Some days are full of meaningful exchanges. My daughter and I connect over her schoolwork. My husband and I are in sync. I’m able to affect someone’s healthy lifestyle choice at work. Heaven feels so close during prayer it’s as though He beamed me up for an hour.
Other days, all I do is kill ants.
Spring means dealing with an invasion of pesky black ants. They don’t invade en masse but one by one by one. I spot them crawling up a wall, along a window ledge, across a kitchen shelf or along the bathroom sink. So, one by one, as I see them, I stop what I’m doing and end their foray into my world and then return to what I am doing only now I am distracted by keeping one eye out for tiny intruders.
Other days it’s not ants but perhaps endless errands or hours spent waiting for medical procedures or sick with a cold or cleaning up a series of messes created by others or handling complaints at work. Whatever it is, there are days when I do not see the adventure of life with Christ but only the drudgery and dullness of existence this side of the veil.
These are the days when evil whispers in my ear “There is no more than this. You have fooled yourself into thinking there is. Despair. Abandon hope. You are simply dust and life is a series of endless, meaningless tasks.” But that is the voice of evil, using the minutia of life to tempt me to doubt what I know is true. The evil one knows that faced with great challenges or disaster, my human spirit rises up and reaches for God so I cannot be tempted to turn from Him then but faced with the daily dullness of repetitive chores or petty annoyances or mindless vagrancies my spirit sinks to the ground, I feel small and unnoticed and am most open to hearing his case against my hope of heaven.
Odd this, that I should need Jesus more on days of drudgery than on days of disaster but the truth is I need Him all the time but on the days of killing ants I am less inclined to search for Him. I should keep in my kitchen a sign that reads “Beware the temptation in the tedium for doubt resides in the doldrums of everyday.”
I thank God for these days of ant-killing because it is in them I am reminded that I have far to go to become like Jesus. Thomas Merton once said “The monk is not defined by his task, his usefulness; in a certain sense he is supposed to be useless, because his mission is not to do this or that job but to be a man of God.” Before all other callings, I am called to be His, to be like Him, to be with Him even in the midst of dust bunnies, oil changes and leftovers.
There is a poem by Alistair Maclean that goes “Even though the day be laden and my task dreary and my strength small, a song keeps singing in my heart. For I know that I am Thine, I am part of Thee. Thou art kin to me, and all my times are in Thy hand.” Know that on the dreary days, evil whispers in our ears but know also that greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world – even in the days of chasing ants.
“Christian writing.” I replied.
“Oh.” He answered with a tinge of disappointment. “Do you ever write for normal people?”
And I could hear God laugh.
In the King James translation of 1 Peter 2:9, God says to us “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people”. Boy, do we fulfill that scripture in spades! More recent translations replace “a peculiar people” with “a people for his own possession” or “His own special people” but I think peculiar hits the nail on the head. I learned early in life that God isn’t too discriminating about who He lets sit at His table and I’ve come to appreciate how fortunate I am that He isn’t.
Take, for instance, the motley crew that used to gather at the Baptist church in my hometown for Sunday night hymn sings. This was the seventies, mind you, so hymn sings weren’t the normal place to find anyone, never mind a teen-age girl, but I attended faithfully because the church family was my home and, well, I was peculiar even then.
Services were led by a young pastor fresh out of seminary. As I recall he wasn’t very popular with the adults and his tenure was not long-lived. I understood only enough to know he struggled under the weight of people’s criticism and being a Christian in high school in the seventies, it helped me to have a leader who knew the sting of rejection.
The pianist was a large woman named Lucy who played with enthusiasm but had a habit of changing the tempo of a song mid-verse. It made every hymn a bit of a musical adventure. The other regular attendees were a spinster school teacher named Louise who wore cat glasses and sang with a glass-shattering vibrato, a socially awkward woman named Melva who often interrupted the morning sermons to announce she was going to the bathroom and who once gave my mother a toilet bowl brush for Christmas and Fred Bailey, a man who was old from the time I was young, lost an arm in an industrial accident but still carved dollhouse furniture and who always requested hymn #333, Blessed Assurance, (“all three verses and could we please stand to sing” every time).
