Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…
And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.
-Paul (1 Cor. 11:1)
Babies are kind of stupid. I mean, I love them and I think they are wonderful and cute and immeasurably valuable…. but they can’t reason well at all. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with one? They just stare at you. It’s like they don’t even know what you’re talking about.
Until you smile.
Then, something really interesting happens.
They smile back. Why? We used to think that it was just because our joy was so contagious. And maybe it is. But now we know something else. We are all mirrors. And we have a hard-wired tendency to imitate what is in front of us. Facial expressions. Behaviors. Values.
It’s called mimetic desire, and it’s how we learn most things in life (for more, study Rene Girard).
So maybe those of us who are parents should stop emphatically asking:
WELL IF YOUR FRIEND JUMPED OFF A BRIDGE WOULD YOU DO THAT TOO?
Statistically speaking, yes. It’s likely.
Something in us is hardwired to copy. We see something in front of us and it immediately becomes more real and possible.
In the mid 1900’s running experts didn’t think the 4 minute mile barrier could ever be broken. It stood at 4:01 for a decade. Then Roger Banister broke it in 1954. Six weeks later, someone else brought it down another two seconds. Thirteen months after Bannister, three more runners broke four minutes- in one race. How is that possible?
When we see someone do something, two things happen.
1- We believe it’s possible.
2- Something in us is drawn to copy it.
We are mimetic people. Imitation is our reality.
This is why understanding discipleship is so important. In the Hebrew world, it was about so much more than knowledge. You didn’t want to just know what your Rabbi knew. You wanted to become who your Rabbi was. Discipleship was learning the actions and the behaviors of one who knew how to walk with God. That could only happen by imitation.
So when Jesus calls disciples to follow him, he does far more than talk. Over and over again he models a life that can be imitated. And he tells them clearly that part of what they are learning is to live the way he is living. We need a concrete example, so Jesus doesn’t simply talk about compassion. He shows it. He doesn’t just talk about prayer. He models it. He doesn’t wax eloquently about a self-giving life. He dies in front of them.
It’s no surprise then, that the writer of Hebrews implores his readers: “Fix your eyes on Jesus! He is the one who is creating this faith of ours!” We need to keep the life and behaviors of Jesus in the world so that we can believe they are possible, and have a real model to work with. And, like Paul figured out, we also need living examples right in front of us so that we can see something in order to practice it. The model of Jesus is good, but a living breathing person brings Jesus to life in a new way. We need people to imitate as they imitate Jesus.
What might it look like to move toward that this week? Maybe you need to dive back into the gospels, reading them and paying close attention to the actions of Jesus. Maybe fixing your eyes daily on Jesus will remind you of what love really is.
And who is in your life that you can learn Jesus from? What real models do you have around you that are worth imitating? They are deeply flawed individuals, as we all are, but maybe we need to walk a little more closely with other people walking with Jesus. And maybe, like one of those little mirror funhouse rooms, we can just encourage each other exponentially into eternity.
Keep smiling at babies, even when they are terrible conversation partners. And keep your eyes on Jesus, so that you can keep believing that all of this wild “on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven" stuff is really possible.
Jesus, give me the strength to imitate you.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
-Paul, writing to his disciple Timothy (2 Tim. 1:7)
Last week on the east coast, we got the rain. All of it. I don’t think there is any water left in the atmosphere.
One afternoon during a particularly strong downpour, I had arrived back at my house near the end of the day. The rain wasn’t letting up, and I was in no mood to walk through it and get soaked. Can you relate? So I turned on the radio for a bit. Then I checked my phone and scrolled meaninglessly for another 4 minutes. Then I looked up again. Still raining. I didn’t care that the weather report said this would continue all night. I can be stubborn in these situations.
But it wore me down. The driving rain didn’t subside. Nothing had changed. And as I looked around from my comfy driver’s seat I was faced with a couple of choices.
Option 1: Hunker down for the long haul. I found a granola bar wedged into the passenger seat. That could totally get me through til morning. I can put the kids to bed using FaceTime.
Option 2: Actually stop avoiding the thing I knew I needed to do. Just open up the door, and walk into my house. It’s water.
Some days we feel strong and bold, ready to rock and roll in this world. And other days we just feel like wasting gas, idling, and staying dry for the moment. It’s much more comfortable than facing even a few moments of getting rained on. But we miss a lot by staying in the car.
