To Brielle

There is a girl I know whose middle name is “Stinkin’.” Well, not exactly. That’s just what I always interject into her name. It’s not cruel or mean, you see, but simply one of those things you pick up by being friends with someone through high school. I’m sure most of you have given or received something along those lines in your life.

Alas, for my own friend, the name has taken something of an unfortunate significance. It has become prophetic. I once simply called for “Stinkin'” for ironic fun. It was the insult with no teeth. The problem today is that her life has caught up to this name. Her life stinks. I do not refer to her own choices or character, which pertain only to God. I mean events which have befallen her. My stinkin’ friend has come to bear a stinkin’ body, a body wretched with the burnings of death within. With this and other stinkin’ problems have come a stinkin’ mess for her own heart and mind. She’s found confusion and chaos which do not belong in a good world to a good friend. Her cosmos collapses, and it stinks.

Of course, all of this must be tempered with a very simple observation. “Stinkin'” is not really her name. Her actual middle name is Brielle. And Brielle is a very different name. There is nothing awful or distasteful about Brielle like “Stinkin’.” Instead, Brielle is lovely. “Stinkin'” may denote a very miserable creature indeed, but Brielle speaks of a goddess. It is short for Gabrielle, a feminine form of Gabriel, which means “man of God” or perhaps “God is my strength.” You can hear either of those meanings in the short and sublime name Brielle. You’d be forgiven for mistaking it for the name of a divine being itself. Brielle suggests qualities of lightness, femininity, vitality, elegance, laughter, and the good. It is a name to elevate and dazzle with simple and innocent glory.

The name Brielle, then, stands in stark contrast with “Stinkin’.” One speaks of all that is wrong and mournful, the other of all that is right and merry. This makes the turn of life bizarre. Why does Brielle, the real name, seem to speak of a fantasy while “Stinkin’,” the fake name, seems to speak of the real world? How can such a thing happen? And since it does happen, is there any justice?

Perhaps these questions have no accessible answers. Maybe they are hidden in the mind of God. But God has a peculiar habit of speaking His mind. And what He has said on a few occasions leads me to question these questions with a radically different question.

What if Brielle is real?

What if “Stinkin'” is a sham?

I cannot but suspect that my friend is Brielle after all. For this age is the age of shadow, and only the age to come is the real thing. In this age, she struggles and suffers as though God Himself has turned against her. But if anything is the sham, I believe with all my heart it is this age. The age to come is the light, the truth in which perhaps Brielle, not “Stinkin’,” is the authentic character. Perhaps she is destined to glory. And in this case, why not name her by her true name? She is Brielle, whose strength is the God who named her. The stink may last for a night, but I see the first rays of joy coming in the morning.

In this spirit, then, I have a message to my friend. To Brielle:


As I sat on my bed, an angel of God carried me away, and said, “Come, I will show you the ruined goddess, whose has suffered, suffers now, and shall suffer again. The eyes of the Lamb are upon her day and night.”

So I looked, and behold, I saw a young girl upon a bed, wearing a blue gown, with a mark across her forehead which read, “MYSTERY: BRIELLE ABANDONED.” And men in white robes were coming and going with scrolls, speaking, but I could not hear their voices. They looked upon the girl and frowned. Some appeared distressed, some appeared confused, and some appeared angry. As I looked at their faces, I wept.

Suddenly I heard a loud voice from above the angels, saying:

How desolate sits Brielle,
pitiable among people!
She has become like a widow,
alone in her distress.
She weeps bitterly in the night;
her tears are on her cheeks.
All her gates are desolate,
and her temple lies in ruins.

It began in her temple,
corruption emerged in the stones.
Moth and rust came to feed,
and they would not be satisfied.
The enemy has stretched out his hand
over all her treasures.
She says, “I am in distress;
my inner parts are in torment!”

Then I looked again, and the eyes of the Lamb were fixed on the girl. They shone like the sun, and it seemed to me that they were glistening with tears. Then another voice spoke, and I perceived that it was the voice of the girl. She said:

My God, my God why have you forsaken me?
Why are you far from helping me,
far from the words of my groaning?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
I am the one who has seen affliction
under the rod of God’s wrath.
Yes, He repeatedly turns His hand
against me all day long.

