Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lent Day 36: Anticipation and dread

Dreaming of good things
I sometimes get the shivers when people say, "I've asked God to give me patience (a kind heart / the ability to love everyone / endurance in trials, etc.)"

Now how exactly do we expect to acquire those - or other - virtues? Is God more likely to answer through magical impartation or by guiding us through deep waters and hard times?

"The fruit of the Spirit is learned by interaction within a community, not in isolation," W said the other day. In other words, when someone frustrates us, we learn to forgive rather than retaliate. We wait rather than barging ahead. We speak kindly rather than responding in anger. Ouch ouch ouch, this process of becoming like Jesus. Sometimes it hurts.

Have you ever thought about the many selfish requests we disguise as spiritual prayers? We pray for good things, but we may just want to look good = patient, joy-filled, loving, and peaceful. However, do we expect to pay the price to achieve genuine character? "Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights, in whom there is no shadow of turning." That's certain, but we forget that each gift is exercised with the darkness pressing in. Given to us where we're dancing in the shadows that swirl around humanity.

Casting off for distant shores
Here's an honest personal reflection as we prepare for a new season: when we're asked if we're excited about moving to Indonesia, I admit to mixed feelings. So many cool things await us: meeting new people, sharing the love of Jesus, and living in new surroundings. Tempering my anticipation are other realities, like the reports from every church planter we've met. (They've said it's been harder than expected. To a person, they admit that they have almost quit many times.) Also, every cross-cultural worker talks about culture shock - of feeling out of place among the unspoken rules and customs everyone else seems to understand. We'll feel the cross some times more than others.

Reality is sometimes even crueler than anticipation. This week I think about how Jesus knew he was going to the cross. He warned his disciples that he would be crucified. But he still had to sweat drops of blood, the agony of "no other way" as he wrestling with his destiny in the garden of Gethsemane. He still had to endure the whipping, the spittle, the mocking laughter of Roman guards, and the shrieks of his fellow Jews demanding his death. The weight of the cross dragged on his bloody back. The nails stamped through his hands and feet. The thud of the cross resounded as it dropped into its holder. Jesus endured hours of pain while bystanders shouted curses and his mother cried nearby.

Expected. Harder than expected.

The world is beautiful because of Him
And oh so worthwhile. The salvation of the world depended on him then. For us, he suffered through pain and sin and sorrows.

W and I are becoming part of a long tradition - people who tell the Story here and there, sharing God's hopes for reconciliation with his creatures. We are not especially adventurous or courageous. Others have been fiercer, more zealous, more ambitious. We know we join a mission already in progress, doing our part along with a host of others. We feel lucky to be called. Blessed to be going. Grateful to be giving. After all, it's God's tale of grace and inclusion that we're sharing.

But this week of the cross, oh this Holy Week that I dread each year because of Christ's suffering -- this last time we will joyfully celebrate Easter at home with family ... Ah, my heart is full and there are no more words.

Read more:
*All look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. Psalm 104:27-28

*But now, this is what the Lord says- he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire,     you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV

*God has not left himself without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy." Acts14:17

*And being found in human form, Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Philippians 2:7,8

*Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:1, 3, 4

Do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth. Psalm 119:43

The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" Matthew 21:9

Moravian Prayer: Loving Savior, your entry into Jerusalem was showered with, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!" May our lives continue to shower you with hosannas—you are most blessed. 

Lord, giver of every good and perfect gift, we thank you. May we be your witness for good, helping those in need, bringing joy into their lives, and filling them with your love. Amen.

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