Okay, let me back up…
Maybe the cold has frozen the frontal cortex of my brain, but I’ve taken to spending my Saturday mornings standing in frigid rivers with a tiny pole, tempting Pike with sharp teeth to come near me. In other words… I spend my Saturday mornings fly fishing with my boys.
1) I know Alaska has frozen a chunk of my brain. I haven’t seen weather warmer than 40 degrees in weeks.
2) I’m a terrible fly fisherman. (Fly fisher? Fly fisherwoman? See, I don’t even know the correct term. Maybe that’s why I haven’t caught anything yet…)
3) Jesus continues to prove that He’s the only One who could ever tempt me to stand in an Alaskan river on my “day off”.
Due to the fact that I can’t talk or sing while fishing (lest I scare away my prey) I’ve spent a good amount of time lately considering the fact that Jesus walked into our proverbial river by coming down to earth. In fact, He came to us and then He called us to follow in His example.
Jesus walked out of his heavenly perfection and He entered in to our lives; it’s in His very name. Emmanuel—God with us.
In this season of living with my students, teaching and learning with them during the day, and hanging out with them at night, I’m learning what His call to “enter in” with Him to peoples’ lives looks like in a new way.
Consider with me the commands of Christ in the New Testament:
“And Jesus came and said to His disciples, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:16-20)
As I read this, I can almost hear Jesus saying, “Hey! Kacy. I came to you, for you. Now go and be with others. Tell them who I am, and when you can’t seem to remember who I am, simply remember that I am always with you. You need only ask and I will show myself because I’m Emmanuel– God with you; God within you.”
We see two of the other most important commandments of Christ later in the Gospel of Mark:
“One of the scribes came up and heard the Sadducees disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus had answered them well before, asked Him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.’” (12:28-31)
Love your neighbor as yourself. Woof; the weight of that calling is never lost on me. After all, this is the call—the one to enter in to the brokenness and pain of those around us and point them to Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t seem to be talking about “dipping your toe in the proverbial water while your other foot is comfortably planted on the ground” here. He isn’t referring to the kind of “entering in” where you see a struggle, recognize the pain and mess, and offer a Bible verse or applicable “Christian” platitude where you see fit, then leave, hoping that things will get better for that person.
He’s talkin’ about slapping on your waders (even if they make you look like an idiot) and walking into the river of another’s sorrows beside them.
You might walk in and find yourself knee deep in the mud of life, which is often difficult to navigate. You might find yourself feeling like you’re drowning in the other person’s pain at times. The waters of their sorrow, pain, and fear will be cold, dark, and incredibly uncomfortable. But God is continuously reminding me that we have to be experience the rivers of other’s sorrow, in one way or another, to effectively love them as we love as ourselves. We have to be in it with them—truly in it. No matter what “it” is…
I don’t know about you, but I’m one broken, self-absorbed human being. I’m overly consumed by my own heart at times, and as I look at those moments filled with my own humanity I recognize that I’m being called to be just as concerned about the hearts of those around me.
But how do we do this? How do we enter in to the river of sorrows with another when we feel like we’re drowning in our own?
We love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That may sound trite, but I don’t mean it to.
Think about it: What does it look like to love someone that much? You long to be near them. You want to be in their presence, to hear their stories and know everything about who they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re going.
In short, if we are going to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength we have to be obsessed with His story. We have to be constantly looking to the Gospel to see who Jesus is, where He has come from, and where He is going. Our God came down as flesh—a tangible example of what it looks like to love the Lord through faith, obedience, and action (and how to love His people in the same way).
We have to be in the Gospel.
It seems so obvious, and yet in day-to-day ministry and life it’s so easy to stop looking to Jesus and simply become absorbed by the humanity and brokenness that surrounds us, or even the humanity represented within scripture.
I don’t believe that we ever intentionally take our eyes off Jesus.
For me, taking my eyes off of the Gospel usually begins innocently enough—I decide to spend time elsewhere in my Bible. For months, I was camped in the Psalms and the Pentateuch (and trust me, this is not a rag against the Psalms or the Old Testament—I LOVE both.) but slowly, ohhhh sooo slowly, I stopped looking at who Jesus was and what He has done for me.
I didn’t realize that I wasn’t looking at Him until I slammed into a wall of exhaustion a few weeks ago. Physically, I felt fine. Emotionally, I’d been better, but I knew that wasn’t my issue. I was spiritually exhausted from a lack of the Gospel in my life. And when my alarm would wake me every morning, I would lay in bed and cry at the thought of having to get up and engage with my students.
I can’t. I can’t do it, Lord. I’m too tired. I can’t enter in to the river of sorrows today. I just want to lay under this electric blanket and pretend that I’m not in Alaska and that life is not hard.
As I bemoaned this fact to a friend on the phone, she asked the question that she asks me so often: “Who are you seeing Jesus as right now?”
Jesus… Huh… I don’t think I’m seeing Jesus period… In fact, I haven’t seen much of Him in my quiet times or our lessons in the Old Testament this week. I thought out loud.
“That’s probably the problem…”
And I knew she was right.
We are to look at Him at all times; If we don’t, loving people and entering in to their lives is impossible. After all, Jesus is the only one who can save us. He is the King of the universe—the only god who has ever come to humbly die for His people and raise Himself to fulfill scripture.
He is the only one who can teach us what it means to “enter in” to the lives of the people we love.
We can’t take our eyes off of Him.
I recognize more everyday that I am not Emmanuel. No matter how hard I try to be a savior, I am not God for anybody. (And trust me, you would not want me to be your savior. I’m a mess. I cry too much and I doubt even more than I cry– a scary thought for those of you who know me… I let my fears control me, consume me, and ruin things far too often. I get angry at pain and injustice, and hell hath no fury like an angry Mexican woman…)
So, I’m not God to this world. But by His Grace, I am of Him, in the world and so are you.
As believers, we’ve been called to show the world who God is and what He’s about. But that requires looking at Him and following His example of walking into the river of sorrows.
There are plenty of times in scripture where God promises to do amazing things once His people have gotten in the water.
What do you think Christ could do with you and those whom you love if you were willing to get in the river of sorrows with Him?
And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’ ‘And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth— set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap, so that the entire tribe of Israel might pass through on dry ground.
(Joshua 3:7-8, 13, 17)