Even the Fragments

I wrote this piece exactly three years ago, but never posted it on my blog.

“Jesus wants everything.” This is something I both have to and want to deal with every, single day. And goodness, but most days it’s not even close to being easy! There are plenty of battles in the evening that leave me asking, “Is it that Jesus asks for too much or that I’m willing to give him far too little?” And I think I always know the answer to that question.

But tonight I want to throw out the less obvious everything. We know that Jesus deserves our plans, dreams, hopes, and futures. But what about the little things, the small, insignificant things, or those things about us we wish would just disappear? What about those little pieces of ourselves? What about them?

Well, this year has been a year of God both going after the big everythings in my life like church, missions, moving, and work; but it has also involved some giving of the smaller everythings to him.

Matthew 14 and John 6 with the feeding of the five thousand provide the backdrop for what I’m trying to get at. It has gotten late and the disciples tell Jesus to send the people away, as they do not have the resources to deal with this food crisis. But Jesus tells them to do something about it and “give them something to eat.” Then they tell him the obvious, “We only have five small loaves of bread and two fish.” And you can almost hear the tired sarcasm wanting to come out, “Duh, Jesus. Like this is even worth mentioning? There is nothing you can do with this.”

But Jesus does the exact opposite. He doesn’t tell them, “You know, guys, you are so right. We do need to send them away, as there is nothing that can be done with that little bit of food.”

No, he tells them to have everyone sit down. And if you’re already afraid you’re going to look like an idiot, it’s only going to get worse having everyone sit down-with all eyes focused on what’s going on up front. I can feel the suspense in this one line, as now you have an extended moment of awkward silence while you wait for God to show up and do something. Then Jesus takes the bread and fish and thanks God for them. He breaks the bread and hands it to his disciples to give to the 5000+ people. And the verse says they all ate and were satisfied. And from the fragments given are fragments that remain.

Jesus wants everything, even those things that seem at best insignificant and at worst, worthless. He wants us to freely offer ourselves in service to Him for however he chooses. Sometimes the little everythings he is asking for are the things we most hate about ourselves or the things that make us the most uncomfortable.

For me, that is leading small group discussions, public speaking, participating in small groups, and sometimes, just plain, old group interactions. Being an introvert, a writer, and a thinker, I prefer to remain on the sidelines and in silence. But oftentimes, Jesus calls us into the mess and chaos of the very things we want to hide or flee from.

We think that there is nothing God can do with the fragments of our lives. But I wonder if he isn’t just asking for a willingness from us to simply place the pieces of our very lives in his hands. And leave them there. Let him bless the fragments. And from fragments given come a meal.

And maybe there isn’t a future in public speaking for me, but I don’t think that’s the heart of the issue at all. It’s not so much of can I speak and share about Jesus, as am I willing to speak and share about Him? I think a willing heart will agree to follow Jesus, even when it doesn’t make sense, looks hopeless or like a silly waste of time, or it outright scares us. A life that says “yes” to Jesus will give him every little thing-whether it seems like it’s worth something or not.

It is holding up our hands in surrender to King Jesus and simply saying, “It’s all yours, Jesus. Take it all.”

Ordinary Tuesdays

Two years ago, I was in the Dominican Republic on a mission trip. It’s easy to think back on those big life moments and wonder if you’ve done anything of significance since then—or even while on them. For me, that trip held one big moment—a deep conversation with a new believer in the Atlanta airport, in the final moments of a Tuesday night.

In my heart, I’m pretty sure that the only reason I went to the DR was for that chat with Michael. That was exactly what I wrote in my journal about that one moment in the entirety of the rest of my life—that if I went to the DR for no other reason than to talk with Michael, then it was worth it all.

And today, two years later, I still wholeheartedly agree with that sentence. I can’t even begin to tell you how often I think about that man and pray that he is still going deeper with Jesus and clinging to him in the midst of the chaotic mess of life. My hope is that, one day, our lives will reconnect in eternity.

Sometimes, we feel like the lyrics to Tenth Avenue North’s song, “Hold my Heart”—“one tear in the dropping rain”—insignificant with all the billions of people on this earth. And yet…with all my heart, I believe we were created for far more than ordinary, mundane, and Tuesdays. But for most of us, the shooting star moments of life are going to happen in the tapestry of ordinary, mundane, Tuesdays. One flash across a skyscape of a billion similar pinpricks of light.

There was nothing extraordinary about chatting with Michael those 700+ days ago, and not much of extraordinary has happened since.

Except for God.

And that is what makes all the difference in the seemingly ordinary, monotonous moments of life.

