Escaping the Temptation to Escape
Before they hung Jesus on the cross, the soldiers offered him a little wine mixed with myrrh--a way to escape the full reality of his pain. Did you ever think seriously about why he refused?
Living in reality, totally present to his Father and his suffering, meant more to Jesus than embracing a well-deserved escape. Seems that like William Wallace in Braveheart, he had a battle to fight and wanted his wits about him.
God has issued his great invitation: Seek me. Find me. Go out and find the people in pain and bind their hearts to me. Gather up the pieces of broken lives and release the captives; deliver my truth, my joy, my healing touch with the gifts and talents I have given you. Be my ministers of reconciliation. My Redemptor. My Redemptress. Take the risk. Move into lives. Infect others with your passion. I'll give you confidence and boldness. There is no ultimate risk because your name is written in the Book of Life. Rule and subdue, build and grow, and, yes, as the psalmist says, "Enjoy the good life in Jerusalem." But as you go, make disciples, watch for the kingdom doors he opens along the way.
My own experience was that, in years past, when I sought escape from rheumatoid arthritis, when TV watching amounted to a part-time job, when I diverted so much energy and imagination into daydreams, an alternate universe of my own making, there was less left over for the real world. I would lose my creative impulse for daily living. “Leftovers again?” Yes, and not just for dinner.
The only way I grow and change and become the person God dreams for me to be is when I am present to reality, not lost in distractions and escape. I do not grow or change when my challenges are virtual. In fact, depending on my attitude, I think my indulgence can reinforce my worst self and keep me from growing. I am so worthy. I deserve more than real life offers me.
I've discovered that growing into the person God wants us to become takes every ounce of imagination we have. We have to dream of being a good friend, a lover, a Redemptor or Redemptress before we can do it. We have to pray about it and think about it and then suddenly the ideas pop into our heads, or the doors swing right open before us. And because we’ve been trying to imagine what open doors might look like, we recognize them as opened doors and move on through. So many of us are spinning along in the orbits of our church and Christian friends that it takes a great deal of imagination to think how we're going to move out to build bridges to other people who need Christ.
There were times when I would hear God’s invitation and think, I love worldview. I have all this education. I read and keep files on how our families are squeezed into the mold of this world. I think about how to push back, more than that, to move forward, to live for Christ and his kingdom in today's culture. I ought to put some things together and offer a class or a Saturday seminar.
But "life is just so...daily," as greeting card magnate Mary Engelbreit would say. Going with the family, work, and church flow, it would have taken a great deal of imagination to figure out how to take what I was learning and offer it to others in a helpful format. It always takes imagination to respond to God’s invitations to ministry. I couldn't imagine how life could be more, given my limitations, and it never occurred to me to ask God to give me that vision.
I had creative moments teaching college classes and playing with my son, planning birthday parties and musical programs for the church. But far too many of my creative impulses were zapped by the cathode rays emitted from my TV. So many good ideas and intentions melted into my blue Naugahyde recliner where I stared at the big hypnotic eye. "Trust in me, trust in me," it chanted, just like Ka, the cobra, in Jungle Book, with his mesmerizing gaze.
When, by his Spirit, God enabled me to close the door to my escapes, some of that creative energy finally found its way into teaching that class, organizing the seminar, writing a book. Once my creative momentum began rolling in the kingdom direction, more ideas began to flow. I saw more opened doors for the Life God offers. It's quite possible they were open before, but my imagination was too sidetracked to see the possibilities.
I don't want to give the impression that Life is mostly about doing. That once I started doing more intentional things for the kingdom, that's when I began to live the kingdom kind of Life. Reality truly is "God's home address." As I lived there in imaginative obedience, God drew near. The doing flowed from the knowing.
John 14:21-23 "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him...If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."