And I wept again when I heard the girl’s words. I wanted to speak to her, but I found I could not open my mouth. In my distress, I looked and saw the Lamb, who was still gazing at the girl. Drops of blood came down His face, and He scratched at the scars of His slaughter. So I said to the angel, “Who sinned that this girl should be made desolate under the Lamb’s eye, her or her parents?”

And the angel said, “Neither her nor her parents have sinned.”

I began to say, “Then why does she suffer?” But as I opened my mouth, the ground shook, the bed split, and the girl fell to the ground. Her gown was torn, and she wept bitterly. I turned and said to the Lamb in a loud voice, “Will you not help her?” But the Lamb was not there. And there was blood where He had stood.

The angel said to me, “Did the Lamb help the girl?”

“No,” I replied.

Then the angel growled like a beast, and I shrunk back in fear. He continued to speak. “Come. I will show you the aid of the Lamb.” So he took me away to a dark sanctuary. He lit 7 candles, and the room was filled with light and a sweet smell. I looked, and I saw the Lamb bound to an altar. His fur was soaked with blood, and He gasped as He breathed. He cried out in a loud voice,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Then He was not, and I was taken back to the girl. I heard her sing a terrible song:

My days vanish like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is afflicted,
withered like grass;
I even forget to eat my food.
Because of the sound of my groaning,
my flesh sticks to my bones.

As she finished her song, I turned and saw the Lamb once again. He stood at an exceedingly great distance. His fur was no longer bloody, but white. He stood taller than He had before, and fire was in His eyes. He mounted a white horse and came galloping toward her, but He was still a long way off. But the girl did not see Him, and she wept over her miseries.

Then I was overcome by her predicament. I said to the angel, “Why can she not see Him?”

He said in a soft voice, “She can see you.”

I was startled at this, and I looked, and the girl was looking at me. I tried to speak and could not. But I saw the Lamb coming on the horizon, and my mouth opened:

Brielle, Brielle,
why do you mourn?
Why is your face downcast?
Do you not see?
Have you not heard?
The Lamb is coming,
and He rides near even now.

The Lamb has seen you,
and He has heard your divine tears.
He will rebuild your walls,
and He will cleanse your temple.
Your ruins will become shining gates,
and towers will rise from your ashes.

The Lamb holds a hammer,
and nails are in His hands.
He is a carpenter,
the son of a carpenter.
He is skilled at building,
and He makes all things new.

I heard the Lamb.
He spoke to me by His eyes.
His gaze was upon you,
and in His face, I saw your own.
Hear Him, hear Him,
for this is what the Lamb says:

“I will make peace flow to her like a river,
and healing like a great flood.
You will see, you will rejoice,
and you will flourish like grass.
Her compassionate one will guide her,
and lead her to springs of water.”

I pray, then, Brielle,
hope in the Lamb!
He rides with the clouds
and comes with the winds.
But do not be dismayed,
and do not be distracted.

The Lamb, the Lamb,
He is your hope.
Do not forget Him in your distress.
Do not fail to call on His name.
He has not always seemed a friend,
but He has always been the Friend.

Yes, Brielle, He is a paradox,
and His name is Mystery.
He does not always take your side,
but He is always on your side.
He does not always join your cause,
but you are always His cause.
He does not always agree with you,
but He always defends you.
He is not always what you want,
but He always wants you.
He does not always secure you,
but He always rescues you.
He does not always approve,
but His love always proves.
He does not always get you,
but He is always for you.

Do you not see?
Have you not heard?
The Lamb, the Lion of Judah,
He knows your distress.
Out of all people, you two have suffered,
He and you have been God-forsaken.

But the Lamb was not forsaken—
what does this mean for you?
His flesh was destroyed,
but He was restored evermore.
But His flesh is your flesh,
and His bone is your bone.

When I finished speaking, an angel carried me away. He said, “Come, and I will show you the goddess who has suffered, suffers now, and shall suffer again. But after suffering for 10 days, she was found by the Lamb.”

Then I saw the girl once again, no longer in a blue gown but a white dress. A crown sat on her head, and on it was written the name of the Lamb. She was no longer crying. Instead, the Lamb wiped away every tear from her eyes, and she laughed. The song of her laughter filled the air, and no sadness could be found for 144,000 miles.

