The Word became flesh, and sometimes the Word asks us to put away our too-small words and let Him be enfleshed in us. That’s what these days are about for me as I sit with a friend completing her journey on earth. See you here again in the new year.
“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercies, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)
There is such incredibly good news hidden in this verse! And I can hardly wait to share it with you!
But while we’re waiting (may I whisper?) the hardest – and the best – part of writing is the living of it. While I’m working toward the end of the month deadline for completing my study, Rational Worship: Offering Ourselves to the God of Mercy, I’m finding myself in the midst of perhaps the worst flare of my illness in the past two years. It’s not fun. But it’s good. It’s forcing me to ask the really important questions:
- What does it look like to offer my body to God when I’m struggling to drag myself out of bed? (And why would he want a body like this anyway?!)
- Where’s the grace in each verse, in each day’s study? (If it’s not enough to get me through the day, it’s not ready to offer to you.)
- Why is it rational to offer myself to God again when I’ve done that and now I’m here?
I’m asking, and He’s answering. And most of that will be posted here in a few weeks, all ready for you to dig in and discover the grace for yourself.
But in the meantime, what does it look like to offer as a sacrifice to God eyes that refuse to focus and a body that’s limp and light-headed and nauseated? Does it mean pushing through the pain to keep writing? Stopping to listen and rest? Some other mysterious something in between? I asked Him once more on Saturday. And finally I understood. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, no formula that fits every day. Because to apply a formula would be to miss the whole point.
Every moment is an invitation into relationship.
There’s no way to get around that.
(And I’m not looking for one!)
There’s no formula. Just a question. “Jesus, how do you want to be with me in this place?”
Sometimes he invites me to put my head on his lap and rest. (Some of the best insights come during those times.)
Sometimes to give the work a go for an hour (Often, then, he meets me in it with such grace that I don’t want to stop.)
Not once have I heard Him say “Just suck it up and get on with it.” (That voice is mine. But He’s teaching me to be gentle with this one that He loves.)
Always the question is the same: ‘Jesus, how do you want to be with me in this place?” And while the answer is always unpredictable and sometimes wildly surprising, there’s one part of it that never changes: “Come closer.” And when I can’t hear the rest of His answer? The invitation then is to trust, to know that this One whose perfect goodness and unfailing love has been pursuing me all my life is still, always, calling me to come. And He will lead me home, deep into His heart.
When the deadlines weigh heavy and the decisions are too big, I turn again like the child not sure what to make of the sticky mess, hands held out for help, looking up into His face. And as I become like the child and lean hard into Him, the poem comes to mind, the one that my grandmother gave to a friend. The one that, ten years later, that friend gave back to me as I left, still exhausted, for what would be my final months overseas.
Rest here with me, won’t you, and lean hard?
“Child of My love, lean hard,
And let Me feel the pressure of thy care;
I know thy burden, child, I shaped it;
Poised it in My own hand, made no proportion
in its weight to thine unaided strength;
For even as I laid it on, I said
I shall be near, and while she leans on Me,
This burden shall be Mine, not hers;
So shall I keep My child within the circling
arms of My own love.
Here lay it down, nor fear to impose it on a
shoulder which upholds the government of worlds.
Yet closer come; thou art not near enough;
I would embrace thy burden so I might feel My
child reposing on My breast.
Thou lovest Me? I know it. Doubt not then;
But, loving Me, Lean Hard.”
I’ve been like the Ranger in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I’ll bet that at some point you’ve been too. A person of character and integrity playing a key role in the drama. Playing it well. Caring, encouraging, fighting valiantly to protect others against some evil. But preferring to fight in the shadows, hood pulled up over my head. Hiding my real self.
Elrond’s words pierce me, words spoken when he handed Aragorn the sword that once had been broken and called him to take his rightful place as the king of Gondor. “Put aside the Ranger. Become who you were born to be.”
The words challenge me. Excite me. They’re good words. Freedom words. Oh, yes, I want to be who I was born to be! Sometimes. And sometimes not. Then they’re frightening words. They feel heavy.
