“The thing about being stuck in the darkness, is that it’s not until your standing in the light that you can see that the shadows don’t have as much power as they once did. Crawl if you have to…”
Christmas, a great time for Christians to be reminded that God stepped into flesh to make himself known, and eventually for us to find rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. While this is true, many believers struggle at this time of the year. Past and present pain is intensified and for some, the bitterness they have carried for a long time somehow becomes heavier.
A week ago my wife found who she thought was my birth mother on Facebook, and after looking at her profile photo for 15 minutes I decided to write to her. I had only met her once briefly when I was pretty young so I was a little nervous. If this was her what would I say, and how would she react to a son who she gave up nearly 40 years earlier getting in touch with her. Anyway long story short it was her! Naturally at first she was in shock and when the dust settled she pushed me away. “Forget you ever found me on Facebook, I am your past”.
I was adopted when I was about 12 months old and was lucky enough to have grown up in a pretty awesome family. Even though I was provided for and loved I was far from stable. From an early age I remember being really frustrated, something was missing, and as I entered adulthood I found myself on a destructive path of bitterness. It raised it’s ugly head in many areas of my life, from addiction to the raging storms in my internal world. I know I’m not the only one who has or still is experiencing this kind of chaos. If you are carrying bitterness then you know how much damage this is causing you and others in your life.
My reaction to all of this came as a bit of a surprise to me. Not only did I anticipate that she may not welcome any kind of dialogue, but in the thick of it I held on to the thought that we all have a story, there is sometimes ugly stuff included and I don’t know this woman let alone what’s happened in her life. And I was ok with her request not to send any more messages. I also told her I had forgiven her. After becoming a Christian I was able to name a lot of things that were attached to the pain I was carrying, I sought out lots of professional help and continuously went to Jesus with all the pain that I had stored up. Seasons came and went but there was always a part of me wondering if I had really let go of that original rejection, and could Jesus really heal that part of my life that had caused me so much grief?
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. – Jesus Christ
Jesus promises to give us rest when we come to him and that we can learn from him. It’s easy to tell those who are struggling, this piece of scripture, but how do we actually experience the rest he is offering, and what can we actually learn from him in the end. Upon reflection of all the convesations i have had with my birth mother over the last week, I have realised a couple of things. All that time in the darkness asking Jesus to make sense of what was going on he was there. Even when I was crawling and pleading for relief he was doing something that I could not see. And it wasn’t until I confidently forgave my birth mother and felt no anger or bitterness towards her, that I knew that I had been given complete rest. I also learnt something from Jesus, to forgive others who may not understand what they have done.
I am certain Jesus didn’t have in mind a once off visit when he said those words we see in the book of Matthew. For those of you desperate for rest from pain caused by others, and are feeling like giving up because of the weight, there is hope! So continue to come to him, even when you don’t feel like it, come as you are, even if it means crawling. It may take a day or longer to experience the fruit of his grace, but we can be sure that Jesus never stops loving us, and have confidence that the work that he is doing deep in our hearts and souls is ongoing. Even when we cannot see it.
Peace to you
What gets in the way of you being like Jesus to people who cross your path?
I believe this question needs to be asked daily. For some, we will need to pause and reflect on this in each moment as we interact with those around us. Out of all the questions that we hear being thrown around in Christian circles, I reckon this one should be taken fairly seriously.
Life gets busy, and before you know it we have spent more than half the day on auto, then all of a sudden weeks have passed and we stop and turn around and there is a trail of dead bodies behind us. People we have neglected. I know it sounds extreme, and your probably thinking I am being a bit to dramatic.
