Jesus: A Portrait of Love

1Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him,“If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16Truly, truly, I say to you, a servantis not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.  John 13:1-17

This meal is not about the food. It’s not about eating together, not about sharing a meal together. This is about something deeply intimate. Something timeless. Something to be treasured.

At this meal, Jesus offers an incredibly beautiful portrait of love. Intimate, unconditional, amazing love. Even as his life is drawing to its end here on earth, Jesus remains focused on others. On his disciples.

Even as Jesus prepares to bear the burdens of the world, he bares his heart, his soul, even his human body, to his disciples. As he pours out the water into the basin, he pours out his love in each and every action, in every stroke used to wash his disciples’ feet.

Seeing Jesus like this, so vulnerable, so humble, causes me to catch my breath. Is this really God? Kneeling before these men, wearing only a tunic with a towel wrapped around his waist, serving them in the most lowly of ways by washing their feet. Is this what God is like?

This scene before me is both beautiful and disturbing. Disturbing in that this Jesus who is God has made himself even lower than man. He has made himself a slave, performing a menial task that takes on an incredible intimacy and beauty because it is done by the Lord.

If it were Peter, impetuous Peter, it would seem a normal thing because he loves to step out, to jump in and to do things others might not.

If it were Judas Iscariot, it would be shocking and surreal because of who he is in his heart and what he is about to do.

But it is Jesus. And so it is intimate. Beautiful. Humbling.

So incredibly humbling. And even a little bit painful to behold. Especially when he comes to Judas. The one who will betray him. The one whose heart is not clean even if his feet are.

the washing of feet = amazing love

the washing of feet = amazing love

Jesus knows Judas’ heart. He knows what Judas is going to do. He knew it when he called him to be one of his disciples. He knew it when they shared the Passover meal together. He knew it when they broke bread together and ate of the body and drank of the cup. And he knows still. He knows that Judas will betray him. That Judas will be the one to bring his mission to its close. Even so, he washes Judas’ feet.

With the same love, with the same grace, with the same humility, Jesus kneels before Judas and washes the grime of the city from his feet. He scrubs the sand of the miles away. With gentleness, he dries his betrayer’s feet. He looks Judas in the eyes and Judas knows he knows.

What kind of love is this?

What kind of God is this?

Is this what God is like?

This is amazing love. This is amazing grace. This is who God is.

This is what love is meant to look like.

And I find myself asking, Do I love like this? 

Because this is what love is supposed to look like. Jesus says so. I cannot escape his words. I cannot escape his example. I cannot ignore the fact that he washed all of the disciples’ feet. He makes no exception for Judas even though he knows the evil that has overtaken Judas’ heart.

What excuse have I for not doing likewise?

Jesus knew Judas’ heart. Knew his betrayal. And yet he served him.

I have no excuse. I have no excuse to withhold love, to withhold grace, to withhold forgiveness, to withhold helping or serving others. I have no excuse for I know not the heart of any man.

Do I love like this?

If I am honest, I do not. Not nearly as often as I ought. Not if doing so will make me unpopular. Not if doing so will pull me out of my comfort zone. Not if doing so will make me look too “Christian.”

Because if I am honest, I have looked past a homeless man rather than meet his eyes or offer him my kindness.

Because if I am honest, I have not spoken up when words could have made a difference in someone’s life.

Because if I am honest, I have stood on the sidelines, or worse, stood in the middle of conflicts because I didn’t want to hurt anyone else’s feelings.

Do I love like this? 

Not often enough. At least not yet.

But I want to.

I want to focus on others the way Jesus focused on others. I want to be a portrait of intimate, unconditional, amazing love. I want to be vulnerable. I want to be humble. I want to bare my heart and my soul for others to see plainly. I want to bear others’ burdens willingly. I want to wash the feet of those who might hurt me or betray me.

I want to love like that. Even if it scares me.

Especially if it scares me.

A Dream Worth the Wait

12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  Mark 14:12-26

I sit, knees drawn up and hugged close to my chest, my chin resting on my knees, soaking in the scene. We are in a large upper room. Jesus and his disciples have gathered for an intimate meal. The Passover meal. Everything is exactly the way Jesus predicted.

The man carrying a jar of water. A gracious, generous homeowner. An upper room furnished, prepared, ready.

But who is the Master of this house? Is he a relative of Jesus? Otherwise, why was he expecting Jesus? What prompted him to prepare, to furnish a guest room for Jesus and his disciples?

