life. We have a choice to listen and obey, or ignore. The better choice is to heed the Spirit, and obey.
And finally, we are in God’s care. We desire to be with him, which is a better choice – a place free of all of this drama, this scarring, this wrestling, this weight, this burden of life; yet the decision of when we shall go home to heaven rests with Him alone. I agree, we are willing to have the better option of being absent from this body and present with the Lord; but I humbly yield, knowing there is still work for me on this earth.
“Lord, thank you that you know our groaning, and you know the burden each of us carry. May your Spirit guide us all the days of our lives, and may we take comfort to know that you have thought each and every aspect of eternity out, planning for us, loving us, calling us. May we live our days on this earth with purpose, and may you be glorified through our lives. Amen”