So, while my peers were home listening to rock opera, I was standing next to Mr. Bailey singing in full voice about our blessed assurance. I had no cool young youth minister who was targeting my demographic. There were no special youth services or lock-ins and good Christian music was still an oxymoron. So, God loved me and taught me through this gathering of misfits and small-town rejects.
Together, we sang about a love that was higher and deeper than any we could find on earth. We sang about a love that would not let us go even when others would not draw near. We sang about a promised home where we would have a place even though now we didn’t really belong. And we sang about the family of God into which we were welcomed even though we knew, only too well, all the reasons there were to reject us.
We were a mighty peculiar people but during the hours we spent together, we knew in the depths of our souls that we were also part of a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” As the body of Christ we were transformed. We were not clumsy, rejected pastors or unchosen spinsters or chubby studious virgin teens or damaged old men or widowed or divorced or socially awkward. We were beautiful, loved and accepted – a people of His own possession.
Together in that church basement, we would gather and we live out the second half of that verse for 1 Peter 2:9 “that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”. When I remember those nights, I don’t remember a gathering of misfits but rather a room alive with light in a dark town.
God revels in calling those of us the world rejects in order to make His power and glory known throughout the universe. He laughs at the judgments and conventions of people who see only the outward appearance for God looks on the heart.
No, I never write for normal people.
I write for people who know how much they deserve to be excluded but who bask in the audacious grace of a God who has chosen them, embraced them, transformed them and filled them with a brilliance that nothing on this earth will dim.
“Write what you know” they say. So, I write for a peculiar people and it’s my honor and joy to do so.
One day as I waited for her to slowly tie her own shoe laces so we could leave for an appointment, I thought I was doing very well but my observant daughter called me on it. She looked up at me and uttered an exasperated, “Mo-om.”
“What?” I asked. “I’m being patient!”
“You’re not BEING patient.” She replied. “You’re ACTING patient.”
Wow. Found out by a six-year-old. Now I know how the emperor felt.
As a Christian, I can fall into the very bad habit of putting my genuine self under deep cover. I know how I am SUPPOSED to be, so I act like that. That’s not all bad but it’s only the first step in actually BECOMING like Christ. I even try to pull the act off in prayer sometimes.
“Lord, I trust you with my life.” I may pray. But then the Spirit whispers, “You aren’t being trusting, you’re acting trusting. I’m not fooled. Let me take you where you need to be.”
My prayer isn’t wrong; I just need to go deeper. Like the father of the possessed boy in Mark 24, we should cry out often “Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief!”
These days we live in are loaded with the temptation to be fearful, anxious, or worried about the future. I find I need more time alone with God than ever so that He can get beneath my façade of near-faith and develop in me true peace, true freedom from anxiety and true courage to face whatever comes. These days I am surrounded by others in greater need than I am and it’s a test of my compassion, my generosity and my love for others. I need time alone with Jesus and the Word of God so that I can get past just acting compassionate to where I actually am compassionate.
I suppose it’s similar to learning a new language. As a sinner, my first language is sinful thinking. As a saint, saved by grace and walking by faith, I am learning the new language of Christ-likeness. It’s natural to stumble around with tenses and sentence structure when learning a new language but eventually, my hope is that I will think in the new language. I want Christ-like behavior to become my heart language but to make that happen, I must immerse myself in Christ through time spent in prayer, reading His word, worshipping and learning from others who are on the same journey.
Is your genuine self under deep cover? Are you acting like Christ when you should be being like Christ? Me, too. But God promises me in His word that I can become like Christ. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!
I am fascinated by the birds that breed and feed in my wooded backyard. My white cat, Sushi, stalks them, often poised directly below their feeder pole but they eat and sing undeterred by the threat that lurks beneath them. They have songs and wings.
