When They Met Jesus

Well, I am (almost) officially a Holy Yoga Instructor. Once I get that certificate in hand it will really be real. Entering back into "the real world" leaves me, at times, wondering if all of the memories of the past week actually happened. It went by thoroughly and quickly; each moment dripping with meaning. I know that these photos in my mind represent reality because seeping through all of them is one truth: it was there I met Jesus. While that could sound somewhat confusing, seeing as I've written about, talked about and learned about Jesus for years and years (He first ransomed my heart when I was 16), let me clarify. Similar to Mary, or Thomas, or the others who saw Jesus after His resurrection, it wasn't a first meeting. But also similar to them, it was a meeting that would change the way I worship, serve and adore Him forever.

I've been trying to decide what to do next. My days have been full of homework, practice, reading and anticipating since March. Now that's all done and I'm wondering, "what do I do?" I decided, after conversing with my King, that I should spend some time seeing what others did after they met Jesus.

Upon reading the gospels, it doesn't take long to see that Jesus met a lot of people. The proud. The sick. The educated. The lame. The desperate. The "satisfied".

Each had their own responses to Jesus. Each acted or reacted differently. The one similarity is that they all came face to face with the opportunity for change.

The Pharisee's, time and time again, ridiculed, cornered and slandered Jesus. They had the One true Messiah right there with them, and they chose to listen to their educated minds instead of opening their hearts to what God was doing.

The man born blind obeyed, regardless of how ridiculous Jesus' command was. In that obedience he not only witnessed but was a part of an incredible miracle. He didn't laugh at Jesus and tell Him He was nuts. He didn't doubt and tell Jesus He was unable to do as He asked. He got up and went to wash, just as he had been told, believing there was a purpose for it; a purpose that would immensely bless the blind man and wonderfully glorify Jesus.(Jn 9:6-12)

While enjoying their last supper with Jesus, having been explained the events that were to come, the disciples chose to discuss which of them was the best. With the Messiah right there at the table, their focus was still inward. (Lk 21:24)

Jesus, pulling a little child into their circle, sets the disciples straight by stating that unless they become more like-minded with this little child, they will never enter the Kingdom. How uncertain, and possibly anxious, must that child have been, being pulled into the middle of a discussion with Jesus and His disciples? That's like the popular of popular kids choosing him to come and partake in their secret discussions. And yet Jesus used him, the least likely, to educate the ones who were the "chosen". (Mt 18:1)

I have seen myself in all of the above stories. There are so many things I've taken away from them and many other stories of meeting Jesus. Seeing the close-mindedness of the Pharisees, the simple obedience of the blind man, the pride and self-awareness of the disciples and the unknowing use of the child all encourage me and inspire me to heed these examples as I process the last week of my life. There is one person, however, that really brings courage, understanding and hope to my heart.

Peter.

When Jesus asked him to leave his job and all he knew to follow him he obeyed. He earnestly proclaimed to Jesus his undying devotion. Throwing caution to the wind he unabashedly fought to protect Jesus from danger. When cornered by unbelievers, he chose non-confrontation over the truth of his heart and denied his devotion to his King. When he heard Jesus' body was missing he ran to it, and without fear entered in. Jesus appeared to Peter and some of the others while they were out fishing and upon seeing that the Savior was ashore, Peter jumped into the water to run to his Lord. He was given a new start--a clean slate-- and never turned back. He went on to save thousands and proclaim the Messiah Jesus Christ. Peter got to be a part of some incredible things, and like so many before him, he was chosen regardless of being so very far from perfect.

I'm so thankful for Peter. Remembering him reminds me that, even though I've loved and served and proclaimed Jesus for many years, there is grace for all of those moments I chose myself over Jesus. There is mercy for the many times I chose my sin and my idols over my God. That it is more than possible for Jesus to ransom my heart, yet again, and this time for it to "stick".

You see, the reason things haven't stuck in the past has nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with me. Each and every day that I wake up and take that blessed breath, I have the opportunity to choose life over death. The things I saw, the freedoms I felt, are true and real and good. The realities of my past were washed away long ago, and my heart and mind have finally made the choice: to believe my Savior and to no longer live in the false reality that I am unforgivable.

Isn't it crazy that it's really that "simple"? All I had to do was believe. Really believe.

Believe that Jesus is who He says He is... because either all of scripture is true or none of it is. I can't believe He died and rose from the grave but not believe that it happened to wash me clean.

This is (a bit) of the story of what happened to me when I met Jesus on that mountain.

Like Peter, and countless others, I've chosen to believe the truth of my salvation. I've chosen to grab hold of my Savior and never look back. He is undeniably holy and good. I am ruined for anything other than Him.

From what was: "too fat, never enough, always disappointing, ever-failing, never succeeding."

To what is: "child of God."

Hallelujah!