Then a voice like a trumpet declared:

Look, I am making all things new!
What is dead will come to life,
and what is empty will be filled.
And I will give the goddess to the Lamb,
and He will be her God and she will be His bride.

When the voice finished, there was silence for half an hour. The Lamb and the girl walked together until they passed over a great hill, and from the hill came sounds of joy greater than all the joy heard on earth. I smiled, but an angel grabbed me and said, “Behold, you have seen many things. These things shall shortly come to pass, but they may not come to pass at all. What you have seen can only take place if the girl hears the words you have been given. Let her hear them, and believe, and all these things shall be. But if she does not hear them, or if she cannot believe them, all is lost. The Lamb longs for her. He is gazing upon her now. She is Brielle, woman of God, and He is her God. She is Brielle, whose strength is God, and He is her God.”

To Brielle, and to all who know her, or love her, and suffer like her, be grace and peace from the Lamb. These things must shortly take place. Amen.

Every Lucid Moment

[This is a repost from The Nicene Nerd to help fill the new blog with some content.]

Hazy. That’s  the best word I could think of to describe many of the hours in my average day. I’m not sure what all I did or how much I enjoyed it. During the day I tend to slip into a mode: doing what I do. And at the end of the day I find myself wondering: what have I even been doing?

See, when I think about it, there is quite a bit I’d like to change about my life. I’d like to spend less time on the computer doing mostly nothing and more time enjoying the family God has entrusted to me. I’d like to pray more, and spend more time reading Scripture. While I read lots of random articles and blog posts online, I know I would benefit from reading more real books.

Beyond habits and time management, I have character issues and virtues to work on. I want to become less self-centered and more aware of others. In my relationships I want to be more genuinely interested in what other people say, do, and care about. I’m too arrogant in my knowledge and could use some humility. Perhaps my most practically difficult flaw is my grand introspection, where I inflate my every last mistake into a life-scale issue by tracing out all the flaws in my heart and worrying about my ability to fix them into the future.

All of this deserves my effort and careful attention as I live out my day. I can only make progress if I actually try to. But alas, I don’t usually think about these things until the hour that they become painful problems. After that’s over, I remember my lesson for a while and then forget as I get back into the groove of everyday life. Next thing I know I’m making the same mistakes again. And so the circle goes on.

What I have come to realize is how very necessary it is that I capitalize on the moments when I am thinking and genuinely concerned. During the times in which I am aware of my flaws, I have to make what progress I can before life sweeps away my focus. This is what I usually fear to do, sometimes out of the fear of what might happen if I do change, and sometimes out of the fear that I won’t be able to keep up whatever I wish to accomplish. I find myself too often paralyzed by the awareness of my impending forgetfulness. So then I lose the moment, and the pain which brought me clarify becomes vain.

Obviously, what I ought to do is very different. The lucidity which fills me with fear for my future ability to do right ought to take one more step. When I think even more clearly, I see that any progress I hope to make must start with the moments that I can see that I need it. This means taking the first act, doing whatever I can to grow, instead of doing like I normally will and waste the time fretting over my lack of willpower. I have to capitalize on the times God opens my eyes before they fall shut again.

The best way to do this is to pray. While other actions are also necessary, I must take every lucid moment to pray. After all, there is no way for me to grow apart from the Holy Spirit. My flesh can only do so much, and its fruits are always full of worms. So when I know I am nothing and in need, my immediate response must be to call on the Lord, who gives to all generously and without criticizing. He promises to be my healer, the one who sanctified me and will sanctify me. If I don’t do this, if I wait or let my apprehension keep me from moving, what hope will I have? If I don’t take the opportunity to ask, seek, and knock before I forget what I am looking for, I will only come away empty-handed.

Father, you are my only hope. In Jesus you have created the perfect human life that I so desperately need. So by your Spirit living inside me, uniting me with your holy Son, let me become the man you call me to be. Every time you open my eyes, let me make the move I must make, and pray so you can continue to move me. Then when I am back in the normal course of life, I can trust you to work behind the scenes. In the name of my only Lord Jesus, Amen.

So I find that this law is at work: when I want to do what is good, what is evil is the only choice I have. My inner being delights in the law of God. But I see a different law at work in my body—a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Romans 7:21-25a