The Way of Jesus, the cruciform way, is a spiral. You keep coming back to the same lessons, but somehow larger, more, deeper, better. Like a circle, but still making progress.
Ten years ago I was in Nashvegas and I wanted to leave. I had been there a few months, newly married, and had moved from a place where I knew what I was doing and I was pretty good at it. In Nashvegas my role was unclear and consistently changing, and it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I wanted for Jesus to tell me to leave.
Instead, Jesus took me to Philippians 2, where Paul says that he has no one like Timothy, who will deeply and sincerely care about the welfare of the Philippians. He says the reason for this is that “everyone else seeks after their own interests, not the interests of Jesus Christ.” Jesus quietly rebuked me, and he asked me if I was going to be motivated by his interests, which necessarily meant accepting and cultivating a visceral concern for the welfare of the church – and, at that time, for that church – or if I was going to be motivated by my own interests. Quiet and irrefutable. And it changed me fundamentally. I became, in my bones, a servant to the Church.
Today, this morning, ten years later, I ran across Moses’s prayer in Exodus 32:32 – “But now, please forgive their sin – and if not, then blot out my name from the book you have written.” Imagine that. I tried to pray that for the Narnyan people. But I can’t seem to, yet. Part of it is because my burden is broader than this one people group, whereas Moses existed for Israel. Part of it is because I don’t want to stay here forever. I want to do other things, too – I sense some calling to a wider arena. And I’d like to train others to do what I do. Part of me fears deeply identifying with this people group – with these persons – because it may consign me to a lifelong assignment here. And, being pretty emotionally fatigued lately, part of me fears feeling deeply at all. But part of it is because I am seeking after my own interests, and not the interests of Jesus Christ. Simple and irrefutable.
I can feel it, like when someone is rubbing your back and they find the knot that is at the center of a complex network of pain, this preference for my own interests over those of Jesus is at the nexus of my recent melancholy. Sickness, winter, being snow-bound, these all play a part. But the central root is this preference for my own interests.
So, brothers and sisters in the cruciform way, now to lay the axe to the root…