Our Creator God has a voracious appetite for variety. My common backyard birds come in a vast array of colors, sizes and designs when really He could have chosen to create just one singular breed and we would never have known the difference.
In His wisdom, He muted the colors of the females, a camouflage from predators while the males fan and preen and display their magnificence to both win their mates and to protect them. Yet, he blessed many of the females with brilliant flashes of color beneath their wings – for what purpose except for the joy of it and the flair of a Master’s brush?
Each bird, too, has its own language and call. Again, they could have all done fine with a common “caw” but instead there are tweets, twitters, warbles, cries and alarms individual to each breed and to each situation. Many listeners note that often the plainest, tiniest wren has been blessed with the boldest and sweetest song.
God’s passion for variety is revealed not only in these creatures but also in ourselves. We humans are alike and yet so different from each other when really one tone of skin or one color of eyes or one type of talent might have done. Instead, we each have our own coloring, our own distinctive markings, our own wings, our own song.
Made in the image of a Creator God, we are designed to create. Our creative urges are as varied as ourselves – driving some to music, some to visual arts, others to words, some to wood and others to movement. There are those who are driven to create order, new inventions, new relationships, healing techniques, teaching methods or more children. Some were designed to create hope in others and some to create lasting peace. The ways we express our creativity are as unique as our DNA and as necessary to a full and satisfying life.
All of us will die. Beneath the places we breed and feed lurks the ever present specter of death stalking our every move. But we have wings and songs. Will you go the grave with the song still in you? Will you live a life of quiet desperation? Or will you exercise the wings given you by the Master Designer? Will you find your voice and the song He imagined only you would sing? Will the world be blessed with what was formed in you before time and what was part of the plan before He spoke light into being?
Look out on the birds of spring and ask Him, “What song was I designed to sing? Let it take wing within me.”
Last week I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time in years. I love the scene where Indiana Jones discovers where Marion has been taken captive and instead of rescuing her, he leaves her there! It’s a great moment because we all know the hero is supposed to rescue the damsel in distress but Indiana Jones is no ordinary hero. He knows it will serve their goal better if he leaves Marion in her predicament for just a little longer. Eventually, he saves her but a lot of damsel distress happens in between.
That’s just like Jesus. He’s no ordinary hero. We have all these expectations about what He should do in our lives and when but He’s not compelled to serve our expectations. He’s got a greater plan and sometimes it serves the good of the goal to leave us unrescued for the moment.
Jesus loved John the Baptist. They were cousins and John, perhaps more than anyone at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, understood what Jesus was about. It amazes me that when John is thrown into prison and sends word to Jesus, Jesus doesn’t come. He doesn’t show up. He sends John a message through one of his followers and shortly thereafter, John is beheaded.
Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus. They were his friends. He stayed at their home when He was in town. They hosted His gatherings. Then Lazarus grew seriously ill. They sent for their friend who could heal the sick. Does He drop everything and come rushing to their rescue. No. He tarries. Lazarus dies. What are they to think? Where was He? How could He not come?
In both cases, Jesus knew it served the greater plan for Him not to come. John, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are all rescued now but in the moment, they remained unrescued. Jesus is no ordinary hero.
Some of us remain unrescued. We love Jesus. We follow Him the best we can. We’re not perfect but we’ve really tried. Then trouble shows up at our door. We are sick unto death. We are financially devastated. We watch relationships crumble. We cry out to our hero for help, and we wait. But we remain unrescued.
We know He can hear us. We know He could save us if He wanted. We even feel His love and know He is with us in our trouble. So we are tempted to question our own faith.
Hebrews chapter 11 is the great faith chapter where are listed the heroes of our faith: Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Moses – the list goes on. If you read to the end, however, you will find the chapter takes a distressing turn. Around verse 33, the writer mentions many who through faith shut the mouths of lions, conquered kingdoms, and escaped the edge of the sword but then, around verse 36, we find that some who exercised faith faced jeers, flogging, prison, torture, persecution, mistreatment and death. It ends with these words “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
God has a plan. Jesus is no ordinary hero and if you choose to follow Him, you are not on an ordinary adventure. Sometimes you will not be rescued from your temporary predicament. Some of us through faith will be healed, will overcome obstacles, will triumph over death on earth but some of us, through faith, will remain sick, will remain impoverished, will die.
