Sometimes I need to chill. I mean, I get so caught up in the stress of life that I start getting mad at my adorably cute and unnaturally sweet baby. To combat it, I am trying to learn to slow down. This is, of course, logically backward, as so much of the Christian life seems. However, it is a tried and true method that is effective in helping me re-orient to Christ.
In an effort to slow down I was sitting outside on a sheet with the above-mentioned adorable baby, trying to wrap my head around the tricky ideas discussed in my “Halfhearted” post. (It was the hardest post to write, to date.) I had another of those flashes of thought that, as usual, left me wishing I’d never had it in the first place- it was so incomplete and so doggoned difficult.
The gist of it was that I wish we could follow Jesus in spurts. In a way we do, since the lessons change, and he sometimes gives us little breaks from the really difficult stuff so we can recover a little. But I meant, in my brain, that I wish sometimes to only truly follow Jesus part-time. Short seasons that are long enough to regain control of those issues in my life that are beginning to become apparent to everyone else, but not so long that Jesus will ask me to do something drastic or contrary to my personal strengths or desires.
I wanted to rest from following Jesus. I didn’t want to follow him into loving people for real, and the idea alone was making me tired. I wanted to follow him only when it makes me feel good or look good. When it is convenient and flattering for me to do so. When it is easy.
Most of the time I get overwhelmed at the ideas Jesus presents. Frankly, I can see why after some of his sermons so many people would stop following him. And I can also see why the religious elitists of his day killed him. And, indeed, I do leave off following him myself at times. Usually this happens very slowly as I get overwhelmed and try to deal with my troublesome emotions myself. I will inadvertently become turtle-esque in my attempts to hide within myself. A mistaken attempt at self-protection. Sometimes it’s due to me being unable to bear the thought of another failure, so I withdraw from the lists. I figure, why try if I am just going to mess it up all the time? Did I mention that I am a perfectionist? That may explain some things about me…
Anyway, Jesus is hard to follow. And I get tired of the mental challenge of it and everything else that is exhausting about following him, like keeping my temper and being disciplined with “my” money and working hard day after day. I have had times of complete breakdown at the thought of going through another 70 years of days like today. Days of boring, mindless work that I do because Jesus told me to do it. Or because whether Jesus said to do it or not, it needs to be done.
So I was sitting on a sheet on my lawn. And I knew that, as much I enjoy whining, I really don’t want to follow Jesus part-time. I want to follow him each and every day, no matter what. I want to follow him in my sleep and when I wake up in the middle of the night (anyone who has ever lived with me- and that’s a lot of people- knows that I am ridiculously, laughably grumpy in the middle of the night) and I want to follow him when he tells me to start and when he tells me to stop, when he tells me to keep my mouth shut, and when to speak out. All the time. But I don’t want to get burned out or stop seeking the face of Christ when I start getting overwhelmed or tired.
I will need to practice clinging to Christ. Beth Moore talks about this in her book Breaking Free and she says that the thought of winning battles every day is truly exhausting. That if we are getting tired of the grind of defeating our spiritual enemy, then we are not focused properly. I was really struck with this truth. Below is what I should meditate on and remember when I am getting tired.
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
I need to cling to Christ. To have faith that he and he alone will get me through, and to live in the reality of that faith by seeking him even more during times of stress or change. I want to fully understand that nothing can satisfy my soul better than Jesus, and to act in faith, I want to seek him when I feel dry and empty. When I need strength to even turn to him.
In Philippians 3, Paul talks a lot about how seeking Jesus should be his whole life’s goal, to the exclusion of all else, and even to the destruction of preconceived ideas and former goals. Paul says that everything that came before Jesus was waste in comparison.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I want my heart to be so turned to Christ that I would truly see him as the ultimate prize worth working my whole life for. I want to pursue him with that kind of passion and dedication. I will start by choosing to follow him today, and I will not worry about tomorrow, I will just serve and obey today.