Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me...
Philippians 3:12

This is the passage on which God called me to meditate for the year (2014), but I haven't known what to do with it.  Honestly, it follows one of my least favorite little excerpts in Philippians.  I don't know, something about Paul's statement, "Not that I have already obtained it, but I press on toward the goal" just turns me off.  Maybe it's the race metaphor.  It makes me feel hot and tired.  I like to run in circles on the grass in my bare feet with my dogs.  I like to run on the beach or down a cascading dune of sand.  I like to run in moments of bounding joy or energy or life.  I do NOT like to run races.  Boo.

However, the truth is that this line, this specific line is kind of ... magical.  

It says that Jesus took hold of me.

Yes!  Yes, I have experienced that in so many ways, at so many times in the course of my journey.  Christ Jesus captivated me with his love and sacrifice when I was just a tiny girl.  He wrapped me in his presence.  He held me up as a kid when I was terrified of school, rejected by my peers, and unable to get out of bed in the mornings.  He gave me courage and he gave me joy.  And then he walked with me into the valley of the shadow of death.  And there, that is where he caught me up.  He reached down and took hold of me, and he brought me out.

And he had been wanting to do it for a long time.

He brought me out to something, for something.  What a glorious day it is to be brought out!  But how much more glorious is it to be brought out to something, for something, something he had in mind, something he had intended before he ever went in to get me!

But I must take hold of it.  I must receive it.  I must hold on to it.  I must fight for it.  I must chase it, chase it like life, like chasing my puppies through the grass on a firefly studded summer evening.  I must want it, dream of it, wait for it, imagine it, long for it, pray for it, work for it, defend it, cherish it.

What is this thing, this mysterious thing for which Christ has taken hold of me?  It is the pearl of great price.  It is the Kingdom of God.

It is for freedom that Christ set us free. 
Galatians 5:1a

So simple it might be disappointing - unless you've experienced it or truly been desperate for it.

Freedom.

It's true.  And it is amazing.  I have both been desperate for it and I have experienced this freedom in Christ.  I have experienced freedom from shame through the conviction of the Spirit, through the humility of finding my identity in and through Christ, and through the confession of sin and the acceptance of this world as it is, not as I would have it.  I have known freedom from perfectionism, legalism, isolation, depression, and self-loathing.  I have experienced freedom from oppression.  I have known the freedom of being accepted as I am and loved in the darkest places of my soul.  I have experienced the freedom that comes from seeing and living in the truth.

A friend of mine confessed to me the other night: "I didn't know Christ had something for me. I didn't know that I didn't have what Christ had for me."

I didn't know that I didn't have...

It hit me.  It was profound.  He nailed it.  He described in two short sentences the "struggle" of his Christian walk ... through the desert ... for years.

How many of us ... don't know ... that we don't have ... ? How many of us don't know that we don't have freedom, life, joy? How many of us don't know that we don't have the power of the Spirit in our lives? The fruit of the Spirit? 

Christ has taken hold of us, but how many of us don't know that Christ took hold of us for something?

I just described the freedom Christ brought to my life.  But I didn't know it once. My life was simple, mundane. I worked a 9-to-5 job. I ate out 3 nights a week, went to the movies on the weekends, wrote reviews for a corporate newsletter. I went to church on Sundays, played in a worship band, took nice vacations every year, lived around the corner from my mom and we had coffee on Saturday mornings with my little dog, Sol. I watched my favorite shows on tv, went to the lake during the summer, worked on home projects year round, hosted Thanksgiving dinner. None of these things were bad. They were beautiful in many ways.

But I didn't know that I didn't have.

Blessed are the poor in spirit ... for they know that they don't have.

I didn't know that Christ Jesus took hold of me for something. And I didn't know that this something for which Christ Jesus took hold of me ... is something that must be pursued

I must press on toward it. I must grab hold.

I must want it.

I must need it.

But I cannot unless I know - truly know - that I don't have.

As CS Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory:  


We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.


My prayer for you and I as we close this year: 

May we be profoundly struck by the knowledge that we don't have.  

May we recognize then that Christ took hold of us for something, and may we desire it enough that it disrupts our lives and plagues us with such discontent that we pursue him and all he has for us.

Heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Amen