Freedom looks hopeless for a second

As for our country, we were reminded this weekend that we go way back when it comes to freedom.  As we know, our founders had the very idea to create new lives in the new world for one very reason, freedom.

Now let me disclaim here that I am no history buff, but I did take a history class.  One of the few times I was listening and not staring out the window or doodling my monogram, I heard my professor describing the voyages to the “New World” which meant sailing across the Atlantic Ocean.  He described Columbus’ voyage in great detail, as it is the voyage most noted.  As you can imagine, sailing for an extended period of time with 15th century technology is extremely incomparable to a modern Carnival cruise.  Stepping foot on this voyage took courage, adventure, and belief.  Columbus’ crew sailed and sailed and finally (when they were actually almost to the Bahamas) the crew had all lost hope and told Columbus they were done and it was time to go back.  Instead, as great leaders do, he refocused their vision from their current experience and reminded them of the mission at hand.  So they continued and so they became the founders of the New World whose voyage is mentioned in every history book.

Later, once colonial America was formed, the colonists decided it was time to fight for their independence in the Revolutionary War.  They began the conflict defiant and determined, but amidst the dead of winter in New England, those men were exhausted, cold, hungry, and ready to go home.  On one night in particular, conditions were terrible and the American troops were beyond losing faith, but good old George Washington read Thomas Paine’s famous words “These are the times that try men’s souls” and charged them to cross the Delaware.  Because of this strategic, sneaky attack on the British, not only were the tides turned in the war, but morale was boosted for all of the patriots.

These fights for freedom remind me of the Israelites, who found themselves enslaved to Egyptian rule.  Finally, they were freed by the Lord and were fleeing.  They came to a Sea they thought they could never cross.  Moses was lost as to what to do and God says, “Why are you crying out to Me? Hold up your staff.” And the Sea was parted.  Yet after this incredibly heroic act by the God of Israel, the people grumble and complain as they wander through the wilderness, despite the Promised Land that awaited them and the literal bread from Heaven God supplied them each day.

As I think about these stories I am tempted to have what C. S. Lewis calls “Chronological Snobbery”, because I look at their stories thinking, “You’re so close!” “Think about what’s ahead of you.” “Why would you even consider giving up?” And we often read the Bible the same way, but have overlooked one very important factor- time.

When we think of Jonah, yes we think of the fish that swallowed him, but ultimately we think about how Ninevah was saved.  But when Jonah was literally in the gut of a fish having no clue where in the ocean he was, he had no clue that that was his end.

As I type this and think about those members of Columbus’s crew, those soldiers in the Revolutionary War, the Hebrew people in the wilderness, and Jonah, I think just how similar their stories are to my own as I find myself in many small fights that leave me feeling defeated at times amidst one very long journey toward freedom that can feel never ending.

Can I be honest with you and tell you I don’t have an answer?  I don’t have 3 points to cling to or an acronym that you’ll remember forever, but I do know this.

I know that the small acts of bravery, of continuing to believe even when things seem hopeless, may seem insignificant in the moment.  But when you look back, they will be everything.

I know that the hardest seasons to endure are the ones that we don’t have a defined end.  They drive us insane.  But I think that the Israelites wandering through the desert know the feeling.  And I think that those confusing seasons lead us to the richest growth.

I know that when we’ve lost morale and our wandering seems endless, we focus on what we don’t have and overlook what we do.  That’s why Columbus’ crew stopped appreciating the king’s funding of their voyage and just wanted to turn back.  That’s why the Israelites built an idol to another god, despite the fact that God was literally giving them bread each day.

I know that sometimes we need other people who have vision for the purpose of the journey and can boost our morale when we have none.

I also know that sometimes we have to be that voice for others.

As for the small fights for freedom, they will always seem hopeless for a second.  They also will always feel pointless for a second.  But that is the farthest thing from the truth.  We were created with eternity in our hearts.  We are not satisfied to just be slaves in a foreign land repeating mundane tasks.  We are destined for the Promised Land and even if it means crossing a Sea when you’re being chased or traveling one more mile through the wilderness when you’re exhausted, push through.  Don’t lose sight of the freedom, beauty, and grandeur of what awaits us.

