Freaking Out

Why is it that we are always tested privately for the things we commend to others publicly?

Wednesday night I taught a class on Daniel 3 and made the statement, “Freaking out is not allowed.  Faith doesn’t freak out.”  So of course, last night, in the middle of a meeting, I completely freaked out.  Mind you, in the meeting, I didn’t let anyone see it.  I let the racing pulse and sweaty palms fester until I got into my car.  Once there, I let myself be terrorized by thoughts and projections. 

How does that happen?  I’ve walked with the Lord for so many years and I am acutely aware of His faithfulness in my life.  Not once has He abandoned me.  Not once has my hope in Him failed.  Yet here I am on the precipe of greater trust, and I am terrified.  I know all the Scriptures–“be strong and courageous…”  “do not be terrified…”  “the Lord your God is with you…”  I know these truths with my head.

And maybe that’s why I’m so completely disappointed.  My heart is still sprinting to catch up to and embrace what I know to be true.  I trust only in part what I know in whole.  This is what the writer of Hebrews described as “throwing away your confidence” (Heb. 10:35).    There, within stating the problem, I find the solution:  My only confidence is Christ.  How do I throw Him away?  By trusting in myself, more than I trust in Him.  Just like the disciples who ran and hid at the crucifiction of Jesus–forgetting all that He had said to them–I am running away. 

And the thought of running away from Jesus really makes me freak out.  There is only one direction for me to run to find any comfort and peace:  Toward Him.  Yes, I will have to trust Him more than I ever have before.  But isn’t that the point?

Would others say we love one another?

My mind keeps wandering back to an incident that happened this weekend. 

The elementary  children were gathering in the chapel for their worship time.  The room was abuzz with cheerful clamour as children greeted one another, sharing indiscriminately the details of their week.  I was at the front of the room with the worship leader when my eye caught one boy, no more than nine years old, sitting slumped over and alone.   His demeanor went unnoticed by the classmates that surrounded him, but the Spirit of God in me made a beeline for him. 

Gently I kneeled down next to him, greeted him and implored if he was okay.  I wasn’t prepared for his answer.  I expected he might share of a difficult morning at home; maybe he didn’t have time for breakfast, or he fought in the car with his sister.  Instead, he unleashed an impassioned grievance for another boy sitting one row up from him.  I abruptly stopped his tale and told him, “I am the wrong person to share this with, you must tell him.” 

I fetched the other boy and excused the two of them to work out their difficulty.  When it was all said and done, the first offense had occurred over a year ago, completely forgotten by the offending child.  However, in the heart of the offended, the wound was growing and festering.   This child’s heart was not free to worship God because it was chained down by unforgiveness, bitterness, and pain…all before the age of nine!

The three of us were able to walk through reconciliation and the two boys returned to their seats to worship God together.  It was a beautiful picture of forgiveness and the commitment toward unity within the body of Christ that the Scriptures command for us to contend. 

As a children’s pastor, I am accustomed to mediating disputes.  I do it so often I think it should be on my job description somewhere.  So what makes this occasion stand out?  Why does my mind keep dragging it out for my consideration?

I’m concerned for the church.  I fear that our rows of stackable chairs our filled each week with grievances years old, blocking our worship and testimony of God and His love.  Why can two young children look each other in the eye and do the hard work of honest reconciliation, but adults cannot?  Does of all the motion of activity blur our care and concern for one another as image bearers of God?  The early Christians were known for their love for another.  History records that their contemporaries often declared, “How these Christians love one another!”  Would our contemporaries say the same?

I think it’s time for some of us to start pulling people out to look one another in the eye and encourage them to contend for unity…for love.  Not the warm, fuzzy, comfortable love we Americans have grown used to thanks to sappy Hollywood movies.  Instead, we need the kind of love that penetrates through the niceties and cold apathy and stand in the places of heart-baring honesty and commitment to one another, for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. 

As Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so they may be one as we are one” John 17:11.

“obedient as a shadow”

In reading A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly, I am turned topsy-turvy by the awareness of how often I shirk off obedience.  Wow!  Those aren’t easy words to write…even harder words to face as my reality.

Kelly describes the surrendered life as “obedient as a shadow.”   A shadow has no solidary path.  It only follows its source.

This forces me to face up to the answers the question begs in my life:  Am I a shadow or a source?  

I want to be a shadow…When pride wells up in me, I want to be the shadow of Christ’s humility (Phil 2).  When hate, masking itself as apathy or criticism, dresses my heart, I want to be the shadow of Christ’s love (I John 3).  When cynicism clouds my vision, I want to be the shadow of Christ’s light and hope (I John 1).    But somehow my wants are not getting me the desires for which I long.  I continually find myself being my own source of all that Christ is not…and it truly bums me out.

I have to believe that the author of Hebrews had our tendency to be our own source in view when he wrote, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured…so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Hebrews 12:2-3)

If I focus my eyes on Christ, I can’t help but be a mere shadow.  One look at Jesus exposes pride for what it really is…idolatry.  It is impossible to treasure an idol when you are intoxicated by the One, True God. 

A shadow is devoted to the greatness of its source.  No one can grab hold of a shadow.  What humility would mark my life if I lived in such a way that when people need to grab hold of something (or Someone) certain I would slip through their fingers and they would grab hold of Christ!   Oh how I long for others to catch a glimpse of my shadow only to encounter my Savior’s love and hope. 

I’m challenged to be a shadow of His light in places where darkness, deception, and double-mindedness prevail.  I am challenged to  shadow His patience when others are exceedingly intolerant with poor service.  (Has anyone else noticed that a declining economy is contributing to worsening customer service?  Hooray!  An opportunity for Christ-followers to stand out!)  I am challenged to shadow His forgiveness and love when coworkers malign or marginlize me.

How about you?  Are you more often a source or a shadow?

Today, consider Him…those two words could turn the world upside down.