Jesus—the Light of the World. The blazing sun that forces the twinkling speckles of light to shut their eyes before His brilliance.

That. And only that is what makes all the difference and significance in an ordinary life.

Simply Jesus. And his simple gospel.

It’s what makes all the difference on those late, sweltering nights, when I find myself chatting with my neighbors about electricity and hog barns. (Goodness, but I have come to seriously love these neighbors!)

Just Jesus.

And I wonder, if in the end, it won’t be the big things that matter. But the things that happened on our ordinary Tuesdays will be the memorable moments that we carry with us for the rest of our lives. The fragile, dancing shards of extraordinary bursting into our everyday. That’s beauty. That’s Jesus.

And that is enough to make the most seemingly typical Tuesday anything but.

Dare to Forget

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Pacem in Terris

 

We are encouraged to never forget—anything. From faces, to memories, to math equations, to old wounds—we are told to not let them slip away. There is great merit in remembering beautiful things and people. And knowledge is a good thing to keep about. Hurts serve a purpose, if they make us more like Jesus in not doing the evil that was done to us. And only if one doesn’t become unforgiving and bitter.

But there is something that needs to be forgotten, pushed away, and removed from both sight and mind. The pieces of our pasts that harm and hinder us in our relationships with God and others need to be shoved away—forever. Paul in his letter to the Philippians calls his readers to join him in forgetting the weighty past and press on into the future (3:13).

The author of Hebrews tells his running readers to throw down those things that are weighing them down in their race (12:1). Leave those things behind—and don’t go back to re-pick them up. Sadly, it’s the same old things that continually trap us, slow us down, and break our hearts. There is no end to the idols churned out by the world, our fleshly nature, and the devil himself. Some of these things are good in themselves, but as soon as they become a heavy idol, they begin the suffocating process of either crushing or consuming us—their worshippers.

Paul speaks to these chains we wear, when he gets in the face of the Galatians and simply says, “You were doing so well in your race. Who cut in on you to make you fall away and slow down? What’s the problem?” (5:7—paraphrase).

Sometimes this “cutting in” comes from the words of people. Words that sink our spirits and cause us to doubt the goodness of God. And sometimes it’s in the form of memories. It could be something we never had, something that hurt us terribly, or something we’re hoping will still happen to us. And sometimes it’s masked in legalism or the lies of the devil—we get trapped in believing we have to do or be a certain way to be viewed and/or accepted by God and people.

For me, one of the things that really held me back was in the form of relationships. Specifically, relationships with a couple of guys. Each one of these guys held a huge chunk of my heart and very life. I was quite convinced that if I had one of them, I’d be happy for the rest of my life. And just like my namesake, I looked to God but kept my own “household gods” behind my back—for backup, just in case Jesus wasn’t enough, didn’t satisfy enough, or didn’t seem to love me enough.

A relationship that led to marriage was the all it, to end all of it. I was willing to sacrifice the great longing of my heart to be a missionary or in ministry for a man’s love. Only that man wasn’t Jesus. And in my state, a relationship with anyone but Jesus had the great potential to consume or crush me.

These men broke my heart. Quite likely because I was looking for them to stop the ache in my heart that was only meant to be healed by Christ himself. Without them, I was undone, incomplete, empty. I didn’t want to do this life without one of them by my side.

But I am. Because of God, I am. Because one day this winter, I woke up and realized I was done. There was nothing left. Jesus gave me strength to dare to forget and move on. And move on, I did. These guys were followers of Jesus and chased His heart. But they were never meant to be mine. Their friendships were gifts from God and I will always be grateful for the times we had together. But those seasons are in the past and in the past they need to stay.

One of my very favorite missionaries, Adoniram Judson, is credited with saying, “Your future is as bright as the promises of God”, and with all my heart, I believe that even when our present and future lives don’t look exactly like we would have planned for ourselves, the promises of God to go with us, to love us, and to do his works in and through us are rock solid. And you can take that to the bank.

So today and tomorrow, the cry of my heart is Jesus, just Jesus. My eyes are on him—the author and perfecter of our faith—the one who began and will bring our faith in him to completion at his return, the one who has already ran every race before us (Hebrews 12:2). And he has won.

Dare to forget the past and press on into the future. Your perfect future—lovingly and beautifully created by a sovereign, good God. Throw off the things that weigh you down and run for the open arms of Jesus.

With Paul, I want to be able to say that as for me, I know nothing but the crucified Christ (1 Cor. 2:2). When the Gospel is big enough, God is big enough, and everything else (past hurts, present brokenness, future loss) becomes like snow in May-forgotten in a moment.