When I think about the question above, Ephesians 5;1-2 come to mind. We are to be imitators of God, walking in love, just as Christ loved. And with that word love I instantly think of the picture of kingdom love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
I would say I am a fairly patient person, especially when it comes to people. There is nothing I love more than catching up with people, engaging in conversation and growing in those relationships. But sometimes when I get task focused, I am like an arrow aiming straight for my target. I wont let anything or anyone get in the way of my destination. Recently I was on my way somewhere and I bumped into a friend who stopped to talk. I will be honest, for half the conversation I wasn’t present as I was thinking I need to go, I don’t have time for this and at what point can I keep on moving. I forced myself to stay in the moment and after he had left my wife said WOW, you did really good Dave. We both laughed, but it got me thinking about how driven I can be sometimes, so much that I neglect the thing that I say is really important to me.
In the gospels we see Jesus interacting with all kinds of people, and from all walks of life. Whether he was surrounded by crowds all wanting his attention, individual’s seeking him out for one on one time or people who were outsiders desperate for help, one thing is for sure, Jesus lived and breathed that Corinthians love. From what we read, people didn’t always walk away from him excited and I reckon he may have found some interactions challenging, but he never allowed anything to stop him reflecting God.
So what gets in the way of you loving others like Jesus does? For me its a lack of patience when people catch me in the middle of a mission to get somewhere. I promise, as we invest in answering this question honestly and practice being like Christ when interacting with others, we will not regret it.
Peace to you
Christians don’t always ask to be called out like Peter did that early morning on the boat. And we shouldn’t wait to be invited to step out in faith
I have been challenged by the story in Matthew 14:22-31. The disciples had been out all night on the boat that Jesus had sent them on and it was nearly dawn. They started to freak out as they thought they saw a ghost walking on the water. Jesus tells them to relax, “it’s just me” he says. What happens next is pretty amazing! Peter, (who knows what was going on in his head) calls out and asks Jesus to invite him out on the water with him. Peter then starts to walk on the wet only to be spooked by the wind and starts to sink. He cries for help and he receives it.
It’s not the part where Peter deliberately asks Jesus to call him out, or even that he stops focusing on Christ which causes him to sink that has got me thinking. There is no boat but there is plenty of comfort zone, and I haven’t gone out of my way asking him to invite me out to the unknown, but the fact that I have chosen to take following Jesus seriously, means that he is continuously saying “come”. I have recently entered a new season in my life, one that I know is going to shake things up, challenge old scripts in my head and heart, and force me to dig deeper into the word. Even though I have experienced many different forks in the road during my faith journey, making the choice to step out of what I know (or what I think I know) has never been easy. Each new chapter has meant pain and celebration. Lets be honest, who intentionally likes to be spiritually stretched. But its part of the package, when Jesus calls us down from the tree (or wherever you were staying out of reach) we also have a new membership in his Gym.
If you have any desire to Be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), and have made daily choices to seek first the kingdom of God, then you know that during these times of self-examination, the holy spirit will make you aware of areas on your life that need to be exposed to the light, the stuff that gets in the way of you becoming more like Christ. Unfortunately God doesn’t always directly say “that’s got to go”, which means we need to trust that Jesus is standing in the unknown waiting for us, and will reach out and grab us like he did with peter when he started to drown. Scary stuff!
I don’t have a 5 point plan to navigate through this new season I am walking through, but If I remind myself of how God has provided for me over the years, and instead of being anxious, bring my prayers to him and continuously ask for wisdom, God gives me fuel to keep moving and I have a new perspective. But of course this is only true for me;-)
So if you are in a similar situation, then I want to encourage you. Its easier to stay in the same comfy space, and harder to get out of it later if you have made your home there. Don’t keep putting it off, make small choices to participate in the growing that God is doing in you. The fruit that is produced from this, will not only spur you on, it will also give others the strength to step out in faith as well.
I am enjoying the Gospels all over again and finding the way Jesus interacted with people, especially the Pharisees very interesting and dynamic.
Luke 7:36-50- A sinful woman anoints Jesus’ feet
Imagine you have being invited to some ones house for a dinner party and on arriving you are not greeted at all, not shown in like everyone else nor do you receive a hand shake or a hug. You would probably feel pretty embarrassed or angry and want to communicate how ripped off you feel. Or you could just storm out and think twice about returning to that persons place.