Are you still unrescued? Take heart. He loves you as dearly as He loved John and Mary, Martha and Lazarus. You will arrive safe in the end but if He tarries to come, He has a greater goal in mind and you have been given a part in that. Stay strong and do not lose heart. He is no ordinary hero and you are not a child of ordinary faith.
Ultimately, we are in this, not for the payoff of the momentary rescue but for the greater prize – the building of a kingdom that will exceed all our expectations and include all who need to be rescued! Take heart, loved one. In a little while, He will come. “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”( Rev. 22:20-21) Maranatha!
I once heard a sermon from a minister who was trying to please everyone (never a good idea). This minister was preaching about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and said “There is some controversy over whether or not Jesus ACTUALLY rose from the dead but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that we have ‘resurrection hope’ in our lives, that’s the real message of Easter.” What? Yeah, I don’t think so. Some helium filled “resurrection hope” balloon is not going to get this soul’s basket too far off the field. I need a real resurrection or I’m not playing.
I was born in the sixties and came up through the expose seventies and eighties. I’ve seen Kool-Aid cults, impeached presidents and Batman without the suit. I don’t follow blindly.
My karate instructor must actually be able to kick butt (He can!). My writing mentor must know how to write (Her Scottish Crown series is amazing). If I marry a guy he’d best be up for “until death do us part” (he is), and if I worship a guy, He’d better be able to walk on water.
So if Jesus didn’t come back from the dead, it all falls apart. He’s not a good teacher or a wise guide if he said He would rise again and then remained in the ground like every other prophet before him. That makes him deluded or deceitful and, no thank you, I won’t walk the straight and narrow for a crazy man or a liar.
There are many books written by worldly, once skeptical men that explore the facts and the arguments for believing the Bible and its account of Jesus’ life. One that is very readable is “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel who began as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Buy it. Read it.
But there are two simple defenses for the resurrection that fortify me every time.
First of all, in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, (that’s the whole list of men who begat other men), he makes mention of four women besides Mary, the mother of Jesus: Rahab (a prostitute), Tamar (who pretended to be a prostitute to trick her father-in-law into impregnating her), Ruth (a Moabitess – a non-Jew – a Gentile) and Bathsheba (who committed adultery with King David who subsequently had her Hittite husband, Uriah killed). Now anyone will tell you, that if you’re making a case that your guy is King of the Jews, you avoid mentioning that his family tree includes hookers, adulterers and Gentiles. It’s certainly not the lead story in your gospel. So Matthew’s genealogy is fairly strong evidence that the disciples didn’t just decide to invent a religion. Before turning apostle, Matthew was a tax collector – that’s a Jew who was in collusion with the Romans. This is guy who understood politics and spin. He’d never start a fake defense of his guy with such scandalous material unless it was the truth.
The disciples themselves are evidence that Jesus’ rose from the dead. Do you remember these guys in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested? First of all, they couldn’t stay awake with Him and support Him on a night when He was in agony. Second of all, when the law arrived, these guys were out of there – one even ran off without his clothes he was in such a hurry. They had seen Jesus heal people, raise them from the dead, walk on water and turn Dasani into Chianti. And yet, when the soldiers marched in, the disciples scurried out like rats on a sinking ship. End Act I
Fast forward to life after the resurrection. These same men are out preaching in the streets, taking blows and beatings rather than heeding the warnings to cease and desist and announcing Jesus Christ to Roman Guards and Jewish authorities without fear, without falter, without flinching in the face of certain death. Most of the twelve eventually were martyred themselves rather than renounce Christ (it is believed that John died a natural death in his old age). This is compelling evidence to me that Jesus actually walked out of that tomb alive. Men don’t change.