“God, It’s too hard! I can’t do it! I can’t!”
He sends reassurance: “God’s mercies are new every morning — not as an obligation to you, but as an affirmation of you.” (Ann Voskamp)
One of those great mercies is that he doesn’t let us stay hiding in the shadows of some seven billion other clones, each clamoring to be a little faster, stronger, better.
He loves us. Me. You. Yes, you. He likes you, too. He wants you to be who you were born to be because He planned you just the way He wanted you.
“Become who you were born to be.” Not because he wants to make things harder for you. Because he wants to set you free. Because his love has made you great and he doesn’t want you to miss out on the joy of being who you’re born to be. Because he doesn’t want the rest of his body to miss out on it either.
Why do we fear becoming ourselves? Is it because we’re afraid who we are isn’t enough? That we’ll be judged by those who want to mold us in their own image? That’s just the point. Faster, better, busier: they’re all measured against others. I will fail if I’m trying to be who someone else was born to be.
Or do we fear that we’ll try and fall flat? That we won’t know who we were born to be, or won’t be able to get there? That’s the other key. I will fail if I think that becoming myself means making it happen myself. I am not made to be an independent individual. I am made to be a person, joined to and filled with the Persons at the center of the universe. Joined to and part of Christ’s body.
I was born to be me. You were born to be you. And part of that you-ness is your union with Christ. Until you are united to him, you’re not the you you were born to be. And when you are united to him, then you no longer carry the weight of becoming the real you by yourself. You’re hanging onto him, and he to you, and he’s making you into the you you were born to be. He’s completing the work of creation that he began when he dreamed you. That is good news!
There’s a freedom in becoming yourself. What do you have to lose? Your life, perhaps. But it will be given back to you once you’re free to live it fully. And when you’re trying to be someone else, you stand to lose everything. Including yourself.
There is fear in hiding, and fear in stepping out. We get to choose our fear. The difference is that one leads to real joy.
We weren’t all born to be king of Gondor. But we were all born to be someone that no one else can be.
“So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” (Romans 12:5-6 The Message)
He entered the world yesterday morning, five weeks early.
I got to be there.
It set me thinking about the preciousness of small things. The tiny toes and the little lips that kept puckering into the cutest kiss that dissolved so quickly I could never quite catch it with the camera. The fine fuzz crowning his head and the eyes still too shy to open.
He’s a tiny bundle with a name that gives him plenty of room to grow. His third name reflects my grandpa’s cousin who gave his life loving God. His first means “son of the right hand.” I pray he will always remember it.
The surgeon who stood at the table reminded me of a moment long forgotten by me. She had been a medical student, I a resident. It was a small thing, something quite ordinary. But ten years later she remembers it vividly.
Maybe it’s because God is in the moments, not just the days, the details of the ordinary as much as the great interventions. It’s here – in the small things – that grace is given and faithfulness lived.
Benjamin, Ben-yamin, in the details of your days, may you learn that you are a son of God’s right hand. Through the moments of your life-long growing, may your stretching soul cling to Him, and so learn to love the hand that holds you.1 As the fragments and fractures of life in this world open up glimpses of glory, may you turn toward the strong right hand that will always be present to help you, and so discover how he delights in you.2 And in these ordinary moments (if any moments can be so named when all are filled with God’s presence), you will discover the path of life and the fullness of joy, for it is this right hand that holds eternal pleasures.3 Be blessed, son of the right hand.
You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps 16:11)
(I will be away this week, taking photos with the first, searching for blue beach glass with the second, playing phase ten with the third, while my sister and her husband focus on their fourth. We will be watching for God’s presence in the moments of each day, each noting favorite glimpses of grace. Care to join us? I’ll be back next Monday (July 16th) with a post that my eldest nephew is already eagerly helping me prepare. Stay tuned.
And may you know yourself securely held by the right hand of the One who loves you and created you to be His own.)
1Psalm 63:8; 2Isaiah 41:10; 3Psalm 44:3; 4Psalm 16:11