I wonder if maybe he had a dream. A vision. A God-ordained vision of just this moment.

Did he wake up one day, maybe years ago, having dreamt the night before about two men who would come to him, come to his house, this house, seeking a place to prepare a Passover meal with friends? And did that dream include Jesus? The Jesus who sits here now. Jesus the Christ. Jesus the Messiah. Jesus the Passover Lamb.

I don’t know. But how could he now have had some God-given vision?

Perhaps he knew they would come.

Perhaps he waited every day. Looking. Hoping. Anticipating.

Perhaps he prepared this upper room each Passover, waiting for these men who now fill this room, only to undo it all when they didn’t show up.

What did he think when months passed and the men did not come?

What did he think as the years went by and still his dream remained only a dream? Only a vision. A vision that he believed in his heart, in his soul, to be from God. One that he held on to even though there was no reason other than what he believed.

Can you imagine what today must have been like for him? Can you imagine what it’s like to have Jesus sitting in this room with his disciples?

For such a time as this.

All these years waiting and being ready and today, finally today, the dream he refused to give up believing is unfolding before him. Here are the two men for whom he has been waiting. Here are the two men who ask him, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’

For such a time as this.

Where was he when they finally showed up? What was he doing when they finally arrived? Was he upstairs, finishing up the final preparations on this room? Or was he working somewhere out back when he heard them come in, looking for him. Calling out to him.

And his faithfulness has been rewarded. Jesus has come to this house. Jesus sits in the upper room that this man prepared and made ready. Jesus is here.

What an incredible sense of elation and emotion this man must have felt. Not only today, but at the time he received his dream. Knowing that he would play a role in this moment. Knowing that he was waiting for such a time as this.

Certainly such a dream can only come from God. Can only be done with God.

And I wonder.

Do I have a dream like that? Has God given me a vision for something that brings me joy and anticipation and the strength to see it through? Even if it means that I have to wait? And wait some more. Even if it means that I get ready for the moment, but the moment is not yet?

Do I have a dream like that?

Because I know I want one. I want a dream so big that it will take God to make it happen. I want a dream that will have Jesus showing up and being there. I want a dream that has Jesus in the midst of my efforts. That has Jesus as the reason for my efforts. That has Jesus expecting what I have been given to do.

That has Jesus sending people to me because he knows that I will be ready.

Like this man was ready.

For such a time as this.

I have been dabbling in dreams. But I have not been daring to dream. I have not claimed my God-ordained vision. But I think I’m about to. I think I am about to look at this life I live and take it up in my hands and offer it to God. I want to see what he will do with it.

I want to get up each day looking, hoping, anticipating. Preparing for what I know. Believing in what I do.

And the only way that can truly happen is if God gives me the vision. If I let God dream for me. If I am ready for such a time as this.

And I am.

Living My Life with Purpose

20Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them,“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.24Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me,the Father will honor him.
27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father,save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”
41Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
44And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45And whoeversees me sees him who sent me. 46I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”  John 12:20-50  

Today finds Jesus back among the crowds, being sought after, being questioned.

Being doubted.

Many seem to be seeking. To be looking for answers. They have seen him perform countless miracles. They have seen him heal lepers and the lame. They have seen him raise Lazarus from the dead. They want to believe. But he does not quite fit the picture they have of the Messiah. What they have learned about the Christ.

They don’t believe in him. Even so, they cannot stop following him.

Mixed into this crowd are many religious leaders who do believe in him. But they won’t admit it. At least not yet. Because it’s still too dangerous. To their rank among men. To their reputation in the community. To their standing in the synagogue.

Even so, they stay close. They follow him. They listen to him, seeking his wisdom, longing to know him.

But there are some new faces, too. Outsiders. Curious onlookers who want to meet him. Who want a chance to talk to him. Yet they approach his disciples, not him.

And in the middle of it all, there is Jesus. Jesus who is God. Jesus who is man.

Jesus.

Jesus who knows what is coming. Jesus who comes to save and not to judge. Jesus who comes to suffer.

Jesus.

Jesus who will willingly suffer in order to save. And though his human soul is deeply troubled, his existence as the Son of God pushes him forward.

By his Light he casts out darkness. By his obedience he brings glory to the Father. By his sacrifice he defeats the ruler of this world.

But it is no easy sacrifice. 

