Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter All Year: The Yielded Journey

If we could have been there, sandaled toes sifting dusty paths, with Him that week, I wonder if we would have noticed.  I wonder if we would have realized something was up, not right.  I wonder if we could have sensed an intensity about Jesus in the days that preceded his arrest.  Would his hair have shown a stray grey strand or two that certainly weren't there the week before?  (Like the presidents who enter office auburn, black, and blond, shades, but leave dyed the same shade--stressed grey.) Would one eye have sagged slightly, like my grandfather's, under the emotional weight?  Though the sky was blue, barometric pressure fine, and the pollen count low would he have complained just once of a headache--an ache only death would alleviate?  And I wonder how it must have been for him in that hushed upper room as he sat side by side, surrounded by twelve and yet entirely, utterly alone?

Sometimes I suspect it wasn't the fear of physical pain that caused capillaries to burst, a face to sweat blood.  Don't you think that just maybe it was the relational pain of knowing he would be betrayed by the very man he had poured years of ministry into?  The only way I can relate to Christ this weekend is to imagine something similar.  What if, when their bones have reached the extent of breadth and height and their shoulders are broad, one of my sweet boys-slivers of my heart, chose to walk from our family?  Turn their back on me?  Believe they could do better elsewhere?  Sold out for some silver?  What if it was my son?  Because though Jesus bore none biological, weren't the disciples really like his children?  He poured his life into them, teaching them, feeding them, guiding them, preparing them.  Isn't it probable that he could bare the wicked strap he knew they'd use to punish Him for His deity, but what caused him to go back and pray three times in one night was the suffocating sadness of surrendering his relationships with those twelve who would scatter when soldiers came?  Oh, Jesus, if my own children scattered at the moment I needed them, how I would crumble, disintegrate. Yet you stood.

"My Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me!"

That was his plea, and I'll never fully grasp its depth.  As though he said, "God, I can't fathom baring this plan You have asked of me. I want to run in the other direction.  I want to hide, go to another city, keep a low profile for a while.  I want to live."  What if he really did want to live?  What if he knew that he would conquer death, conquer hell, conquer the grave, and get the prize of a return trip to the heavenly presence of God in the end, but somehow still . . . he wanted to live? Because it is hard to understand the reality that this temporary life is only the casing of eternal souls in mortals frames.  The everlasting living? The real party? That begins when we shed these frames and enter the realm where moth and rust no longer destroy.  But that's all heady knowledge--fills me with understanding.  To live out that knowledge.  That is hard.  Was it hard for him too?   He had a mother.  A father.  Twelve disciples.  He had people he loved.

If those were his feelings--even a teensy weensy little bit--then I understand that God/Man.  I do.  Because I know the end of the story.  I know in the end, I get the prize of the presence of God, the streets of gold, the gate of pearl, the face of Creator God. I mean can you even begin to fathom what the face of God will be like?  He speaks and mountains literally melt.  He utters words and birds of a thousand colors stretch wings, fill air.  So I get it.  I do. And yet I long to linger here a little while.  Long to keep loving those I call mine--sweet, sweaty, summer-freckled boys with dirt glued beneath their fingernails and a man whose square jutted jaw still makes my tummy somersault. 

He himself said these words:  "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me . . ." (Matthew 10:37) And being God, he had to know when he spoke them it would be he that would have to walk away from his mother and father.  It was him who would never have the chance for a son or a daughter.  Surely when he "threw himself down with his face to the ground and prayed . . . "  (Matthew 26:39) he recalled the very words he had uttered about loving fathers, loving mothers.  Are we to assume that because he was a man filled with God-head deity, he was exempt from the very things culture dictates, temps us with throughout all time?  Was he exempt from the longings of earthly things?  Scripture tells us he was tempted in every way.  Surely, he was tempted just to live an ordinary life, like all the other people.  Just to live.

Father if it be possible, let this cup pass . . .

Yet not what I will, but what you will.

And sometimes I wonder if, though he had no biological children of his own, Jesus isn't the best model of parenting we could follow.  He lived with one singular purpose--to accomplish God's will.  God's will.  That was it.  What if, as we coaxed the growing up in our children, we followed this singular mantra:  You were made for God's purpose; yield to it.

alive, they were like helium balloons and time was the gas that filled them.  Once time ceased, they would deflate and sink to the ground.  They were not HIS LIFE.  His life was a narrow path that carried him through the hungry, the thirsty, the diseased, the crippled, the destitute, the sinful tax collectors, the pharisees, the Sadducees, Pilate, Golgotha's hill, and a cross.  All things that appeared like death but in the end meant life.  He yielded every single time to God's will.  And I wonder how often yielding might seem like death to us too; I wonder how often the very thing that would truly fill us, elevate us, is clothed in a road so narrow few will truly travel it.

