John 13:33

Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.'”-John 13:33

Jesus continued preparing his disciples for the days ahead. He told the men, “In this I am glorified by my Father.” In other words, what is happening is a big deal. In fact, the next few days would be the biggest deal of all time. Jesus would willingly go to his brutal torture, cruel death, and a descent into hell. What was his hell? Separation from the Father.

He knew he had to go alone, but he also knew the confusion that awaited his disciples. He used a term of endearment, calling them “little children.” He recognized the childlike innocence in his disciples. He knew that they were going to be afraid and confused and that they would long for comfort, his comfort. If you have ever seen the image of a young boy, trying to be brave as his daddy goes off to war, I think you have the right image. Jesus was saying to each of them, “Buddy, I have to go away. You cannot come, but I’ll be back soon.”

Jesus knows that our deepest longing is to be with him. He knows that we can be scared and lonely. He knows that humanity was separated from him, which is why he went to the cross, where his friends could not come along, so that he might make a way for us to be with him eternally.  

Prayer
Jesus, Fears are often treated by well-meaning Christians as indicating a lack of faith. But you know me, Jesus. You know that without you, I am afraid and confused, even when I try to act brave. Help me to bring my childlike fears to you, as you embrace me tightly in your love. Amen.

Loosen Your Grip

How easily, it seems, we limit our own growth
in becoming like Jesus
in becoming love.

We are gripped with fear.
What if we are wrong?
What if I am judged?
by others?
by God?

We cling with trembling hands
to the assurances of others,
but tight fists
leave no space for the blessing of doubt,
nor the humility of uncertainty.
There is no space to give or receive love.

Loosen your grip on your certainty
if only just a bit.
For it is only open hands
that God is able to fill.

Private Thoughts

Sometimes I fear
that my private story,
if ever found out
will keep me from glory.

An evil concoction
of anger and lust,
of judgmental thinking
and questionable trust.

Sequestered thoughts
shown on a screen,
in heaven’s courtroom
nothing unseen.

All the assembled
stop singing and stare,
mortified whispers
and looks I can’t bear.

From his holy throne
God shakes his head,
his disappointment
becomes my worst dread.

But I’ve read my Bible
that’s not how it goes,
because of Christ’s blood
we’re no longer foes.

When I leave this earth
and enter heavenly space,
I’ll step not into judgment
but into my Father’s embrace.

Afraid

31 Days of Writing, day 2
Writing prompt: afraid

I grew up in the prime of action movies–Terminator, Rambo, John McClane. The thematic blueprint worked. A lone gun, unflappable, saving the world from overwhelming circumstances. A cruel dictator and his unquestioning mercenary army versus one man, hardened and invincible. The message was clear: true masculinity meant dialing up the fearlessness and turning down the emotion. Most men, regardless of age, routinely heard that emotions–except anger–are unwelcome partners in the fight against injustice.

How could I measure up? I wanted to be brave, but I was afraid. A lot. Afraid of being chased down by a group of older boys (again), fear of being seen as worthless, fear of losing my family. Despite any desire I had and even owning a survival knife, it was clear I would never be John Rambo. I had too many emotions and too many attachments.

Maybe the truth is that taking on an army single-handedly is a piece of cake compared to owning our emotions and our brokenness.

For Reflection: 

What were the the messages you received about yourself growing up? What were you afraid of? 

Why are we so afraid?

Why do we so commonly teach people to be afraid?

Afraid of bridges. Afraid of spiders. Afraid of the dark.

Afraid of red meat. Afraid of processed foods. Afraid of water from the tap.

Afraid of guns. Afraid of immigrants. Afraid of culture. Afraid of public schools. Afraid of democrats. Afraid of republicans. Afraid of Muslims. Afraid of our neighbors. Afraid of strangers.

Afraid of cancer. Afraid of ebola. Afraid of death. Afraid of life, at least one fully lived.

Afraid of conflict. Afraid of vulnerability. Afraid of truth. Afraid of exposure. Afraid of friendships. Afraid of disappointing people.

Afraid of being unknown. Afraid of being known.

Afraid of being a disappointment to God.

We set up cultures of fear. We lead people to believe that the Christian life is lived upon a tightrope. Blindfolded. One wrong step and…disaster. But that’s not what Jesus said. He said to his best friends, “why are you so afraid?” He invited them, and us, to live lives of love. St. John wrote that we cannot embody love and remain afraid.

Our mission is not fear, but love. We were not called to live life upon a tightrope weaved by the Old Covenant standards and laws of our own making, but to dance in a wide green pasture. We were not called to live with blinders on, but with our eyes wide open to the beauty and wonder of God.