Golgotha  (image courtesy of Bartek Ambrozik on sxc.hu)

by his sacrifice, there is hope
(image courtesy of Bartek Ambrozik on sxc.hu)

Already I see the struggle he faces. His words give me a glimpse of his humanity. He is deeply troubled. Would that he could be saved from the cross. From the suffering.

But then how would we fare?

Unless a grain of wheat falls. Unless the seed dies. Unless.

Unless the Savior, this Jesus, my Jesus is lifted up, nailed to the cross, the world remains hopeless. The crowds continue to yearn, to seek, to doubt. You and I stumble through darkness, through sadness, at the whim of the ruler of this world.

Only when he is lifted up will all who seek him, need him, believe in him be gathered to him.

Only when he is lifted up will the enemy be defeated and darkness pushed back.

Only when he is lifted up will we know God again.

He has walked among us. He has laughed with us. He has cried with us. He has healed us. He has performed miracles in front of us.

Even so, his purpose is beyond us.

It is beyond here. It is beyond these few moments.

Because it is eternal. It is not about a single moment in the middle of a crowd that is seeking, doubting, wanting, wondering, wishing, needing.

It is about him. It is about Jesus.

It’s about approaching him directly. It’s about following him without fear. It’s about finding truth and knowing God.

It’s about life.

Abundant life and eternal life.

It’s about life lived in grace. About life lived in hope. About life lived in victory.

It’s about a life, my life, lived with purpose. On purpose.

Because he lived out his purpose. And I was part of his purpose.

What’s It Gonna Be, Girl?

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  Matthew 25:31-46 

When I started out on this journey with Jesus to Jerusalem three weeks ago, I had no idea where it would lead. I knew that we would travel some difficult terrain. And I knew that eventually I would end up at the foot of the cross. But the moments in between? The moments leading to the cross? I really didn’t know what to expect.

And, to be honest, this not knowing, it’s become more of a challenge recently. And it’s made me want to cheat.

It’s made me want to read ahead in the 40+ days of scriptures that I get one day at a time so that I can cherry pick the ones that will make this journey easier. Easier to make. Easier to write about.

Because it’s become more about writing about the journey, not about being on the journey.

Because it’s become about building an audience, not about building my relationship.

Because it’s become about me, not about Jesus. About my blog. About my writing. About my insights.

Except that’s not what I set out to do three weeks ago.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my {somewhat inconsistent} walk with Jesus in my life, it’s that the journey with Jesus can take on a direction I never intended if I am not intentional.

If I am not intentional.

Of course even if I am not intentional, the journey can still take a turn for the good, for my good. But most of the time, when I am not intentional, the journey will take a turn for the not-so-good, like now.

When it becomes more about what I can get from Jesus rather than what I can give to him.

When it becomes more about what Jesus is going to do for me rather than what I am going to do for him.

When it becomes more about Jesus as a genie granting my wishes or about Jesus as an accessory rather than about Jesus as the Creator of the universe who wants a personal relationship with me or about Jesus as the reason for my being. About Jesus as the reason for my next breath.

no matter how many times I wander off, my Shepherd find me (photo courtesy of moss holder on stock.xchng

no matter how many times I wander off, my Shepherd always finds me
(photo courtesy of mossholder on stock.xchng

This morning, when I rejoined Jesus and his disciples on the Mount of Olives, I felt deeply convicted. I felt like one of the goats in Jesus’ parable, set apart, but not in a good way. In reality, I am not a goat. I have a relationship with Jesus. I daily acknowledge my need for him even as I daily return to him more times than I can count. Even as I daily forget whose I am.

But even so, I recognize that even as one of the Shepherd’s sheep, I have wandered off with the goats. I have lost sight of my Shepherd, replacing him with my need for the world’s recognition. The world’s applause. The world’s approval. I have allowed the world to push Jesus aside.

And so I pause. I breathe.

I wait.

And then I cry out.

I cry out to him whom my heart loves.

I cry out to I AM.

Because I am a sheep lost along the path. I am a sheep in need of her Shepherd. I am a woman in need of her Savior’s second chance {for the 1,273rd time}. A woman in need of her Savior’s presence on this journey.

This daily journey through life.

This daily journey that is also a journey through lent. A journey to know the Shepherd, my Savior, my Jesus more than I do today. More than I do right now.

And so I sit down near the disciples. Near Jesus. But apart from them. At least a little bit.

