This was the only photo we got on this busy Resurrection Sunday. For me it’s enough. Me and this little guy are tuckered out from a full day worshipping at church and celebrating with church family. Overall, Ezekiel’s day was great, playing with friends and dogs and toys and eating almost whatever he wanted. However, it was a demanding day for both of us as we battled toddler emotions, sugar highs, play fatigue, and the ever lurking “what-should-I-do-here?” moments of single parenting. All in all, a glorious day to be alive and in Christ. I love Jesus, I love my son, and love my church family.
That said, here’s few thoughts:
1) My identity is firmly rooted in Christ, His finished work on the cross, and His Resurrection Power. This “new normal” for Ezekiel and I is gut-wrenching at times, because we live with the constant reminder that all is not as it should be. I had to learn this lesson earlier in my life than any child should have to with the absence of my own father. Ezekiel now, much like me at his age, has to recognize that there are two worlds operating within his life. From as young as 6 years old, I can remember that one of my greatest aspirations in life was to be a husband and father, to have a marriage and family that was happy, healthy, and whole, and (as I grew in my faith) to cultivate a family that would love God and serve Him together. I haven’t quite been able to deliver on that for Ezekiel. He will, as I did, feel a void that not everyone else does, but like me he will also have to learn that wholeness this side of heaven will never come from an ideal marriage or family. I wish I could say I didn’t still fall prey to this idea at times but at 32 years of age I’m still learning to trust God here. Because of our union with Christ, and His unflinching commitment to making His disciples holy and happy people, every believer is always in what my grandma refers to as “the school of faith.”
So, because I have Christ, I don’t have to strive to fill every void in Ezekiel’s life or make sure he doesn’t ever feel the hurt I did growing up aware of my broken family. Jesus is more than sufficient to do that. I don’t have to be a perfect man or a perfect father, because the truth is I can’t do that. But Jesus can. God can. My role is to love Christ, and imitate His ways, speak His words, and display His heart to Ezekiel. He needs that from me much more than He needs me to be “awesome” or perfect. This frees me to be me, Nick Barnfield, an imperfect man who is loved and was bought with a price. A man who, spiritually speaking, has been crucified with Christ, buried with Him, and raised to new life through the work of the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 6:4; Gal. 2:20) My identity is secure, and as such my life’s mission is to demonstrate to all who see that this world is not my home, and that because Christ has been raised, I too will one day rise again to be gloriously and eternally whole. No earthly circumstance can change that. Because my identity is secure in Christ, I get to live today in light of eternity. Ezekiel gets to watch me strive to live that out for as long as we’re here on this earth together. And Lord willing, as long as there’s breath in my lungs, I’m gonna strive to live in such a way that he knows without question that his daddy loves and is loved by Jesus.
2) The family I’ve always longed for isn’t waiting for me in some future earthly scenario, it’s already here because of Christ’s finished work on the cross and His Resurrection Power. Today, sitting with brothers and sisters in Christ, eating, fellowshipping, sharing encouragement, sharing burdens and confessing sins, sometimes laughing at, correcting, and consoling children at the same time, I realize that in Christ God had given us the family we all need. Jesus spoke of all who would follow Him as having many mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. (Matt. 12:46-50) This is the new “Spiritual Family” that He created in and for Himself. (Eph. 2:19)
His Resurrection doesn’t just grant a get out of hell free card, but a home in heaven and a family that will fill that home with laughter that will be the most gut-busting laughter we’ve ever experienced, food that will taste better than we’ve ever eaten, a fellowship that will leave us with such a sense of belonging that we’ll never feel alone, a rest that will make our work and play infinitely satisfying, and a worship that will fill our souls to overflowing. Fellowship with our church family today was a reminder that the best is yet to come.
Jesus died to make payment for our sins. I hold the conviction that, as my dear brother Austin DeArmond loves to say, “when Christ went to the Cross He took names.” But He didn’t just die, He rose, and in His rising Jesus immediately got to work drawing together this new Spiritual Family He purchased to be His own. The Spiritual Family we see today in the Church is the living, breathing representation of the Family we’ll enjoy together for eternity. That longing I’ve always had for a home filled with people—happy, whole, laughing, praying, singing, working, serving, playing, loving—Christ’s Resurrection makes that possible, and no “power of hell or scheme of man” can ever take that away. This isn’t just a dream, it’s a reality.
We live in a world where spouses leave, children die, friendships crumble, medicine doesn’t heal, storms don’t change their course, and every kind of gut-wrenching suffering imaginable. This is true. But in some mysterious way, the Resurrection of Christ speaks of a world more true. There is a future day when Christ our Heavenly Husband will invite us in to sit and dine at the great Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19). We’ll see children who have died more gloriously alive than ever before as they sit and play under the smile of King Jesus. Resurrected, glorified bodies will leap and dance with strength and health they never experienced in their short time on earth. We’ll witness the whole of Creation in all it’s immensity and glorious beauty, and we’ll fear none of it because we’ll witness the Sovereign King of the Universe as He commands every molecule with unflinching direction from His throne.
That Jesus rose means the best is yet to come. We who are in Christ have hope for today and strength for tomorrow because Jesus has reconciled us to God and one another, and He has gone to prepare for us a glorious inheritance in Him and in one another in heaven. (John 14; Eph. 1:3-23)
That’s all for now. Thank you Jesus. If you’ve made it this far, I invite you to join me in striving to live not just today, but every day in light of Christ’s Resurrection.