"But we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Where is the Lord's glory revealed...this glory into which we are being changed? Not in displays of power and might and authority. Not in miracles. Not in acts of usurpation. None of these are the means by which the glory of God is made known to us. He shows his true self on the cross. In his suffering and death...in taking upon himself the burden of all our sin...in absorbing all the wrath our rebellion deserves...in laying down his life that we might live...in THIS the fullness of his glory is made manifest. As we look upon him there, we begin to understand that for us too, this is the path by which we are transformed from one degree of glory to the next, until his glory - the Imago Dei - is made manifest in us.
This is a hard saying. We are not inclined to choose suffering. Who wouldn't rather rest in the garden of ease than trudge the way of grief? Yet the place of ease is not the place where we learn patience, long-suffering, and abiding love. These virtues are formed in us as we enter hard places of fear and uncertainty...as we walk in sorrow and absorb the hurts that others inflict on us...as we grieve over the pain we have imposed on others...as we encounter disappointment, loss, injustice, loneliness, sickness, failure, and death.
He sends us into the wilderness "to test us, to prove us, and to show us what is in our hearts." It is his unrelenting love, his commitment to capture our hearts, his determination to see us re-made, that compels him to lead us down the "via dolorosa." Suffering is the mirror that reveals our hearts: our loves, our motivations, our commitments. When light reaches and exposes those dark corners, we can no longer hide from others or ourselves. Our tendencies to escape, to fight, to protect or justify ourselves, to trust in our own strength and our own schemes more than in our Saviour...these all rise to the surface where we are forced to confront the truth about ourselves. This then brings us face to face with the truth about the God who not only sends US into the wilderness to be transformed, but who entered the wilderness HIMSELF so that he might transform our mortal lives into glorious - weighty and beautiful - reflections of his own self-giving love.
He is making good on his promises, not in spite of, but by way of our grief. He remembers us. He loves us enough not to abandon us to our own shallow peace in a garden of ease.