Nearly every day, there are decisions that hang over us, that are easier to avoid than deal with. They are little things to do- things that we know would help us live more of the Jesus life. But it takes opening the door. And that short walk might be uncomfortable, so we put it off. But instead of doing the trick, our stress levels rise, and deep down we feel off. Yet we stay in our comfort zone.
But across the yard, there is comfort and joy.
Which feels better? Staying dry inside a small car on the street for a few minutes, or drying off and warming up in your home, knowing that know you can be at rest all evening? Isn't it worth walking through a little rain to get to this point?
Some of us need to have an important conversation with someone that would only take a few minutes, but we save it for another day.
Some of us know that offering an apology would take an enormous weight off of our chest, but we are afraid to call and say sorry.
Some of us are struggling with things that a trusted friend could help us move through- but we don’t share.
Some of us desperately need God’s gift of restorative sleep, but we waste time on screens at night.
All of this and more- they are moments of sitting in the car, hoping we don’t have to get wet. There are practices that you’ve been neglecting that could help you move closer into God’s love- but you don’t feel like it.
Movement toward these things feels like walking through rain, and we like staying dry.
Indeed, much of the ways of Jesus feel uncomfortable at the moment of surrender. But on the other side, there is rest when we take the steps that align our souls with Jesus and work toward God’s shalom (wholeness) in the world.
And honestly, the tomb is empty, so the pressure’s off. Take a walk in the rain. Do the thing God is stirring you to do. We have his Spirit in us. Anyways, even a rainy day with Jesus is far better than a sunny day full of fear. So this morning, sit with Jesus. Then get out of the car.
Jesus, help me be bold and full of your love today.
Be still and know that I am God.
Have you ever seen a Saguaro cacti? They're only found in one part of the world: the Sonoran Desert in northwest Mexico and the far southwest US. They are breathtaking to behold. Some grow up to 40 feet high, with thick stems and arms that extend like huge pipes. But there is more than meets the eye. Every towering saguaro tells a story. They didn’t start like that. When they took root, you weren’t born yet. After 10 years of growth, a saguaro only reaches an inch in height. A century later, at 90-100 years, it will grow its first arm. Standing in front of a saguaro is amazing. It gives you a strange sense of rootedness. You are looking at something that was alive well before you and will likely be alive after you. And it’s been rooted in place the whole time. Grounded. Consistent. The picture of stillness.
We have trouble fathoming something as steady as the Saguaro. We move around a lot. Not just in where we live, though that is certainly true. We move around in our minds. We move in our emotions. We move in our priorities.
Not all of this is bad. In fact, many forms of movement are a part of the growing and living experience.
But there’s something compelling about the saguaro. There’s something beautiful about slow movement when the rest of the world is spinning out of control. It’s consistent.
In Psalm 46, the Psalmist speaks about how scary the world has become. Everything is shifting sand. He writes of mountains quaking and falling into the sea. The earth is giving way. Nations are in uproar. It feels like chaos. But in the midst of his head spinning back and forth, looking at everything going wrong and how scary it all is, he hears the whisper of God’s voice: "Be still and know that I am God.”
It is a word of trusting God, but it is also a word of challenging the frenetic pace of his mind. It’s about living a consistent life with God.
Being still is harder and harder.
It’s hard to slow down our bodies enough to be rooted in meaningful tasks.
It’s hard to be aware that God is God and we are not.
It’s hard to give even a few minutes of time to prayer and move beyond interruption from our phones and surroundings.
And it’s really hard to slow down our minds enough to be still and really know God.
We are in a society that bounces from one stress to another in our own lives. Then we listen to the news or look on social media and see mountains shifting and nations in uproar. We are embedded in a world of constant outrage and indignation. We walk around so angry and hyped up that we can miss the daily opportunities God gives us to love each person in front of us… which is one of the clearest ways to begin healing the world. If we can’t be still and know that God is God, we will never be able to discern what is ours to do. And we certainly won’t be able to do it consistently over the long haul.
It’s in the stillness that we learn to know God. It’s in the rootedness that we truly grow arms to do good work.
This week, in the moments that you feel mountains quaking in the world around you or in the world within you, take a moment to be still and know that God has given you an unshakeable kingdom of Love. That’s what we live out of, and that’s what we invite others into.
Jesus, teach me to be still and know you.
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
-1 Samuel 16:7
Jesus looked at him and loved him.