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Imperfect Obedience

I had a rather random thought earlier about child leashes. You know, the ones that are masked as little critter backpacks but in all actuality are a leash for parents to keep track of their wandering, and likely disobedient, rascals. I truly don't like those things. In my inexperienced parenting mind I think to myself, "Come on, parents. Just teach that kid some obedience and make the effort to keep them with you." Notice how I said my "inexperienced parenting mind". Because I only have one and he is only 15 months... so I still have a lot of realities ahead of me in the world of wrangling little ones.

Recently, M has brought us down some uncharted territory with his behavior and it has forced me to face some parenting and teaching milestones I thought were still a little ways out. How often do I need to go back to the tv, or the computer or the stereo and teach and train him not to touch it? Seemingly often, I guess. For a little person who is constantly wrapped in a diaper, he sure reacts as if he's being tackled by a mugger when I attempt to change the poop nestled in his pants. I find myself exhausted at the end of the day, feeling drained of all patience and wondering if any of these moments are even making a dent. He is a strong-willed little boy.

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God, in His beautiful and albeit comical, timing and sovereignty is showing me just how much M and I have in common in this phase of life. M's outward behaviors are, I'm realizing, the physical manifestations of my spirit, heart and mind. The problem is that obedience is such a legalistic concept to me. I obey because I'm supposed to... because if I don't there is someone (the law, my family, the church, my employer) I am letting down. I do this to the extreme in that I struggle to throw a recyclable item in the trash because I know that, even in that plastic yogurt cup, I am letting the image I have made for myself down... even though no one even knows it happened.

In a mom's facebook group I am a part of, a mom recently asked what it means for you to have your child's heart. This, apparently, comes from a verse in Malachi, basically meaning that your child trusts your guidance so wholeheartedly that even in the moments they don't want to obey or don't understand why they must, they do it because they trust that you know what is best for them. The example given was that when you tell them to obey you and sit down when you ask, they are not still standing up on the inside.

My legalistic view of obedience does not allow me to fully give my heart to God. My obedience is not because I trust Him, in my vulnerability and questioning, to know what is best for me. It is because I have a fear of letting Him down. This creates a relationship that lacks intimacy. And produces minuscule rebellion.

On the other side of the coin lies perfection. The paths this life has taken me down have built up quite a strong demand for perfection. That has not, however, produced in me a person who is excellent at everything she does, but a person who tends to quit a lot of things because, "If I can't do it perfectly I just won't do it." As I walk down this path of learning to be obedient to Christ, I struggle with the journey. I struggle with all of the imperfection that paves the way.

Is it easier for me to just stay in this place? Where I don't live freely, but at least I live in these chains perfectly? The thought of facing, moment after moment, the crossroad of obedience or chains, is exhausting. Thinking of the moments where I will not be strong enough to obey is enough to make me want to run, arms flailing, as far away as I can.

As I examine these realities of my heart I see clearly just how much I am like my son. And just how much more patient my Father is than I. I am the child with the little critter backpack attached to the leash of mercy. His mercy. It keeps me in His reach, so each time I go back to that imperfect place, He trains me. Whether it's by the sting of consequences or the gentle love of His Word, He has mercifully kept me in His reach. When I face my lack of self-discipline, and every fiber in my being wants to just rebel in the simplest of ways (laziness, selfishness, biting words, too much chocolate) He comes back once again to guide me to His perfection.

The height of this lesson for me is found in the imperfection. Before Christ came and rose from the grave, perfect obedience was what was required of those who desired to spend eternity with the King. Your salvation depended on perfect obedience. Then our Savior came, the one true spotless lamb, and knowingly walked up that hill so that you and I would not need to be perfect. So that our obedience could be because He had our hearts. On that day, the requirement for me to be perfect, hung next to Him, never to come down. I am free to say "no" to selfishness, disobedience and sin with my physical body, and also with my heart, knowing that He is more than enough and incomparably better than any and everything I've ever run to before.

He loves me, so He puts the little critter backpack on me and covers me with grace as we face the world, day after day. Beautifully imperfect with no requirement to change that, but to accept His mercy and praise His holy name for being the perfection that I cannot be.

Here are things we will never perfectly be, but can always strive for. They are also things He always is, and will never not be.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Cor 13:4-8)

We will have moments when we don't want to persevere. We will have moments when we might delight in evil. In our sin we may choose to protect ourselves over another. We will never do these things perfectly. We will fail and fail again and fail again... The beauty in this is found in verse 10.

"But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears."

When He returns, our imperfection will disappear for all eternity. When He comes into our sin today, His perfection covers over our imperfection in the form of forgiveness and grace. He will come one day, and we will be those things without putting forth even the slightest effort, because we will be truly and fully made new. Today, I am on my knees in humility, so thankful that He chooses to come to me every day, providing me the grace to be imperfectly obedient.

There is absolutely no such thing as a "Perfect Christian". Unfortunately many people have tried to show themselves as such and it has created a facade that does nothing but fade with each passing day. In this moment I am thankful that He has never expected me to obey Him perfectly, but wants to walk with me, guiding me through the training moments, until the day He returns and wipes away all imperfection.

Man, how He truly and deeply and perfectly loves us. And how graciously He remembers the beautiful moments with His child, and mercifully forgets the sin-filled ones.

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