I hate these bars.
I hate these chains.
I hate history.
Ok, but why hate? Why hate the thing you stand in the middle of?
Why not love? Or at least accept, which is the same thing since by any standard a good definition of love must include acceptance of a thing despite its limitations?
Bars, chains, and history just are. Limitations simply exist as a reality.
When Paul said—“I am exactly where I am supposed to be. How could I be anywhere else?”--
prison doors opened and chains fell off. This is the way to freedom.
When you hate your history you become the most hateful history.
Just ask the Bolsheviks.
Jesus connects things:
Like Sunday connects Saturday to Monday.
Like the rest connects two notes.
But not only does He connect things, he is also in the things he connects. He is in all, and yet he remains hidden to us.
It might be that our ability to see Jesus holding the world together at all, is precisely through His invisibleness at the fulcrum of things; at the hinge of events; at the transition points; at the center of the cross. Those places where life pivots are supposed to be pivotal, but they are often places we don’t notice (and ignore at our peril) because they sit in between one thing and the next. They are the valley between two peaks and the peak between two valleys—or as the Lord himself laments: “at every high place and under every spreading tree.” They are at the crossing of two events—two lines of thought. At the axis on which our world turns, although not visible or audible, He is nonetheless always there. Even in his body on the cross I can see his hands, east to west. I can see his crown of thorns and his feet—north to south. But at the intersection, it is his unseen heart that is truly on display .
When we disconnect—when we disconnect one event from another, one life from another, inside from outside, intellect from faith, church from state, emotions from reason, spirit from law, breath from prayer, news from good news, alpha from omega, first from last and last from first—we are leaving relics of idol worship at all those critical junctures, casting lots for Jesus’ clothes, trying to separate a seamless robe, desecrating the cross.
Strangely, Jesus is also the great separator: “brother from sister, mother from child”
In His moment of visibility to the soul; He cuts. He is both cut in two, and cuts in two. He is separated and separates. And in that separating, He joins anew what was previously un-joined. He connects again what had been disconnected.
A man with a great mind who lives by his heart is almost imperceptible to a man with a great mind.
You become right by helping. You don't help by being right.
I just had a great meditation this morning on a question a friend asked related to why Peter wrapped his garments around himself before he jumped in the water as he swam to Jesus at the end of John. Because, as she said, “Everything in the Bible is there for a reason. Every word.” And she’s right. John included that detail for a reason.
It is the last chapter. Peter has denied Jesus. In his rejection, he now pulls empty nets out of the water, fishing in the darkness. Then Jesus arrives at dawn and asks him to cast his nets one more time. And they fill and fill and fill. Now, let’s see where this goes:
Jesus watches Peter. As he watches you. He speaks to Peter. As he speaks to you. Then he watches Peter gather his garments and jump in the water and swim to shore. What an act of love! Of devotion! What a beautiful act of desiring only Jesus!
But then why doesn’t the scene on shore begin with a soggy hug and the joyous tears of a restored relationship?
Because of that garment.
The scene on shore begins as it must: Jesus teaches Peter. He tells Peter to go help bring the fish to shore. He then sits around a fire and teaches Peter about love. Because it is critical. It is everything. Because Jesus sees that Peter still has not learned what love is. And he must. He must . He must! Or it is all for naught!
“But, you know I love you! Right?” says Peter.
But then the teacher:
“See, Peter, you think love is like wanting; like desire; or devotion. But to ‘want’ me—to ‘want’ anything—to ‘want’…means you don’t have it. It is to ‘want’ for something—to be lacking. So it is something you must get. You must grab. Like, ‘I love breakfast.’ Which is, ‘I want breakfast. I am wanting…breakfast.’ It is a desire for something you are lacking. But like the tree of life, I am the opposite of desire. I exist outside of wanting. I am fulfillment.
See, you already have me. You have always had me.
Out there, in the darkness, facing the unknown, I spoke and you listened. You responded. And when you responded, I revealed abundance. You went to fish, right? You went for a purpose, right? Well, I showed you ultimate fulfillment of your purpose—of meaning. And remember, Peter, it happened precisely when you trusted a voice from the unknown.