Yesterday I nearly skipped breakfast and needed to grab a banana as I headed to work. I looked on the counter and the only option I had was one that appeared, shall we say, “undesirable.” The peel had dark spots, the stem was dried up. This one had long ago bid farewell to dreams of starring in a Chiquita commercial. The glory days were past, and brown was the color of the moment. My first thought was to send that guy right to the compost bucket. But I decided to check inside just to make sure.
Upon a second look, I saw that the inside of the banana was beautiful! Interestingly, the outside peel had not been a sign of how ruined the inside was… and I nearly missed breakfast because of it. So I did what millions of millennial hipsters do every day: I took pictures of my food. Confession: I am neither a millennial nor a hipster. But I did sense a Jesus metaphor coming on.
It’s a simple, overplayed idea, right? We’ve got these famous sayings...
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Looks can be deceiving.
Don’t toss a banana because of its peel... seems like it is also destined for greatness.
At first glance, this message seems almost juvenile in how obvious it is. Yet theory and practice are not the same. The truth is that I’ve meet very few people who truly have the capability to go beyond exteriors and offer inherent value to a person. We need Jesus to teach us how to do that over and over again.
It’s tempting to use first impressions of someone in order to pass judgment.
It’s tempting to use limited knowledge about someone's past to make assumptions about their future.
It’s tempting to take someone’s ugly moments and make it the totality of their character.
We have this human inclination toward competition over cooperation. And we also have a need for control that tempts us to deal always in absolutes, rather than layers. But Jesus teaches us a better way. He teaches us compassion and engagement. He teaches us to make gracious assumptions. And he releases us from the responsibility of passing judgement. This example does not just transform how we see others. It’s changes how we see ourselves.
So how do we achieve that heart of God for others?
We have to receive the heart of God for us.
Frequently, our inability to practice value within others is rooted in our personal inability to be loved as we are. Our experience of God’s grace has been rather anemic, so we communicate our disease to others.
Listen friends. Stop singing about God’s grace being enough. Start actually letting God’s grace be enough. Start welcoming God’s love in fullness. Start seeing yourself as fearfully and wonderfully made, worthy of love and redemption. Start seeing yourself as created in God’s image. You are beautiful despite your failures. You are worth dying for.
And the only way to come to grips with that is to sit with Jesus until the love sinks in.
When you are tempted to assume rottenness in yourself or another this week, may you be reminded that God sees beneath the hurts and failures to the core of who a person is-- and loves them. Yes, God’s image in us can become corroded and marred. Sometimes we lift back the peel and what we see is mushy fruit. But here’s where the metaphor reaches its limit. Not only does God look at the heart, but even the heart reveals pride, greed, and ugliness… God loves us anyway and is powerful to transform. So even the rotten fruit in our world isn’t beyond restoration in God’s kingdom. Today is a good day to start living like that’s true.
Jesus, help me receive your grace in a way that really changes things.
**If you want to take the metaphor farther, apparently you can shop for ugly produce here.
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?”
-Jesus (Matthew 26:40)
Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.
-Jesus (Mark 13:35)
Let’s keep thinking about the new year, since we’re only a week in. Many of you chose to stay awake until midnight last Tuesday to welcome in the new year. I don’t want to sound like a party pooper, but I think it’s been about (insert children’s ages) years since my wife and I stayed up. We party hard until about 9:00 or so and then it’s just not worth the effort. I’ll wish you happy new year in the morning. Stop judging me.
But for those of you who make the effort, bravo! It got me thinking.
A new year is a good time to invite God to help us stay awake. It’s so easy to fall alseep, to forget what matters, and to miss out on the beauty and joy of living in God’s kingdom. Interestingly, our society is experiencing an awakening of sorts. People are getting “woke” to the reality of racial bias in our country, and to the uncomfortably reality of sexism and the epidemic of sexual assault. People are noticing that we’re losing relationships because of our technology addiction. People are starting to notice that our consumption habits are not sustainable. It’s hopeful. Staying awake can be really good, especially when it’s Jesus that’s asking us to.
As we consider staying awake this year, I can think of three areas where we don’t want to fall asleep:
- God is at work all around us and we don’t want to miss it.
My eyes over the past two years have opened up so much more. Everything around us an opportunity for growth. God is at work in all of it. Every conversation can make us more like Jesus. Every good and bad event can be shaping tools in our lives. Every sunset, every birdsong, every person, and every minute- all have something to reveal about God’s goodness if we slow down enough to take notice. But too often, we fall asleep to those moments and miss out.