As comparison, the conspirators in the Watergate scandal fell apart with their stories in little over two weeks of pressure and they didn’t fear for their lives, just their livelihoods, jail time and finances. They turned on each other in a heartbeat and the whole thing unraveled like Grandma’s ball of yarn.
For men to change from ship rats to martyrs there had to be a catalyst – and there was. Jesus was dead on Friday and alive on Sunday. Alone in a tomb, wrapped in grave cloths, under heavy Roman guard, after having been beaten, crucified and speared in the side – he did not “revive” and force a massive piece of granite out of the way and overwhelm men with swords. No one hid his body and decided to start a false religion that would cost them their lives.
Jesus rose from the dead. Every human must deal with this historical fact. Jesus rose from the dead. You must deal with this fact. Jesus rose from the dead. I must deal with this fact. Jesus rose from the dead. This is our only resurrection hope – Jesus rose from the dead.
Don’t worship a guy just because he tells a good story and can do amazing tricks with fish and chips. But if He gets up out of His grave, OK, that’s the power of God.
So, you know the story about the blind men and the elephant where several blind men touch different parts of the elephant and try to describe what an elephant is like? Yeah, OK. So, from one blind man to another, here is part of what I think friendship with God is like.
Ever watch the movie, Lethal Weapon? Sergeant Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) is partnered with Sergeant Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) in the LAPD. Murtaugh is nearing retirement and just wants to do his job well, but safely. Riggs has lost his wife and doesn’t care if he lives or dies so safety is not a concern for him as the pair pursues the bad guys. This dynamic means that Riggs puts the duo into a series of crazy, breath-taking, lunch-hurling situations. Fortunately, Riggs’ capabilities are equal to his reckless bravado and the pair escapes every danger.
Murtaugh and the audience go along for this wild ride because it’s obvious that Riggs is a good man. He always has his partner’s back, he’s never going to get caught taking a bribe or playing both sides of the law and he’s willing to risk his own life for his friends. That’s just like Jesus and me.
Jesus is always coming up with these crazy ideas about what should happen in my life and He doesn’t seem particularly concerned with my safety, my comfort or my ice-cold, lunch-hurling fear. He doesn’t! He takes me on adventures I would never sign up for and wouldn’t survive if I didn’t know that He is good. I’m just like Murtaugh – I’m not afraid of hard work but I just want to go about my job and make it to retirement safely. HA!
Jesus doesn’t care that I’m middle-aged. He doesn’t seem at all concerned about my desire for a comfortable retirement. He knows there is evil in the world and He knows there are still people in danger. He risks everything to save them and if I want to partner with Him, He’s willing to risk my life and limb because He knows His capabilities are equal to His reckless loving bravado.
These adventures are very real. I’ve had friends who have followed Him into adventures in dangerous countries to save people. Other friends have followed Him into poverty or social alienation to save others. I’ve got friends who have followed Him through disease and into the face of death in order to save others. All of them went, trusting in His goodness, knowing He always has their backs, He’s never going to turn evil and He’s willing to risk His own life for His friends.
Our culture worships safety. There’s nothing safe about following Jesus. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “‘Course he isn’t safe, but he’s good.” Psalm 86 speaks to the goodness of God. He’s good but He’s not safe!
I have a friend now who is “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” but she is sold out for Christ and I know she is like Murtaugh. She had hoped to safely reach retirement but if others can be reached and saved by her example in looking death in the face with Jesus at her side, I know she’s willing trust in His goodness all the way.
Jesus doesn’t care about risking death because He’s been there and He’s back! He knows the way out of death so it makes Him reckless in His love. Sometimes it seems He doesn’t care about the lives of His partners but that’s not it. He’s not crazy. He just knows there’s more to life than this life. He knows the real end of the story. As lunch-hurling and hair-raising as it gets, I want to be His partner.