But Jesus. Jesus will have none of this separation. He will have none of my shame. He moves over to where I am and without any effort by me, I am back in the fold. I am counted as one of his sheep.

I am counted as one of his disciples.

I am counted as one of his own. As one of his own.

And I wonder at how easy it is to get off track with Jesus. How easily I lose my way and let the world crowd him out, push him out. How easily I worry about the things of this world despite what I know.

Despite who I know.

I do not know where this journey leads tomorrow. But I know with whom I go. I know him whom my heart loves.

And he knows me. He knows me.

{And he loves me any way.}

What’s It Gonna Be, Girl?

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  Matthew 25:31-46 

When I started out on this journey with Jesus to Jerusalem three weeks ago, I had no idea where it would lead. I knew that we would travel some difficult terrain. And I knew that eventually I would end up at the foot of the cross. But the moments in between? The moments leading to the cross? I really didn’t know what to expect.

And, to be honest, this not knowing, it’s become more of a challenge recently. And it’s made me want to cheat.

It’s made me want to read ahead in the 40+ days of scriptures that I get one day at a time so that I can cherry pick the ones that will make this journey easier. Easier to make. Easier to write about.

Because it’s become more about writing about the journey, not about being on the journey.

Because it’s become about building an audience, not about building my relationship.

Because it’s become about me, not about Jesus. About my blog. About my writing. About my insights.

Except that’s not what I set out to do three weeks ago.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my {somewhat inconsistent} walk with Jesus in my life, it’s that the journey with Jesus can take on a direction I never intended if I am not intentional.

If I am not intentional.

Of course even if I am not intentional, the journey can still take a turn for the good, for my good. But most of the time, when I am not intentional, the journey will take a turn for the not-so-good, like now.

When it becomes more about what I can get from Jesus rather than what I can give to him.

When it becomes more about what Jesus is going to do for me rather than what I am going to do for him.

When it becomes more about Jesus as a genie granting my wishes or about Jesus as an accessory rather than about Jesus as the Creator of the universe who wants a personal relationship with me or about Jesus as the reason for my being. About Jesus as the reason for my next breath.

no matter how many times I wander off, my Shepherd find me (photo courtesy of moss holder on stock.xchng

no matter how many times I wander off, my Shepherd always finds me
(photo courtesy of mossholder on stock.xchng

This morning, when I rejoined Jesus and his disciples on the Mount of Olives, I felt deeply convicted. I felt like one of the goats in Jesus’ parable, set apart, but not in a good way. In reality, I am not a goat. I have a relationship with Jesus. I daily acknowledge my need for him even as I daily return to him more times than I can count. Even as I daily forget whose I am.

But even so, I recognize that even as one of the Shepherd’s sheep, I have wandered off with the goats. I have lost sight of my Shepherd, replacing him with my need for the world’s recognition. The world’s applause. The world’s approval. I have allowed the world to push Jesus aside.

And so I pause. I breathe.

I wait.

And then I cry out.

I cry out to him whom my heart loves.

I cry out to I AM.

Because I am a sheep lost along the path. I am a sheep in need of her Shepherd. I am a woman in need of her Savior’s second chance {for the 1,273rd time}. A woman in need of her Savior’s presence on this journey.

This daily journey through life.

This daily journey that is also a journey through lent. A journey to know the Shepherd, my Savior, my Jesus more than I do today. More than I do right now.

And so I sit down near the disciples. Near Jesus. But apart from them. At least a little bit.

But Jesus. Jesus will have none of this separation. He will have none of my shame. He moves over to where I am and without any effort by me, I am back in the fold. I am counted as one of his sheep.

I am counted as one of his disciples.

I am counted as one of his own. As one of his own.

And I wonder at how easy it is to get off track with Jesus. How easily I lose my way and let the world crowd him out, push him out. How easily I worry about the things of this world despite what I know.

Despite who I know.

I do not know where this journey leads tomorrow. But I know with whom I go. I know him whom my heart loves.

And he knows me. He knows me.

{And he loves me any way.}

Time for a Little Recklessness

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15To one he gave five talents,to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  Matthew 25:14-30 

Today I am restless. We have been sitting up here on the Mount of Olives for several days and I am ready to move on. I am ready for Jesus to move on. To move on to a new place. To move on to a new topic. I pace in the shade of a tree and stare out over the busy bustling streets of Jerusalem below.