Slow down enough to keep your eyes open, friends.
- People are hurting and we want to be aware of it.
As mentioned above, our world is full of heartache. We forget that each person in front of us carries a story with them, full of hurt, hope, joy and pain. It’s easy to assume that what we see is the totality of a person. But God tells that so much is going on inside each person. They are in need of active love, just like you and I. Let’s become alert to compassion as we listen to each other’s stories.
Slow down enough to keep your eyes open, friends.
- Habits that are damaging to us and others develop almost effortlessly.
Most poor choices start long before the worst moment. Many bad habits (speaking critically, giving in to lust, using food or technology to fill a deeper need) form without us even being aware that they’re forming in us. We fall asleep at the wheel and forget that Jesus has given us a spirit of power and self-discipline that leads to a truly good life. Jesus hasn’t just set us free forever- he’s given us his Spirit to move toward loving practices in this life as well. Now is as good a time as EVER to get intentional and lean into prayer and community encouragement.
Slow down enough to keep your eyes open, friends.
I want us to be awake this year to the many ways Jesus wants to shape us and use us. So if you stayed awake last week, let it be an ongoing image for you this year as Jesus gives you eyes to see and ears to hear. And if you were like me and fell asleep early on new year’s eve… well, we were just resting up...
It’s go time.
Jesus, keep me awake and alert so that my eyes can see you and my ears can hear you.
Delight in God's love for you this week- and love others well.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.....
-Apostle Paul (Ephesians 3:20)
I watched Mary Poppins Returns with my family yesterday at the theater. It had been 25 years since I had seen the original. But the memories came flooding back. The film was beautifully done. The children are constantly being opened up to a world bursting with new possibilities… and of course, they are told by the adults to get their heads out of the clouds. Even the kids aren’t really sure if what they are experiencing is real life or just their imaginations that Mary Poppins has so cleverly captured.
Until the end.
At the end, it’s difficult even for the adults to deny the wonder in the air. In fact, there is a moment when one parent exclaims, as he thinks back on his own memories from 20 years ago, that “It's all true! Every impossible thing we imagined with Mary Poppins. It all happened!"
And yet, as people are laughing, filled with wonder, and literally floating around holding onto balloons, the balloon lady looks at Mary Poppins….
“Of course, the grown ups will all forget by tomorrow.”
Mary Poppins looks back. She sighs….
“They always do."
They always forget to imagine. They always forget to look up. They always forget to wonder. And what is lost is so terribly, terribly important.
Maybe already, maybe tomorrow, or maybe later this week, you will move out of the brief time every year where you allow yourself to engage in the spirit of wonder…
Many of us have reflected on the amazing story of God entering humanity over the past weeks. Many of us have allowed ourselves to be filled with wonder at a star that pointed the way to Bethlehem. Our imaginations ran wild as we thought about the shepherds looking out and seeing angels bringing the first news, as they became guests of honor. We pictured, with wonder, a world where God came among his people and changed everything from that moment forward. We’ve lit candles in the dark. We’ve taken extra time for moments with family and friends. We’ve given away gifts in a spirit of generosity.
But tomorrow, we have a lot to do. It was fun, but we need to get back at it.
Maybe we need a new it to get back to. Maybe imagination is actually the thing we ought to get back to doing. Maybe tomorrow, we need to not forget.
The Jesus story is about imagination. It’s about believing Jesus when he promises us that another world is possible. It’s about joining in a story where blind people see, and the overlooked are given dignity. The Jesus story is a story where people are forgiven, and people forgive, and enemies are made into friends by being loved. It’s a story where everyone has enough, and where justice and equality happen. It’s a story where amazingly good things come out of Nazareth. It’s a story where dividing walls are destroyed. It’s a story where in a land of deep darkness, a light comes. It’s a story where death doesn’t win, and love is always the most powerful force.
Real talk: that takes one heck of an imagination. That takes wonder.
Don’t forget by tomorrow.
The Christian vision has always sounded foolish to people. It sounds impossible. But unless we believe with our whole hearts that the kingdom of God is possible, and is capable of transforming our world today through your and my tiny little acts of daily love…. well, unless we believe it’s possible, it won’t be.
But it is! A world like the one God longs to bring about is possible, as long as we don’t forget because we are acting too much like grown ups.
