Tag: Lent2013 (page 1 of 2)

The Broken Crayon and the Completed Work of Art

I wander around the art museum, trying to find my way. I was told there is a gift there for me.

 

When I finally arrive at the place I was told to go, I am stunned. The beauty that is before me is too much. I cannot move. It is a masterpiece beyond description.

 

It can’t be true. Is it really a gift for me? There must be some mistake. It’s too heart-wrenchingly beautiful. I cannot comprehend this exists at all, much less accept this as a gift.

 

I am overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do.

 

Then, I look down and remember. That piece of broken crayon in my hand. The one I grabbed in anger after my son scribbled on the wall. It is still wrapped up in my fingers. I was on my way to throw it out when I somehow ended up here.

 

I begin to scribble on the painting.

 

At first, just a little bit, on the bottom corner. Something in me feels like I must do something, and it’s the only thing I can think to do. As if somehow adding to the work of the artist will make me more deserving of the gift.

 

But as I move my hand back and forth and back and forth, I notice that it doesn’t help. I grow more unsettled with each movement. My strokes grow wider and more furious as the sense of unworthiness and frustration grows within me. With each glide across the canvas, I feel more wretched than the last.

 

Until suddenly, there is a noise in the other room. I look away. And when I look back to the masterpiece again, I realize what I have done.

 

And I crumple to the ground in utter despair.

 

What was I thinking? Why did I think trying to add to this great work would somehow make me more deserving of it?

 

It is not better. It is worse. So much worse. What have I done?

 

I take off my scarf. Maybe I can use it to wipe away my mistake. I scour as hard as I can. But the more I scrub, the worse the mess seems to get.

 

I look around. Has anyone noticed? Does anyone know what a mess I have made? I wring my hands and go back to scrubbing, not sure what else to do.

 

Why did I do this? Why? Oh, if I could take it back! I’d give anything to take it back. How do I make up for this now?

 

My only instinct is to try harder. I wipe at the painting with the tears that have begun to stream down my cheeks, hoping the water will help.

 

It doesn’t. Nothing seems to help.

 

I hear footsteps behind me and my heart sinks to the floor. I turn around to look. It is the artist. I try to hide, but he is walking right towards me, with an outstretched hand.

 

He pries open my palm and the crayon tumbles to the ground.

My love, this masterpiece is finished. It is my work, not yours. You do not need to add to it. It is complete. And it is a gift. You need only come. You need only receive.

 

He reaches over to my other arm and takes away my scarf.

My love, your own scrubbing cannot get this clean. Trying to cover it up your marks does no good. I am the artist. It is accomplished only through me.

 

He puts his hand on the painting, and through my tears, I see the crayon dissolve.

 

The artist looks back at me, and I see that I was not alone in my weeping. He grabs my shoulders and looks me in the eyes.

My love, when I said this was a gift for you, I meant it. It is forged from the beauty and pain of a perfect love. There is nothing you can do to add to it. I am the one who finished it. And I completed this masterpiece for you. Take it home with you now. And know that you are worthy to have it because my love declares it so.

 

It is finished.

broken crayon 

To be honest, this allegorical story was a little out of my writing comfort zone. But I couldn’t find any other words to describe the gravity and love and importance of John 19:30, when, as Jesus died, He declared, “It is finished!” I have often not believed those three little words, and attempted to add to Jesus’ work on the cross. It always ends in a mess.

 

Jesus Said Lent Series ButtonA series to honor the Lenten season by reflecting on various teachings of Christ. Let’s think about who He was and what He came to do by talking about the words that came straight from His mouth.

The Lord’s Prayer, Take Two

I was going to write a post today filled with platitudes about what the Lord’s Prayer teaches us about praying.

 

But the truth is, my own prayer life stinks.

 

If I wrote the kind of post I wanted to write, I would be the same kind of hypocrite that Jesus speaks against in the Sermon on the Mount. One who uses words to look holy and pious, but fails to do privately what she does publicly.

 

It’s true that I practice a certain kind of “prayer without ceasing” during my day. I walk around with an awareness of God’s presence and an invitation for him to be part of my activities that I never used to have. And I am so grateful for the way my faith has changed and grown to have this sort of richness.

 

But, for a long time now, I have struggled in my commitment to set aside time to pray. To speak to God with intention. To focus. To set aside distractions. To breathe. To listen. To be fully engaged in the act of prayer.

 

I long to change. I can feel in the fragmentation of myself, and my faith that I need to.

 

And so more than the words of the Lord’s prayer itself, I am hearing Jesus’ introduction to it. “When you pray… pray like this.” Not if you pray. Not if you get around to praying. Not if you feel so inclined to set aside the time once in awhile.

 

When you pray...

 

This is an invitation for our souls to come, and an expectation that we will. Not because we should pray, or are obligated to pray, or are holier if we pray, but because we can pray. Because we need to pray.

 

Pray like this.

 

Not as a formula, but as a holistic picture of what prayer can look like. Of what our God looks like.

 The Lord's Prayer

God is our Father. He is intimately concerned about our well-being. God is holy. But also, He forgives us. His holiness does not mean we have to measure up, but that He is immeasurable. God provides for our needs. But also, He is bringing His kingdom. His purposes are much more grand than our individual happiness.

 

Intentional prayer like the Lord’s prayer centers us. It gives us perspective.

 

I need to pray more. Not because it makes me holy. But because it makes me whole.

 

(P.S. Jesus’ teaching on prayer, which includes the Lord’s Prayer, is found in Matthew 6.)