And as for our long journey, what some call a “Long obedience in the same direction” toward eternity, this path is really hard sometimes.  But I heard recently, “For the believer, this is the closest to hell we will ever get.”  May we keep our minds so fixed on the glory awaiting us that we can endure our present sufferings- not avoiding them or becoming numb, but truly experiencing and allowing Christ into them.

I think we can all look into the story of Columbus’ crew, those fighting for the freedom of America, the Israelites, and Jonah and say, “Hold on.  Keep believing and keep fighting.”  May we speak those some words over our own fights and journeys.

From Hired Hands to Loved Ones

I’ve always looked at the parable of the Prodigal Son and asked myself if I was the prideful older brother or the ungrateful younger son, but always overlooked the one line that has been defining my struggle all along. The younger son comes to the end of his rope, the end of his self-reliance and remembers how good it is to be in His Father’s house. He finally returns home and tells his Father, please just take me back as a hired hand.
I’ve been learning lately that it is hard for me to simply accept my son-ship or more accurately, “daughter-ship” in Christ.  In fact, it’s hard for me to accept that I am accepted without doing anything.  I’ve talked before about being a Martha and not a Mary.  I find my place in the cooking, cleaning, and serving, because anyone can sit at someone’s feet.  I have to be special, right?
I just finished watching a TV Series and all of the girls have no job, no responsibilities, and no obligations.  Instead, they are just high status socialites due to their last name.  People watch them and follow them and they attend important events and spend ridiculous amounts of money because it’s what their family does.  I tried to imagine myself in this situation and my very first thought was, “How in the world do they just live their lives as daughters and never have any meaning, significance, or contribution of their own?!?! I could never just be a socialite because my last name is Waldorf.”  But then I realized that, in Christ, that’s exactly what my position is.
I haven’t achieved any status on my own.  In fact, I did the very opposite.
I think I could write a book on all the things I get out of order, and if there were a form of Christian dyslexia, I think it would be named after me.  I focus so much on what there is to be done for God and all the ways I can serve and impact that I lose sight of the “chief purpose of man, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
But the sad and hard deception, is that it’s easier to serve than it is to be known. And I think that’s what Jesus meant when He looked at Mary and told her she had chosen the better portion.  Because to sit still for one second and stop working, stop achieving, stop striving, and stop faking and just be known in our vulnerability, imperfection, insignificance and frailty is terrifying.  So I keep going back in the kitchen and seeing if anyone wants refills.
But the truth is, we were created for connectedness to our Father and He longs to know us.  The very first essence of humanity was the words of our Creator and the next, His breath.  Yet, we are terrified of who were created to be at our very core- connected to our Father.
And because we are afraid to allow our Father to know us, we are afraid to let others know us.  Louie Giglio says that, “The degree to which we are able to receive what God has given and is giving us, is the number one shaper of our ability to have fulfilling and meaningful relationships with ourselves and others.”
We see the prodigal son walking in the same tension.  At the end of His rope, He thinks to himself how sad the life he has created for himself is.  He is ashamed of his immaturity and thinks he is no longer worthy for his Father to call him son.  So, he returns and pleads to be a hired hand in his Father’s house.  And the beauty of our Savior and Redeemer is that He does above and beyond what we could ever ask or imagine.  He greets Him with open arms, puts a ring on His finger (redeclaring that he is His own) and welcomes him home with a huge party.
And we are afraid of being known and having meaningful relationships, because we haven’t yet allowed ourselves to fully receive the depth and grandeur of the love our Father has lavished upon us.
And I just wonder, if the prodigal son had first understood the love of His father how the story would have been different?
The love of our Father is extravagant.  We are significant and we are enough just by being His daughter or His Son. And yes, we are called to serve and to care for others, but that is not in our own independence- just ask the son who was craving pig’s food- GROSS!  Instead, we are called to love and serve as a result of knowing our Father so deeply that we image Him to those around us.  We are not called and quickly mobilized to go and do.  Instead, we are called to first come and know.