Paint a new picture for those around you this year. Imagine, even if it makes you look foolish. Keep the wonder in your eye, even if you feel like a grown up pretending to be a child. Because after all, we believe that Jesus loves us and Jesus is with us. If you’re foolish enough to believe that, you might just be foolish enough to join him in changing our world. Here’s to hoping we don’t forget.
Jesus, help us live with imagination today.
The Eastern Orthodox Tradition has a name for Mary. They call her Theotokos. It means, literally, "the God-bearer." Mary's special because she is the one who brings Jesus into the world. The one who brings the hope that turns it all around.
What a terrifying privilege.
Advent is when we prepare for Jesus' coming. But the terms have changed from that first Christmas. Now, we not only remember Mary, the beautiful theotokos, but we also prepare ourselves to be God-bearers. We join together to prepare and reflect on our own breathtaking privilege of bringing Jesus into the world.
As a church, LifePath prepares together by sharing our own stories. We are trying to practice the holy calling to bear God to one another. These simple stories have been put together as daily readings leading up to Christmas. Because of these readings, I will be putting my Thursday Together For Good reflections on pause until after Advent. If you are not a part of our church, I invite you to journey with us through these daily reflections (and if you are a part of our church, you already have been!).
You can download the pdf here:
This year we're telling stories about learning to celebrate.
I'd love for you to join us. We'll catch up again here after Christmas.
You are enough to be a God-bearer.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them.
God moves too slowly. Let’s admit it. It took the people of Israel 40 years in the desert to find the promised land. It (apparently) took Jesus 30 years of living before doing anything noteworthy except being born and then forgetting to head home from a road trip with his parents when he was a kid. Nobody ever talks about what Mary might have been thinking when Jesus was 28 and hadn’t made much of his life yet...
But eventually, the right time came. And it couldn’t have worked any other way. If love is patient, and God is Love, then I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus tends to walk slowly and deliberately in the Scriptures, rarely seeming to be in a hurry.
My whole family loves hiking. But I’ll admit, my natural hiking tendency is to GET PLACES.What’s our destination? Great! I sure hope there’s a view at the end. And what’s the shortest amount of time we can get there in? Let’s haul! That makes it even better.
My wife brings a different mentality into hiking. She is the flower noticer, and the one who always catches the unique shape of trees. I usually like beauty on the go. She likes to ponder a bit more. Over Thanksgiving we were on a chilly hike and my daughter, who apparently takes after her mom, squatted down to notice something that we all missed- frozen mud that had formed "needle ice". Sometimes we need to slow down our pace to notice what’s forming around us.
We are about to enter into the 4 week season of Advent. Advent is a time of waiting and watching. It’s a time of looking around, noticing things we might not normally notice. It’s a time to realize that when God does something, it often takes a while to develop. In fact, we may miss it altogether because we’re either in such a hurry, or we’re only looking for the great view of the angelic choir in the sky.
Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama, in his book Three Mile An Hour God, suggests that God moves at the speed of walking, because this is the only speed of love.
"God walks ‘slowly’ because He is love. If He is not love He would have gone much faster. Love has its own speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed…It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, whether we are currently hit by a storm or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore it is the speed the love of God walks."
Like every year, the coming month will have many opportunities for joy and celebration with Jesus… but also for busyness and soul-sucking stress.
Our fast paced world needs people moving slowly enough to notice the tears and sit with those who shed them. We need people who can tell stories around a table. We need people who can look around and remain grounded when the earth is shaking. We need people who are willing to walk beside Jesus, not attempt to outsprint him. So whether you have a schedule packed full of to-do’s, or your holiday is quiet and still, take a moment and invite God to help your spirit move at the relaxed pace of His love this month.
Jesus, slow me down to notice the streams forming in the wastelands and your presence with me on the road.
We are careful not to judge people by what they seem to be, though we once judged Christ in that way. Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.
- Paul (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)
These Together for Good reflections are sent out every single Thursday morning. They help us focus our minds on ways to become like Jesus. So why send this one out on Wednesday night? Well, just a hunch…. Some of you might need an extra night of reflection before this Thursday morning rolls around.
Seven months ago, when we started the TFG project, the hope was that they would strengthen the connection between our relationship with Jesus, and how that impacts our relationships with others. The internal always affects the external.
That’s all well and good when it comes to our churches. After all, isn’t that the whole point of participating in Church?