 

Jesus Said Lent Series ButtonA series to honor the Lenten season by reflecting on various teachings of Christ. Let’s think about who He was and what He came to do by talking about the words that came straight from His mouth.

Unending Conflict, Unending Forgiveness

There are many ways to practice unhealthy conflict resolution.

 

Sometimes, we run away from the person that hurt us, cutting off the relationship before we get hurt again. Sometimes, we bury the hurt, trying to maintain peace in the relationship, fearing turmoil in our own hearts. Sometimes, we talk to others about someone that hurt us, looking for an outlet or people to take our side.

 

If we are honest, we have probably done each of these things at one time or another.

 

Jesus calls us to something different.

 

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.” – Luke 17:3b

 

The Greek word for rebuke is connected to the word for honor, and I don’t think that is a coincidence.

 

When we speak to people directly about how they have sinned against us, we honor them. We treat them as a reasonable person who will be able to listen to our side of the story. We give them the benefit of the doubt that they may not realize how their actions affected us unless we tell them.

 

I have been on the receiving end of some difficult conversations. And though they have stung, they have helped me grow as a person. Often, I didn’t even realize what I was doing until someone told me. The conversation gave me a chance to apologize, and to think more deeply about how my actions affect others.

 

I have also been on the giving end of some difficult conversations. And though the anticipation of them has made me want to throw up, these honest dialogues have helped me maintain healthy relationships and a healthy heart.

 

It seems that Jesus is giving wise and kind advice.

 

Until He says the next sentence.

 

There’s often a next sentence with Jesus. The sentence we like to leave out when we quote Him.

 

“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” – Luke 17:4

 

This reminds me of marriage. Our spouse is the person we love most in the world, but also the person we tend to hurt most often. We cannot put a cap on how many times we talk about how we have been offended or forgive the other person for offending us. Our commitment to the relationship compels us to have difficult conversations over and over and over again.

 

commitmentWhen Jesus sets up this call to rebuke, repent, and forgive, Jesus uses the word that at other times signifies “fellow believers,” our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to have the same kind of commitment to our family in Christ as we have to our family at home.

 

We are to be so committed to healthy relationships with fellow Christians that we are willing to have difficult conversations over and over and over again. We are to honor each other enough to tell each other when our behavior does not line up with how Christ called us to live, and to forgive each other when we repent of those behaviors.

 

This is an extraordinarily difficult teaching.

 

And to be honest, I don’t know how it applies to all circumstances. I don’t know how this applies people in power who seem to be abusing their privilege. (Perhaps true repentance on their part would mean stepping down or changing behavior?) I don’t know how this applies to a relationship in which a boundary must be set for the health of one or both parties. (Perhaps forgiving people doesn’t mean we have to continue spending time with them?)

 

What I do know is that this discourse is set up by the importance of not hurting those who are most vulnerable. So, Jesus is not willy-nilly throwing around commands that He knows will end up hurting people.

 

He wants us to understand that the forgiveness we receive from Christ should become a wellspring within us, which we can liberally and generously pour out on others.

 

We are called to forgive in the same way we have been forgiven. Without limit.

 

Jesus Said Lent Series ButtonA series to honor the Lenten season by reflecting on various teachings of Christ. Let’s think about who He was and what He came to do by talking about the words that came straight from His mouth.

Come and Deny, Follow and Rest

 

Is there anything in this world that calls us to deny ourselves?

 

We buy what we want, fight for what we don’t have, and clamor to make it to the top. The more we have, the happier we will be, right? Doesn’t true contentment come with the fulfillment of our desires?

 

The problem is, our desires are insatiable. And we exhaust ourselves trying to fill up on them.

 

I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I have never been thin, and have cycled between overweight and average-sized as I have walked through different seasons. When I have been on the larger side of that spectrum, I have looked at pictures of the smaller me and been filled with “if only” thoughts. If only I could be that size again I would be so much happier.

 

But when I was that size did I actually feel happier? No. I wanted to be smaller.

 

When we achieve what we desire, we only become more aware of the next lurking hunger. Contentment often waits just outside our grasp, taunting us to reach further in order to find it.

 

The story is told that when John D. Rockefeller, one of the wealthiest men that ever lived, was asked how much money was enough, he replied: “A little bit more.”

 

Enter the words of Jesus,

 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24

 

In the context of our me-centric world, this call sounds so radical. And it brings with it a question:

 

Is it worth it?

 

What if following Jesus makes our lives miserable? His demands are too high. It seems like too much.

 

But then I think of something else Jesus said.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28

 

What if we intertwined these verses? This call to come and this call to follow? Would we see the give and take a little differently?

 

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

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.

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

– Matthew 11:28-30 and Matthew 16:24-26

 

Our souls are lost. Drifting and weary from the burden of looking out for ourselves.

 

There is a peace found in the confidence of letting go. When we trust in a God who became one of us in order to demonstrate the depth of His love.

 

strivingWe can stop striving. And worrying. And clamoring. And pushing others down. And working ourselves to exhaustion as we try to prove that we are good enough.

 

We are loved. We can rest in that and focus our energy on loving others.

 

When we follow Jesus, we can deny ourselves not because we should, but because we want to.

 

Counter-intuitively, the burden of living for Jesus is lighter than the burden of living for ourselves.  This light burden does not mean our life will always be easy. This is not a promise of happiness, but of peace.

 

It is possible to find rest for our souls.

 

Jesus Said Lent Series ButtonA series to honor the Lenten season by reflecting on various teachings of Christ. Let’s think about who He was and what He came to do by talking about the words that came straight from His mouth.

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