This Saturday, remember how the disciples must have felt when the man they believed would be King and Messiah lay cold and dead in a tomb surrounded by Roman guards. Much of our lives can be like that Saturday -wondering how following Jesus could have led us to where we are.
But on Sunday – glorious Sunday – that tomb was empty and He who was dead was alive. That’s where following Jesus really leads -to the risen life that never ends.
I once irritated a very serious Christian. (OK, I’ve irritated more than one serious Christian but let’s just deal with one at a time.) I irritated this brother in Christ by referring to my relationship with God as a friendship. “You shouldn’t be so casual about the Almighty God of the Universe! You need to be more careful about referring to your relationship with Him as a friendship!” he scolded. Truthfully, I hate being scolded, it unnerves me so I replied defensively, “Well, it wasn’t MY idea to be friends, it was His!”
While it’s sadly true that too many believers treat God more like a buddy than the Lord of their lives, it was His radical notion to become friends with us and He’s pretty emphatic about it. In John 15: 12-15, Jesus tells His disciples “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
I’m certain that Jesus wasn’t talking about a Face book type of friendship. Casual friendship. Acquaintance friendship. I’m sure Jesus didn’t lay down his life for us so we could exchange cards at Christmas. The friendship He offers us requires total commitment on both sides.
Recently I read “Fireflies in December”, a novel set in Virginia in 1932 that tells the story of the friendship between a young white girl named Jessilyn and a black girl named Gemma. When Gemma’s parents are killed in a fire, Jessilyn’s family takes her in as their own, thus making themselves the target of the local Klan. The friendship between these girls is deep, loyal and beneficial not only to them but also to the greater society. Engaging in that friendship put their lives and other relationships in jeopardy.
Jesus willingly put his life in jeopardy to befriend us. He laid down His life for us. What are we willing to lay down for Him? Our lives? Our schedules? Our prejudice against others? Our selfish ambitions? Our anger? Our misconceptions about God? Our need for total control?
True friendship runs deep. True friendship crosses boundaries and breaks through barriers. True friends are loyal, confide in one another and believe in one another. True friends know the truth about each other and they speak the truth to one another. True friendship benefits the friends and enriches the world around them.
The friendship Jesus offers runs deep, crosses boundaries and breaks through barriers. Jesus is loyal, He wants to confide in you (Psalm 25:14) and He believes in you because He knows exactly who you are. Jesus knows the whole truth about you and speaks the whole truth to you. Friendship with Jesus benefits you and enriches the world around you.
This week is not about bunnies or eggs or floral dresses or new shoes. This week is about the Creator of the Universe crossing cosmic boundaries and laying everything down to save our souls. And He did not orchestrate this salvation to become our master but to offer us the friendship of a lifetime, the heart union our souls crave, the bread of life in the form of a relationship that does not enslave but liberates.
My friend laid down His life for me and this week I remember all he endured to pay a debt that was mine to pay. I will honor Him by laying down my schedule to spend time with Him, to listen to Him, to know His heart. I will lay down everything I have against others to see the world through His eyes. I will lay down my selfish ambition to be open to His plan for my life.
In this world, people covet the fortune of having powerful friends. You have an invitation of friendship from the Master of the Universe. Grab hold of it this week. Go deeper with it. Revel in it. Cling to it. Proclaim it to the world.
So, Friday night I watched an old movie (1998) called Simon Birch, loosely based on the novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany. It’s set in 1964 and it’s about a friendship between Joe, the illegitimate son of a single mom in a small town and Simon, a boy who’s unloved and whose stunted growth leaves him child-size at age twelve. Though challenged and unwanted, Simon has the audacity to believe that God designed him for a purpose and has a plan for his life. Joe believes this, too, even when Simon accidentally causes his mother’s death. Simon’s story is still working on me.
I know what it’s like to grow up in a small town in 1964. I know what it’s like to feel different, alone and challenged. I also know what it’s like to have a solitary faith that God sees you and has a plan for you even when most others think that’s a grasping, arrogant fantasy.