Now what if the person who was hosting the party was a big gun in your community and had only invited you to make sure you were no competition and they had no intentions of being hospitable towards you in anyway shape or form. You would probably pick this up early in the evening and confront the person or leave.
In the Gospel of Luke we read about a Pharisee that has invited Jesus to dinner. This would not have been some small uneventful gathering as it was a time for all the religious blokes to get together, show off and probably have deep discussions about the law and the meaning of life. The washing of feet, a kiss on the cheek and putting oil a guests head were all important parts of welcoming but none of this process took place with Jesus. I don’t think this Pharisees intention was to welcome Jesus into the religious community.
From the beginning of his ministry Jesus communicated love and freedom to the people around him and no doubt this would have concerned the religious elite as they had made it very hard for anyone apart from them to be free. They had their reputations to protect and power to hold on to and this guy Jesus could ruin their whole business if they were not careful. We see how this Pharisee felt towards Jesus in the way he did not welcome him like any other guest and we can assume that this was no friendly invitation.
The thing I find interesting is the fact that Jesus would have probably known exactly why he had been invited to the Pharisees house. If I was in the same situation I would probably reject the invitation or after a while of being ignored eventually get into a confrontation in front of all the guests. If Jesus had done either of these things it may have given the Pharisee more ammunition to shoot him down. As we read on we see it might as well have been Jesus who was in charge of hospitality, and it would be him who would do the shooting.
In verses 37-38 a woman who had lived a sinful life started to weep at Jesus’ feet, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
I am reading a book at the moment where the author describes this event from her perspective. This woman has been following Jesus for some time and has been impacted by his ministry. He has seen and valued her, which most men would not have done. (She may have been a prostitute) She has followed him to the house of the Pharisee and has witnessed no welcome for the man who has forgiven her and restored her life. She is so angry because she knows Jesus deserves more but wants to bless him in some way to show her thanks, so she falls at His feet not really sure what to do next and doesn’t care what anyone, especially what all the men will think.
If anyone knew how woman should conduct themselves in that day, it would have been the Pharisee and from his perspective he was probably thinking that this was an act of lustful desire toward Jesus and he was actually enjoying it (Jesus did not say stop). This would be the perfect time to show Jesus who was more religious. I can imagine the Pharisee standing up and sweeping is arm to get everyone’s attention and in verse 39 he says “If this man was a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is-she is a sinner.”
I have never read Jesus flinching at any attack from the Pharisees and this would be no different. Instead he did what he does best-Tell a parable to communicate how God see’s things, and this probably had the same kind of impact that a bullet would have. Jesus goes on sharing a story of two people who owed money to a money lender, one owed more than the other. Neither of them could pay back the money so their debt was cancelled. The Pharisee knew that the one who owed the most would have loved the money lender more, but Jesus wouldn’t stop there.
The carpenter was brilliant at waiting for the right time and place for confrontation and this was not just an opportunity to make a fool out of the Pharisee in front of all his guests, but a chance for the religious leader to see truth, even if it hurt. In a couple of verses Jesus Highlights that the woman did what the Pharisee did not do and also went on to forgive her sins, which would have made the host burn with anger I think. More importantly, through telling the story about the two people in debt to the money lender and than having both their debts completely cancelled, another message was being communicated-and everybody present most likely understood.
Both the woman and the Pharisee were living a life of sin and had debt neither of them could pay back. God saw them both as sinners and was willing to cancel their debt. The Pharisees thought so highly of themselves that they wouldn’t associate with anyone who they thought were unclean and I reckon in that moment when he realised that Jesus was placing him on the same level as a prostitute and that he also needed forgiveness from God, it would have of been a massive wake up call.
Often we can be so consumed by ourselves that we get separated from the world around us. Everyone else has the problem and we lose the ability to show and receive mercy. Jesus on the other hand knew what was important to him, and it cost him his life, and knows exactly how to give grace and space. I see the impact he had on the woman who fell at his feet and I wonder how much he wants to impact our lives.