And then, when I revealed what lies beneath what you can see, I watched. I watched your response. And what did you do? As soon as you knew it was me, you "thought" you knew what to do. You turned from that purpose; you turned from the responsibility that emerged as a result of your miraculous power to extract meaning. You turned from it and gathered your garments, and wanted me because you thought that was love. You thought that was what I ‘wanted.’
But wanting me is not loving me. I am teaching you the answer to ‘Do you love me?’ because you don't know. The answer is: ‘feed my sheep.’ Like the line I came from—David’s line--the line of the shepherd boy who knew that to fulfill his purpose, his father’s will, was the same as loving his father; and in that kind of loving is where meaning is found; is where strength is found; is where victory is found; is where dancing with joy is found; is where everything is found--as he was; so I am; and so you must be; like the boy with the heart of God. Loving me, immature spirit, is not getting me. It is not getting what you want and going where you want and gathering you garments, and then sitting at my feet; while the purpose and meaning I showed you sinks in the water for others to bear. If you love me…fulfill your purpose! I will show you abundant meaning and purpose if you listen. If you follow, mature spirit, if you will be lead, then I will reveal a miracle of meaning with which to offset the suffering and insufficiencies of the world. If you listen, if you respond, I will show you how to save the world—how to love me. And it absolutely exists outside of what you want."
Are you swimming towards Jesus while responsibilities that were revealed to you; that you know are full of life and life-giving; are left sinking behind? Put the garments back down. Go. Grab the nets, full to bursting with life. Help bring them to shore. And let’s eat breakfast.
What is the difference between zero and 153?
Zero is darkness. Zero is blindness and nothing. Zero is neither hot nor cold. Zero holds the keys to hell. If we see life as giving us nothing, zero, then we are giving Satan back the keys to the gates of hell; and he gladly opens his dominion in our lives, behind our back, beneath our blindness. We are Polyphemus crying, “Nothing is killing me!”
Jesus says, “You’ve got it all wrong.”
What happens beyond the horizon? We don’t know. Only the sun knows.
What is the purpose of life?
Jesus says, “Loving me is giving. Loving me gives purpose that eternally calls and eternally satisfies.”
The young get what they want—go where they want. Those are brief satisfactions. They end when the goal is attained. So, therefore, that goal, that frame, must constantly be replaced by another goal another frame. It is eternally unsatisfying. “I’m going to get fish.” Wrong goal. Wrong “why.” Wrong frame. Satan just can’t wait to see those empty nets.
I’m sure Peter would ever reflect; maybe even while hanging inverted on his cross; remembering his nets, full to the bursting with 153 fish, as he helped drag them to shore:
Others will always—eternally—be unsatisfied, eternally dirty, hungry, thirsty, sick, hurting, dying. I will help. I will cast my nets the right way and for the right goal. I will stop being young and become old. I will make myself sicker, hungrier, dirtier, and die, because I know better—Christ taught me better—because I know how to satisfy. I know, now, the goal set before me by Christ: ‘Feed my sheep.’
The lamb that willingly sacrifices himself—sacrifices his wants, his goals, exposes his vulnerability— feeds all sheep, and becomes a new, perfect lamb willing to walk to the alter again. It is living. It is sacrifice.
It is the Way, the journey, that satisfies.
“Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.”
A common complaint of my relationship with my wife was that I was never in sync with her. That is how I would say it to myself. If I was up, she was down. If I was down, she was up. Eventually, I realized that our “out of sync”-ness was not only a sign of a very broken relationship—it was a sign of a very broken person. Sadly, darkly, I saw myself for what I was: a man who claimed to follow Christ, but who actively participated in taking his wife’s joy away. If she was feeling positive and enthusiastic about anything, then to the inverse proportion, I became negative and resentful. And, conversely, as her sorrow increased I could not help becoming more positive and contemptuous towards her weaknesses. Then, afterwards, in an ultimate evil move, I would rationalize and justify my behavior to her and to myself. Lies, lies, lies.
I should have been doing the hard work at the right time. I should have been tending God’s creation in a way that makes life flourish (It is after all my world for which he called me to take responsibility). I should have been sharing sorrows, lifting my wife’s burdens, helping in the low times. And then, just as harvest time arrived, sharing in the joys, being enthusiastic for and with her. This is the sign of a redeemed relationship.