Of course, this parable is the one. The one that includes the words I yearn to hearWell done, good and faithful servant. That is the part I know best, but I am equally familiar with the words that describe the Master’s reward: You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.

I have used these words to motivate myself past fear in the past, especially when I am using my gifts. The gifts I believe were given to me by God. I have sought to honor the Creator with my gifts and my talents in the smallest ways so that he will provide me greater opportunities. Because I truly believe that these gifts that were given me are best used in service to Jesus.

To bring him glory. To bring him honor. To point people to him.

This has not always been easy for me. Especially as one who is drawn to the spotlight, who wants to be the center of attention, who inserts herself into the stories of others without much hesitation or invites others into her story without thinking twice.

But these are not the ideas I contemplate today. Today I am struck by the other words the Master in the parable says. Today, as I stand here in the heat of the Jerusalem sun, I consider the parable’s promise: Enter into the joy of your Master. 

Certainly, this beats the alternative. This beats being cast into the outer darkness. This beats being thrown out into the place where there is only weeping and gnashing of teeth. Because isn’t there enough of that right here? Don’t we see too much of that, don’t we do too much of that right now, in the here and now?

Don’t I do that too much in the here and now?

Too much fretting. Too much complaining. Too much wailing and gnashing my teeth. Too much me, me, me. Too much what’s in it for me? Too much what about me? Too much what will I gain if I do this or that? 

I look over at Jesus sitting among his inner circle of disciples – Peter, James, John, Andrew.

Kedron Valley/Mount of Olives (photo credit: Henrik Bernhard on stock.xchng)

Kedron Valley/Mount of Olives
(photo credit: Henrik Bernhard on stock.xchng)

In between these parables and warnings, mixed in among all this serious conversation, Jesus and his disciples talk and laugh. Their joy fills the stifling sweltering air and their easy comfortable manner reveals the strong, intimate friendship these men share.

Despite moments of wanting to know which of them is Jesus’ favorite, these men are the epitome of selflessness and service. Walking with the Savior through his ministry, witnessing miracles, performing miracles of their own. And always, always, they put the focus on Jesus. They turn their focus on Jesus.

These disciples have indeed entered into the joy of their Master. They will suffer greatly and soon. Jesus has warned them of that. But right now, even as they discuss the serious events that are coming, they are wrapped in the joy of the Savior.

I come back to the idea of the talents. The way the first and second servants went out immediately and with reckless abandon. How they doubled what they received originally. The way they acted out of their relationship to the Master. How they acted out having been entrusted with something important. Something valuable.

The third servant, he acted out of his fear and doubt. He acted out of his assumptions of cruelty and harshness. His actions do not demonstrate any sense of being entrusted with anything, but being burdened with something. Something for which he does not want to be responsible.

The disciples’ laughter ripples in waves, reaching me where I stand. Peter lays back on the ground looking up at the sky, the easy smile lingering on his face. He is the picture of contentment. Of joy. He would easily be the first servant. Impetuous Peter.

I wander back over to the group and flop down in between Jesus and Peter. I have identified with Peter for a good portion of my life. The first to jump up and proclaim Jesus and shout out my love for him and the first to deny him and betray him. But I have learned the art of joy and contentment from watching Peter with Jesus.

I have learned how to take what has been entrusted to me and share it with reckless abandon. To use it to bring glory to Jesus. To use it to point others to Jesus. I have learned how to let Jesus’ love for me trump the lie of fear. I have learned how to sit beside Jesus, like now, knowing that because I love him I may know suffering or strife or heartbreak but that even so I have entered into his joy.

No more will I cast myself cast into the darkness alone or will I feel abandoned in the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. I am wrapped in the joy, the grace, the love, the hope of Jesus.

I have entered into the joy of my Master. I am living my life for him. I am sharing his love and his hope through the gifts, the talents, with which he entrusted me.

And that makes life worth living. That makes all the difference. In the here and now and in the Kingdom of God.

If you are not willing to live your life for something greater than yourself, well, then life is not really worth living.  Ruth Bell Graham

 (photo courtesy of billygraham.org)

(photo courtesy of billygraham.org)

 

His Love Trumps My Fear

1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11Afterward the other virgins came also, saying,‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  Matthew 25:1-13 

Sitting next to Jesus here on the Mount of Olives I find myself marveling at his words. A shiver runs through me and I reach out for his hand, gripping it tightly in mine. If I am holding too tightly, he does not say. Nor does he withdraw his hand from mine.

