The narrative could turn your stomach or break your heart. The first few verses of Ezekiel 16 illustrate for us a newborn baby, squirming and kicking on the side of the road; slick, sticky and matted in its afterbirth complete with dangling umbilical cord, having been discarded as if it was yesterday's trash. It's not exactly the stuff of lullabies but, then again, I've often wondered why wee ones have to fall asleep to Lizzie Borden taking an axe, Humptys falling off walls and breaking to bits, going up the stairs and running into men who aren't there, and spiders frightening Miss Muffet who is minding her own business with a meal of curds and whey…
What are curds and whey anyway? Oh well, back to the story at hand.
I know the foundling in a ditch is a picture of Israel and her difficult beginnings and that God would not cast her away but rather embrace, nurture and transform her into a splendiforous queen worthy of admiration and awe. I know it has ancient implications but as I heard the story again today, my heart heard a new melody, as though the Spirit were making it a modern love song. Our song!
The Lover of my soul showed me in His own intimate way that once upon a time He came by and saw me abandoned in the drainage ditch of life, covered in sewer water and runoff, crying for mercy because no one "cared a fig" for me (Ezekiel 16:5, The Message). He lifted me from the mire and cut off my umbilical cord thus ending my attachments to the old life and washed me thoroughly by His kindly Word (John 15:3) and royal proclamation.
The beauty of the next progressions mirror the transforming Life of going from grace upon grace, glory to glory. The once wretched life, nurseless and useless on the side of the road, is now brought into a palace, offered care and breeding and shown the dainties and pleasures of royalty. To be sure, there is still some of the urchin that must be truncated and defeated, but all in due time. It's all in the becoming.
The once-orphan (me) struggles to understand such grace and often misuses it. Carelessly abuses it. Fights against it and thumbs its nose at it. But can NEVER get away from it (glory be!)! The Divine Lover has set His affection on me and will never retract it. I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine (Song of Songs 6:3). His grace is always in the Home and His table is always spread for me. I have been captured and I find that I love the freedom of its imprisonment!
As I grow, I find that I can little remember the sinister urchin rhymes that used to plague my dreams as the LoveSong has begun to take over, streaming all within my bloodways and in each and every breath. I scarce recall kicking against the Holy and straining to return to my damnable ditch. How could I? Why would I? I laugh now as I think of the times I wanted to sit clean and pretty at the Feast but wear my stained and worn clothes around the palace. For some inexplicable reason, I needed to feel the itch of the old life against my skin.
If you were to look into my closet today (and I took a peek in yours), you'd see it overtaken by the garments of righteousness as it is the Lover of my soul who clothes me. You can dig around and find some of the old stuff packed away and perhaps an outfit or two that still get worn (foolishly) from time to time. But the sovereign of my heart is coaxing me away from all vestiges of the past and His beauty and delight in me give me the power to change.
It's all in the becoming.
This sixteenth chapter shows me that the progressions are palpable. Glory to glory. Looking back, I see bouts with head lice and pimples but my head is wearing the tiara of acceptance and forgiveness. I've struggled through seasons of rebellion, rowdiness and raunchiness, but I am covered with the new gowns of joy and righteousness. There is now a beauty that is coming forth in me that is not of my own doing. It is the likeness of the Son for whom I have been prepared.
One day His fullness will be so etched on my face as I will be in His presence and the consummation of our union will be realized. I will be like Him, for I shall behold Him as He is (1 John 3:2)! For now, the joy I have is in the becoming, the anticipation of what lies ahead. And my story joins yours in that once upon a time, the God of Love passed by, saw us in our vomit and offal and mercifully gave us a reason to "Live!" (Ezek. 16:6)
"And I passed by you and looked on you…I spread my skirt over you and covered your nakedness. And I swore to you and entered into a covenant with you…and you became Mine. I washed you with water; I washed away your blood from you, and I anointed you with oil. I also clothed you with embroidered work, and I shod you with dugog* sandals. And I wrapped you in fine linen and I covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and I put bracelets on your hands and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring in your nose and earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. And you were adorned with gold and silver…you were exceedingly beautiful…"
(Ezekiel 16:8-13, Modern King James)
"Exceedingly beautiful." That's how God sees me too. And you as well, if you know Him and have been washed with Royal water and Righteous blood. We're becoming who God sees us to be and thanks be to God that we're a long ways from the ditch on the side of the road.
*a sea mammal