Monday, July 22, 2013

Contentment Through a Different Lens

There once was a man who had a son. One day, he bought his son a pony. The man said to a Zen master, "Isn't this great!"
The Zen master responded with "We'll see."
A few days later his son was riding the pony, and the pony bucked the boy to the ground, breaking his leg. The father said, "Oh no, what a tragedy!"
The Zen master said, "We'll see."
A few weeks later a war had started with the neighboring village, an army recruiter came by the boy's house, but left because the boy still had a broken leg. Many young men were dying every day in this war, so the father was relieved his son didn't have to fight. He said, "Isn't this fortunate!"
The Zen master said, "We'll see."

This story is a famous one. It has been used to talk people down from despair and remind others to calm down with their excitement. For some, it's a dangerous example of stoicism. To me, it has challenged my thinking on contentment to the core.

Each person will go through significant ups and downs in life. Every follower of Jesus has been Peter on the mount of transfiguration, wanting to stay forever in the intimate presence of the Divine. The problem is, we have all also felt like Jesus on the cross--begging God to reveal Himself in our dark moments and suffering.

What does the story of the boy and the pony mean for the follower of Jesus? Do we practice "managed expectations" to the point we are never excited by nor frustrated about anything? Going through life without emotional response seems like painting without color. God gave us emotion in order to keep life from being milquetoast.

At the same time, there's a beautiful contentment found in the story. Nothing seems too bad or too great for the Zen master. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would fly off the handle at a parking ticket or an overcooked burger.

It's difficult to be content with your situation in life if you view yourself through the lens of facebook. Everyone of my facebook friends seems to be having either the greatest day ever or is severely depressed. No one ever posts "pretty average day" on facebook. Because of this, our human nature and its need for comparison has a field day with facebook statuses. We are either doing much better or much worse than everyone we see, and we forget how phony the entire process of posting on facebook actually is. The secret to contentment is being self-aware, and unchanged by what is happening in anyone else's life.

Always our example, Jesus Christ talked about and modeled perfect contentment in all things. It was His contentment, obedience, and love which held him to a cross for us. He taught us to look at the flowers and birds and to understand God takes care of their every need. Our prayer "give us this day our daily bread" is a statement both of our contentment with only what we need for today, but also our willingness to rely on God's daily provision.

Contentment, as modeled by Christ is the melting away of the self and the immersion of our souls in the daily mercies of a loving, creating, moving Father who will make sure we are OK. It's human nature to look at what others have and wish it was ours. It's human nature to want better things in our lives. It's Christ to live in the knowledge that God didn't reach out to us to make us a sensation, but to make us His. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Do Whatever He Tells You To Do

I spoke at a church the other day. In preparing this talk, I was going to lean heavily on a talk I gave on Ephesians 2 in which I compare the bringing together of Jews and Gentiles together in one new Body to the bringing together of coffee grounds and hot water in one new product of French pressed coffee. This was all well and good, but then I prayed about it.

Over the course of weeks preparing this message, I began feeling led to talk about John 2. I wanted to make the connection with Jesus turning water into wine to the coffee from earlier, further showing Christ as the Wall-busting conquerer of the universe. I wanted to show Christ breaking down the man-made barriers between people and religion and ethnicity. God wanted me to show these things to this congregation.

But He also wanted me to show something else.

I've read John 2 hundreds if not thousands of times. The crazy thing about Scripture is that no matter how many times you read a verse, the Lord can still grab you by the collar whenever He wants. I was planning on having only two points in this talk, but God wanted three. John 2:5 says that Mary went to the servants and told them "Do whatever he tells you to do." That's the whole verse, but it wrecked me.

Every day we are like the servants in John 2. Every day we are confronted with memories and examples from our past which tell us to simply do whatever Jesus tells us to do. Too often we focus on commandments and laws and morality while worrying we are doing something we aren't supposed to be doing. Even worse, we spend energy telling others to stop doing what we think they aren't supposed to be doing. What Mary tells us servants is to worry more about doing exactly what Jesus is telling us to do, not worrying about morality or judging others, just focusing on our obedience to the daily movement of the Spirit.

The problem with doing what Jesus tells us to do, is it requires us to listen. We aren't good at that. We are really good at telling Jesus what we want, thanking Him for making us good, or asking Him to do what we want Him to do. We should learn to sit and listen. We should learn to cultivate an attitude of obedience. The more we obey what Christ tells us to do TODAY, the more He will give us to do tomorrow. We have an opportunity to join with Christ's continuing reconciliation of all things unto Himself, and all we have to do is listen to our lover's call, and act accordingly. 

About Drew

My photo

A follower of Jesus, trying to build myself and others up from the inside out.