For me, Simon represents all of us because before we know the work of Christ in our lives, we are all stunted in our growth, none of us reaches the heights we were designed to reach and we are all unloved, rejected and alone. When we do encounter Jesus, it is the audacious, fantastic truth we learn that He did, indeed, create us with a purpose and He most certainly has a plan for our broken, lonely lives.
The bond between the two boys is fiercely loyal. They’ve crossed boundaries of prejudice and fear to forge a love that becomes an island of hope for them in a sea of despair. We all sail that sea these days. We all need the buoy of friendship to survive these times.
In Simon Birch’s fictitious world, the church was a crippling, stifling source of rejection but I have found God’s church to be the place of friendship and refuge I have needed all along the way. It is within the body of Christ that I have found friendships that crossed color-lines, economic differences, gender barriers and generation gaps. Here I have found friendships that have survived distance, disappointments, distresses and disagreements. The church is certainly not perfect but neither am I, which is why I fit in so well.
If I were to only have surface relationships, I could probably keep up the façade that I’m not as broken as I am. The friendships I form within the church, however, have a tendency to get deep and then I am exposed for the fraud that I am. But that’s all right. My friends are frauds, too. Our only hope is Jesus and His work in our lives. Through these friendships, we reinforce that work and we believe in each other that we were each created for a purpose and that God does have a plan for our lives.
Break a boundary this week. Make friends with someone who is different. Go deeper with a friendship. Let someone see the broken you, the illegitimate you, the unwanted, misunderstood you. But during this week, when we remember Jesus ‘great sacrifice, have the audacity to know that He designed you for a purpose, that He has a plan for your life. Show up at the imperfect church. You’ll fit right in.
He tells the girls “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge only goes back to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”
Do you live by the Deeper Magic? Is your life marked by the effects of “Death working backwards?”
This week I’ve encountered people living lives untouched by the deeper magic of Christ. Living marked by unrelenting sorrows, following religious rules with no understanding and no hope of finding life within those rules, facing a future of escalating physical limitation, or perhaps enjoying an outwardly satisfying life but inwardly knowing no joy, no hope, no meaning. I have experienced a profound sadness with each encounter.
C.S.Lewis, who wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, lived in days marked by World War I and under the gathering cloud of World War II. There was nothing rosy about his world and yet he knew the hope of death working backwards. The Apostle John also knew great sorrow and suffering, living in a time of great turmoil, Roman rule and the martyrdom of believers and yet, he wrote of Jesus in John 1:3 “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
The great Eeyore apostle, fondly known as Doubting Thomas, does not strike me as an optimistic, cheery fellow. He seems like a serious man who always wanted proof and firsthand knowledge of events before committing himself to them. Yet, when Jesus decided to head to Judea where men were plotting His death, Thomas was willing to accompany him. His gloomy words were “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Thomas saw in Jesus a deeper magic that made death with Him seem more appealing than life without Him.
I am one of those who live by the deeper magic. I know hardship and trouble, disease and distress, panic in the dark of night and unfulfilled dreams but the roots of my life tap into a deep flowing stream that sucks living water into the marrow of my soul. My days are imbued with grace, with miracles, with rich meaning and with joy no circumstances can dislodge. This is because Jesus lives and works in my life the amazing truth of death working backwards. I am more alive today than I was yesterday and I move ever forward to the day when I am so alive I will break out of this world.
Holy week approaches and it is a good time to meet Jesus for yourself. Be like Thomas. Don’t believe what others say, go directly to the source. Read one of the gospels. Even if you’ve sat in church for a hundred years, tell Jesus you want to know Him one-to-one. Don’t let anything get in your way – not the imperfect church, not your own prejudices, not the false teaching of imposters, not your own personal darkness. Something within you rises up right now at the hope that there is a deeper magic. Don’t let that hope go unexplored. Get to Jesus.
And if you already know Him, tell Him you want to know Him more, that you’re ready to go deeper.