I believe he senses my need of him. I believe he senses my need for his reassurance.

I look in his eyes and they tell me it’s okay to need his assurance. It’s okay to feel afraid. It’s okay.

It doesn’t feel okay, I tell him.

I know, he replies softly. I’m sorry for that.

A tear spills from my eye and slides down my cheek and his rough carpenter hand reaches out and gently wipes it away. I find comfort in knowing that Jesus knows my heart. That he can read what I hold there.

These are the hardest words I’ve heard so far on this journey, I say.

He nods and wraps my hand in both of his, a comfort beyond words right now. He waits. He doesn’t distract or offer me empty words. Instead he lets me wander through my own heavy words. Words heavy with questions. Words heavy with uncertainty.

Only you can know a person’s heart,  I begin.

Yes, he agrees.

That has always been the hard part, you know?

Jesus nods, his eyes filled with love and compassion.

Sheepishly, I admit to him, I’ve never really understood this story. I’ve read it plenty of times, but I’ve never really looked at what it’s saying.

Jesus smiles. There is no judgment for this confession. But today you are.

I nod slowly, closing my eyes and considering this most recent parable, especially the real implications it holds for my life.

Ten virgins go out to await the bridegroom and five go into the marriage celebration and five are left outside after the door closes. The door won’t open again. They will stay in the dark. They will stay apart from the bridegroom.

I do not worry that I will be one of the ones outside the closed door. That is not what causes me to fret today, sitting beside my Savior listening to this story.

My concern is for people I love. For those I call friend. For those whose blood runs through my veins.

Because the ten virgins all appear the same. They all take up their lamps. They all go out to look for the bridegroom, to await for him to arrive. They all stay up until the wait becomes long and sleep takes them over. The only difference is that five virgins are called wise because they bring extra oil.

The other five? They are called foolish. They bring only the lamp but no additional oil.

When the wait stretches long into the dark of the night, the lamps begin to burn low. And when the bridegroom’s procession finally arrives, only the five who have enough oil can find their way to the procession. Only they find their way to the entrance into the marriage celebration.

Hearing the story of the bridegroom and taking up your lamp to go out and seek him is not enough. Following faithful followers will only get you so far; it won’t get you into the party.

But that’s not the point. That’s not what I am supposed to focus on right now.

Jesus looks at me expectantly at this point. Because he knows. He, too, knows that this isn’t about them or their actions. This is about me.

This is about what I can do, isn’t it?

I know the answer, but I want him to confirm what I am learning sitting here with him.

It is, he says.

Suddenly I recall a message I read from Lee Strobel last week: If God today answered every prayer you prayed LAST WEEK, would there be anybody new in the Kingdom of God tomorrow?

Tears spill steadily from my eyes now. Because if I answer Lee Strobel’s question, if I answer Jesus’ question that underlies the conversation this parable has inspired between us, my only answer is, No.

No, there would not be anybody new in the Kingdom of God tomorrow. Or Yesterday. Or last week.

Rather there likely would be those who are left standing outside the door, still in the darkness. Still seeking, carrying lamps in need of oil.

Each of us is responsible for choosing a relationship with Jesus.

if I let his love trump my fear, my light shines brighter (photo credit: Mateusz Stachowski on stock.xchng)

if I let his love trump my fear, my light shines brighter
(photo credit: Mateusz Stachowski on stock.xchng)

But each of us in a relationship with Jesus is also responsible for sharing the Good News. For praying for those who don’t know him. For shining a Light in the darkness of the world. For shining a Light In the darkness of the lives of those around us.

Family. Friends. Neighbors. That person you passed on the street with tears in her eyes. That person behind the counter who is busy and frazzled and in need of a kind word.

Is there really any more important thing we can do than to pray for people to come to know Jesus?

Is there really anything more pressing than to introduce someone to the Savior?

It scares me, I whisper, looking at the dirt instead of at Jesus.

He pulls me close, still holding my hand in this roughened Creator hands and I lay my head on his shoulder, taking a deep, trembling breath. In the silence on this hill I hear his truth in his breath. I hear his truth in my Spirit.

I tremble at his truth.

Because I know that his love trumps the enemy’s lie of fear.

Because I know that this is why I am on this journey.

Because I know that I am here for such a time as this.

And his love trumps my fear. Every time.