The time I said “screw you” to God

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Jesus wants us to enter discipleship with our eyes wide open. He splashes water on the face of the overzealous one; he startles awake the one who is stuck in the past; and today he drives home the point about our need for intentionality when we choose to follow him. Read on….

Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:61,62

Some equivocate about their discipleship. One foot in – the other out. Jesus calls us to a unity of purpose, an undivided heart and loyalty. Just before Jesus had these three encounters with would-be followers, the scripture records: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Luke 9:51 Other translations read, “he resolutely set his face to go to Jerusalem.” He turned his face, his body, his steps toward the fate that awaited him there. He would not turn aside from his commitment to obedience and living out his life’s prayer, “Thy will be done.”

Someone who knows about farming told me the way to make the best use of your farmland and to use every possible acre to grow your desired crop was to make your rows straight and square. He said the way to do this was to start on one end of your field, pick a spot on the opposite end and then keep staring at that spot as you start moving toward it with your plough or your tractor. Keep your eye fixed on the one spot, because if you get distracted and look away, you will end up with a crooked row.

I never thought my self an equivocator. I came to Christ at seventeen and remember a spirit of gratitude that my love for him and, more importantly, his for me held my rows straight. I watched my fellow Christian girlfriends throw the Lord over for a guy and I prayed God would not let me abandon my faith because of my desire for a boyfriend. (I must admit there was some judgement on my part going on.)

My rows remained relatively straight as I went to wedding after wedding, watched my girlfriends get married and start families. These women were still my friends, but they were busy with their new lifestyle and there wasn’t a lot of room for a single. So I made new friends and watched them marry. Same story unfolded. It was getting harder and harder to make new friends.

That’s when he came along. Handsome, fun, came from a great family, and was attracted to me. My rows began to go a little crooked. 

It began innocently enough, I agreed to go out with him so I could “share the Lord with him.” One date led to the next and within three months I told God to screw it. I had always wanted an intimate relationship with a man, God had never given me one, so I would get it on my own. Sure, he wasn’t a believer, and in my gut I knew I was settling for less than I truly wanted, but at least he was real, I could talk to him and hug him. So, take that God!

Ah but God wasn’t willing to let me go so easily.

The very weekend I told my boyfriend about my decision to let our relationship move to the next level of intimacy, I found him in the corner of the bar where we had gone with friends making out with another woman!

I stormed out of the bar and was more angry with God than with him. “Damn you, God. You won’t give me what I want and won’t let me get it on my own.” 

My row had a big crooked curve in it now.

It took years for me to process my anger toward God. The humiliating and confusing experience I had when I found my boyfriend in that compromising position has been redeemed by God’s grace. In retrospect, I feel God was spreading a net to catch me as I attempted spiritual suicide. And I am grateful for the rescue. 

The farmer’s straight rows and God’s dramatic intervention in my romantic life demonstrate how serious Jesus is about intentional discipleship. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. Keep moving toward him, do not be distracted from our destination and our end. If we get distracted, or look back, we will lose our way, get off track. Our rows will be crooked and our harvest less plentiful.

The second sentence of my rule provides hope for such a life: “This mentored life is possible because God’s good and just love has been given to you in Jesus Christ.”

It is God’s gift to us, we receive and learn to live it, trusting God’s faithfulness, his forgiveness, his love and his power to teach us well.

With you on the journey,

Debby

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Following Jesus requires you to grow up

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We’re talking about responses to Jesus’ invitation to follow him into the Kingdom Life. Surprisingly, he discourages the over-eager one, and today, he admonishes and invites the overly responsible one. Check it out.

To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Luke 9:39,40

This guy sounds like he’s doing the right thing, right? being the responsible child, taking care of the family duties. After all, it is in the law, “honor your father and mother.” But Jesus will not take second place in the affections or loyalties of anyone who wants to follow him. His must be the primary voice to which one listens.

Following Jesus requires you to grow up.

When I was asked to be a pastor at our church in San Francisco, I was proud and terrified. Neither responses were very pastor-ly. Proud, because my heart’s desire to be seen as useful for the kingdom was validated, (honestly, though this pride was ego-driven); and terrified because I was sure I wasn’t good enough for the role and naming me as pastor would bring shame to our church.

The word I received from the Spirit as I prayed over the call was that it was time to “put aside childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 The fear-based need to be seen as valuable, and the shame that convinced me I was not, were emotional reactions born of childhood wounds. My old beliefs about myself, and about how I needed to relate to the world threatened to keep me locked in fear and death; and closed the door on my offering any gift to the world.

You see, some are reluctant to follow Jesus because they are caught up with the things of death. We all have habits, ways of thinking, behaviors, addictions that breed death, not life. Yet these are precious to us, and we attempt to negotiate with Jesus about how we want to handle or process them. Jesus will have none of this. “Leave the dead things behind. Follow me, I want to use you to announce life, to bring my presence to the world.”

Jesus invites you into discipleship and into partnering with him in his mission to proclaim the kingdom of God. Do you resist because you are too attentive to the things in you that are dead, and of your old life? habitual ways of thinking about yourself, learned from childhood wounds; assumptions about your lack of competence; a conviction that you have nothing to offer of value? These are deadly lies. Do you give them too much homage? Like a Buddhist who sets up a home shrine to honor her dead ancestors, do you give allegiance to things that are dead and buried with Christ in your baptism?  With God’s help and the new life of Christ in you, choose to let these dead things remain dead.

We’ll explore a third response next time. See you then!

With you on the journey,
Debby

Which do I choose?

Thoughts on Luke 9:22-25

I’m disappointed that the lectionary veers off of Mark, but I guess it veers toward readings that ground me in the season of Lent. This passage certainly does: the Son of man must suffer, be rejected, killed, oh yeah, and then raised. As a listener it would be hard to listen to the end of the sentence, the part about being raised, because of the shock of even the first word. I live in the epilogue, I know the resurrection, but those disciples must have been shocked to realize you were serious about the suffering that was to come. How bold they were to hang with you.

Then you describe what it means for them to hang with you: forget about what you want, be willing to die and go with Jesus wherever he goes.

What does this mean for me? Because I do want to come after you, and experience the saving of my life. Keep my eyes fixed on you. I will not be above my master. You suffered, I will suffer.  During Lent, I have commended my eating habits to you, I have vowed to avoid sugar and snacks, which I turn to as a way of controlling my emotions and as entertainment. Coming after you means suffering the boredom, blessing those who eat cookies, seeking you in the still afternoons.

The second reading Deut. 30:15-20 makes the Lenten message even clearer: You set before your people life and good or death and evil. You say, make your choice, blessing or curse. And then you plead for them to choose life.

Lord Jesus, you show me the way to freedom, it leads through suffering. Loving God, the way to life is found by obeying your words. Holy Spirit, you pray constantly for me to choose life. Have your way in me today. Grant me a vision of freedom and life, make it so vividly clear that I will suffer any loss to make it mine. Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. Thank you and amen.