Jesus himself said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me." (John 4:34)  The very thing that sustained him was actually doing the very things God sent him to do.  That sustained him like food.  And I think of SEVEN, and how right in this moment, I'm hungry.  Hungry because I've chosen to change a few things for just thirty days, an emptying of myself so that there is room to be fed by the purposes of God. And Jesus ate the will of His Father.  Hungry and yet full.  Full because when we live out God's purposes we enter the realm of spiritual food--a manna of the heart.  When in John 10:10 Jesus said, "I have come that you may have life and have it to the full,"   did he mean this kind of eternal fullness of yielding?

Because knowing that we are made for a purpose isn't completely enough.  Knowing is not a substitute for yielding.  Jesus knew the cup--even wished it away--and yet he accepted that He must drink it.  If my purpose is to glorify God (Is. 43:7) then am I yielding to His glory?  Am I living to make him famous?  Am I buying things that will reflect him?  Am I treating my neighbors, my family, my children in such a way that they want that great God?  Am I? 

Gosh I get torn.  Do you?  I want so many things sometimes my life must resemble a refrigerator turned on it's side, rolled down a hill, and then opened.  Pick up where I left off with piano lessons when I was ten years old.  Mozart is still throbbing behind my finger tips, isn't he? (Okay, probably not.)  And what about learning water color?  And a bed and breakfast?  What about an organic orchard?  I drove by one--dilapidated, trees untended--and longed to make a career out of it.  Apple Juice.  Apple Pies.  Apple turnovers. Apple Butter.  And traveling to every continent?  Where is the line, the boundary?

Sarah, I made you for my plans.  Seek me.  Yield. 

 But what about our goals?  Our ambitions? What about finding more work to make more money to give my kids more opportunities?   What about amassing more?  Just yesterday I squawked to Jeff, with if-I-am-being-honest-tears-clogging-my-vision, "Do you know how long it has been since I got to spend an entire day in Atlanta shopping without interruption? I can't even remember!" Jeff is clothed.  The boys are clothed.  I am clothed.  We need nothing.  What in the world would I even spend an entire day in Atlanta shopping for?  Yet I long for it because somehow it has become a Grizzly that growls in the face of my heart. 

What about ME?

God, I want to have fun too.  It can't all be serious and straight as an arrow, can it?

"He who loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew10:38)

Will find it?

Will find it.

And there, my friends is the crux of this thing.  Somehow, we think if we choose a narrow path we will lose out, miss out, have no fun.  There's no wrong in abundance of life here--in the thrill of new pursuits, new learning, new hobbies, new things.  We are blessed with all things.  But if we wish to find our life,  then the choosing needs to be sifted through the purposes of God--the keeping of our eyes fixed on Jesus.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. (Matthew 6:22,23)

We are a nation of parents with unhealthy eyes, aren't we?  We try to stuff the balloons of our children's lives with year round sports for our children, music lessons, gymnastics, art lessons, Iphones, pods,  and pads, with bigger homes, summer camps, programs, opportunities, and . . . more opportunities.  And in the end, they don't fly.  They're not filled with life.  They . . . WE . . .all sink under the weight of it.  We don't keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. 

We are a people with unhealthy eyes too.  I am.  I focus on the things and people in this world when Jesus whispers Seek me first.  Nope.  I don't always fix my eyes on him.

And if I did, would he remove all the things and people?  I think that's what we're really afraid of, isn't it?  Missing out? Losing relationships?  Surely, it was this loss that caused Jesus to resist the cup His Father offered.

What does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?


And I came to give you life to the full.  If you lose your life--what you see as life--you will gain the great Life, the abundant Life.  Unless a kernel of wheat cracks open and dies, there is no fruit, no life. 

Isn't this what Easter is really about?  Whether or not you celebrate this holiday, isn't commemorating the resurrection--whenever it occurred--about gratitude for the Man who lost his life?  Offering thanks for the man who cracked open?

On Good Friday, we circled around the restored elm table we rescued from an Ontario barn and shared the communion of Jesus' death together.  In church, when we take communion, there are these little wafers (they taste like sawdust and wood glue) and we pick them out of a silver platter.  We don't break them.  But, as a family, we broke the bread we shared.  It was significant to me.  I broke Jesus.  My choices.  That was part of his purpose--paying once and for all time for every single one of the times I would choose not to yield. 

We say we want to live life to the fullest, but how can it be full if it is apart from God's purposes?  Apart from me, you can do nothing.

This narrow path, this keeping the eye healthy by fixing it on Jesus, this yielding to the Creator's way, it is life

Taking the cup, the cup offered of God, and drinking it, slowly, one day at a time, one decision at a time, one moment at a time, is the way we celebrate Easter year round.  Measuring my decisions based on their return value in eternity despite the roaring grizzly in front of me--it may in the end, make all the difference.  It may.

It will.

May I yield to Life.

Pray with me: 
Jesus, thank you for breaking open for me, for mankind.  Thank you for showing me the way to parent.  Thank you for yielding.  Thank you for staying the course though the loss was great.  Thank you for gaining LIFE for all mankind, for me, through your brokenness.  Help me, Jesus, to yield. Amen.

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