What is the Kingdom of God?
She Sees Seashells in the Sidewalk
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
They don’t belong together – beauty and mud, but there they are. Every morning as I walk through my neighborhood, I pass seashells stuck in the sidewalk. The first one I see is a couple of blocks away. I dismiss it as a fluke. Days later I see another one down by the park, and then another one by the deli. Suddenly, seashells pop out of sidewalks all along my designated route.
Those beautiful fragile shells were dug from the ground by some gargantuan metal claw and transported hundreds of miles from their natural seaside home. Once unearthed, the shells were reset into an ugly, resistant, cement-filled context. Rain and snow overwhelm them and people walk all over them, yet the shells remain. They miraculously stay whole.
It doesn’t take long before my early morning walks feed my obsession. I have to know why the seashells are stuck in the sidewalk. I ask my friends but they don’t know. I Google it but no luck. I ask my son’s friend, who is majoring in construction engineering, but “Dunno,” is all I hear.
I’ve followed the Lord long enough to know that whenever I fixate on something, He wants to show me something new.
So, after two weeks of asking others what they know about seashells, I ask the Lord. I make my way to the back side of the hill and stand quietly looking at a double seashell. I wait. I listen.
“Jesus, what’s with these shells?”
“That’d be you,” he says.
“But they don’t belong in that mud,” I protest.
“They do belong,” Jesus reassures.
“I don’t get it.”
“Context,” God answers.
Everything has a context. History has a context, words have a context, my life has a context, and so does yours. Jesus also has a context. When he walked on earth, Jesus’ life had one context and now his life in eternity has an altogether different context.
Context is important. Pinning it down, however, can get eely.
What exactly was Jesus implying when he taught his disciples to pray for God’s kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done on earth as it was being done in heaven? I believe Jesus was trying to teach his disciples that their life’s context was no longer limited to time and space as they had known it.
Your kingdom come.
With just three words Jesus upended the disciple’s puny understanding of their life’s context. I know even using the words, “life context,” makes some of us hyperventilate because we’ve spent years trying to overcome a childhood that was heinous, or we’ve made poor decisions and have felt condemned or defined by them ever since.
Jesus never contended with his context. He was never confused by it or overwhelmed by it since he knew exactly where he came from and why he was here: he was here to bring heaven to earth and to restore earth’s brokenness through the gift of salvation.
Do you know if we love and follow Jesus we share this same purpose?
We live in an ugly world. As Christians, the context in which we live is one of inflexible, unrelenting evil. Anything that opposes God’s kindness, goodness and love is evil, and this world is full of it. Since the first hiss of the Snake in the Garden of Eden, evil has captured the hearts of mankind and led us away from God’s love and intention for our lives.
Yet God’s promise of hope shouts from the pages of Scripture!
2 Corinthians 5:17 declares that we are “new creatures in Christ.” As we follow Jesus, his Holy Spirt begins to change us from the inside out. Our spiritual transformation becomes the window through which others look to see and experience heaven here on earth. We get to carry the hope of heaven to a desperate world!
Although we are changing on the inside, our context of living in a hate-filled world has not changed at all. Until Jesus returns, we still will be fragile beauty set in unrelenting ugly.
What if our life context was painful, agonizing, or even abusive; how do we deal with that? I don’t know the backstory of your life, but each of us can be whole even if our history contains neglect, abuse, or abandonment. We can be whole and beautiful despite poor decisions in our teens or self-absorbed decisions as adults.
In fact, the uglier our surroundings, the more stunning our “seashell” becomes. God will piece us back together, heal us, and redeem our pain – every bit of it.
Another thought occurs to me while standing over a beautiful, fragile seashell trapped in its slate of mud; the shell is upside down. Every shell I have seen has been so. Always. Every time. Every, single, time. They are upside down – just as Jesus followers are while we journey through life. To the world that stares at us, we appear upside down. We never fit in with what’s happening around us, and we are constantly out of step with the culture.
We are odd. We are different. Scripture uses the word, “foolish.”
I love that. No matter what horrible, hideous context my life has been formed in, Jesus will use it to make me beautiful. Instead of defining myself by an old context, he has set me into a new one. I now live in contradiction to my old context and define myself by what God says about me.
I am a new creature. Period. I am loved, beautiful, free and whole. Old things have passed away and my life is new. Now my purpose is to let others see the kingdom of heaven in operation through my brand-new context.
Your kingdom come, Lord. Bring it on!
The driving passion of Donna’s life has been to invest her time and her heart in the lives of younger women as a mentor. When she isn’t teaching a Bible class or screaming down some zip line at a youth camp just to prove she can, Donna is sitting across the table at a coffee shop listening to the hopes, hurts, and dreams of others. Donna believes the only thing more rewarding than chasing one of her own dreams is to aid and abet someone else in fulfilling theirs.
Donna is a graduate of Biola University in California. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Christian Education with a minor in Biblical Studies, an emphasis in youth, and a specialization in discipleship development.