Life in the Lush Fields
I like to think I pay attention. I like to think I’m mindful of where God is leading me. And I absolutely like to think that I can discern when God calls my name somewhere.
And then life explodes, and I think, ‘Really, God? Could you let this stuff up a bit?’
Life in the Desert
This past December and early January were tough in our family. Sickness after sickness woes, falling behind in our homeschool schedule, chopping the tip of my finger off (whyyyyyyy), a washer breaking down completely, and other such minor things that build up into one long, drawn out whine to God. I kept the lament going, my life singing psalm after sorrowful psalm (or so it felt.)
The thing is, immediate needs tend to drown out the subtlety in life. Immediate emergencies, even minor, strain our attention span beyond our normal capacities. Though I kept calling out to God, I was not in a place to listen well. I thought I was trying. I was trying. Perhaps I could have tried harder, but maybe it was just a bad time too. It’s entirely likely both were at play.
Despite being genuine in trying to listen and respond to God, I have times in my life when I completely fail. I’m learning to accept it and continue to grow. In taking some time to look back, I wonder if perhaps there was a message intertwined within all the minor emergencies. Not a message of condemnation, but one that suggested perhaps in these instances, taking a step back and slowing my pace would help our family (and myself) out and help us to better cope with the situations. While I thought God was telling me only ‘No’ in my prayer requests, it seems I missed this more subtle message that was also given.
Jesus Finds Me in the Desert
Jesus also recognises immediate needs. He knows how immediate needs can interrupt one’s ability to listen to his message. He fed those who had been with him for several days; he healed the sick, he acknowledged those in society who had been labeled and ignored. Jesus met the needs of the people as well as shared about the Good News and the Kingdom. It should not be surprising to me that he still cares about my own immediate needs, as well as yours.
It is good to remember that his message might not mean deliverance from our immediate woes (though sometimes that happens, which we call miracles). Even more sublime, we are offered his presence in our suffering. We are offered his very company in our lament. Indeed, sometimes when I look back I wonder if Jesus wasn’t also lamenting with me, sharing in the misfortune of feeling abandoned.
Years ago Jesus encountered me in my suffering. On the cross, dying, he looked at me in my own anguish at the time. He didn’t say, ‘I will fix it.’ He didn’t say, ‘You will find glory later.’ He said, ‘Will you not join me here?’ In my place of being downtrodden, of being stepped on by others and attacked, he offered me a place at his side in suffering, and reassured me, “Do not be afraid.”
Sometimes our immediate experiences feel like crucifixion. It’s hard to hear, ‘Blessed are the poor…’ or ‘Go and sin no more’ or ‘Make disciples of all nations’ when we can barely cope with the day. Jesus asks us to stay awake with him in the garden, to be with him in suffering. Our suffering is also his suffering. We are united to him in a way that is paradoxical and against natural instinct.
I believe that it is in these times, our most vulnerable, when we are united to Jesus most closely. It is here that we encounter the God of the Living, dying on the cross to be with us. It is in our suffering that the veil can disappear. We are stark naked on the cross, our immediate needs sometimes crucifying us daily. But when we look to our side, Jesus is there on the cross beside us.
Jesus Leads Me to Pasture
We have emerged from the majority of our woes this month (anyone know where to get a cheap washer?), but I find myself contemplating again how close I can be to Jesus and not realise it. How close I can be to him and yet lament that he is not there. Like a close encounter I missed, the bittersweet joy of recognising Jesus with me in the daily suffering of life seems almost out of my reach each time I am thrown off course by yet another minor emergency. But he is consistent, and I know he is determined to have my heart. Our God is full to the brim with love for us and will stop at nothing until he can have us enveloped, pursuing us like a lover.
We are all being pursued by this one great Lover. Even when we fail to recognise his jealous love for us, there can be no doubt that when we face our trials (from the child tantruming again all the way through to losing a loved one in death), he is with us still. Jesus is waiting for when we can turn again to him.
Have you had an opportunity to meet Jesus in your own suffering?
Copyright 2017 Jane Korvemaker