But when it comes to extended family, there’s this:
ALL BETS ARE OFF.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Seriously though. There is a likelihood that sometime tomorrow (or perhaps already), there will be an element of together that you will experience. Parents, in-laws, aunts, friends, uncles, stepdads, that grandfather with NO filter, and that person that acts like they know you, so you act like you know them, but you have no idea who they are.
And with all that vibrant togetherness, many will experience that wonderful reality of holidays... tension.
-Tension from family issues and fights from a decade ago.
-Tension from acting like everything is perfect because it’s hard to be real.
-Tension from political viewpoints that drastically differ.
-Tension from the presence of alcohol and how it may be used.
-Tension from comparing cooking, families, accomplishments, or whose kids have taken a shower most recently.
It’s hard to deny that times together with family can feel complicated.
For some, the best you are hoping for is that things are uneventful. But your fear is that multiple landmines could explode at any time. You’d like to be thankful, but really, you'll be thankful on Friday morning!
So on Thanksgiving, there may be a real risk that you are expecting a Together for Bad experience.
And yet you will be together… and if it’s family, then there’s a good chance that you’re together…. for good.
Can I give you simple encouragement as you gear up?
God created us for relationship. And in this world, as we walk with Jesus, our relationships with others become a powerful force for good. They don’t always feel that way.
And yet we have been given power. Power to affect the world for good. Power that comes from the Spirit of Jesus in us. Power that can turn ugly things into beautiful things because we are being transformed ourselves.
What would make tomorrow be a Together for Good experience? Take a moment to ask God to make you a partner toward that goal. It will be different for everyone, but it will involve one similarity: You will have to view people in a new way.
Because of Jesus, we now see everyone not for their faults or mistakes, but for their value. We look at every single individual as endowed with unimaginable worth and value. We look with eyes of grace and hope, and we speak with words of gentleness and compassion. Thanks be to God for giving us a spirit that can do such a thing during times of tension!
If there’s a risk that Thanksgiving might feel like a Together for Bad sort of a day, invite Jesus into it and surprise people with love. And if you have very little family tension, you can pray the same prayer, asking God to show you how to truly make your family time a time when others walk away and say, wow, we were really together for good today.
Jesus, give me insight and courage to love others for good as I approach Thanksgiving.
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
-Paul, second letter to the Corinthians (5:17)
Life sometimes feels like a balancing act, doesn’t it? We are constantly in the thin places between past and future, younger and older, stressed and joyful, old and new. It’s difficult to figure out how to stay rooted.
There’s a pose in yoga called “warrior 2.” You stand with your feet spread apart. One arm extends back. The other arm reaches forward. But the lean and the gaze is important. In warrior 2, the weight is on the front leg, leaning forward, and the eyes look ahead. Yet the hand reaching backwards extends fully and remains open.
I’m not much of a yogi, but let me tell you, the balance is hard. It’s easy to look like like a sleep-deprived surfer rather than an artfully balanced sage.
The posture is intended to be a physical symbol about receiving from one’s past, yet remaining fixed on one's future.
Jesus can teach us some things about discipleship from such a position.
It’s difficult to know what to do with our past-- both recent and distant. Some of us are haunted by pain, difficult experiences, or bad decisions. We’d like to forget about our past altogether. Others of us are ambivalent or nostalgic about our past, and we either don’t think about it much, or we lean longingly back, wishing for the good old days.
That’s the temptation. We want to forget or we want to dwell. Neither helps us become like Jesus. Unfortunately, we rarely seek to reach back with an open hand to receive the gifts of the past.
As God’s people were being formed, wandering through the desert, making new mistakes, and becoming a people— they were constantly encouraged to remember the past. To remember both their own frailty and God’s faithfulness. Making note of those moments would give them strength to keep going, and give them compassion for others who were in the thick of difficulty.
But in the New Testament, Paul is quick to remind young Christians that they can get stuck in the past- and that is not where our focus should be. We have been made new in Jesus. In this new world, there is no place for shame. We leave behind old stories and pick up a new one full of grace and hope for the future.
What if we were more intentional about learning from the past so that we might be formed for the future? God can use everything to help us be formed- including painful events that we’ve walked through. And our past mistakes (the ones that we’d usually like to forget) can even become a cause for celebration.
Because now you see it.
You do realize that, right?
Seeing that it was a mistake….is growth. You have new knowledge now! You are not the same. Grasp that new insight with gratitude, and do something with it as you lean and reach forward with Jesus. Take hold of the overwhelming grace of God that was, is, and will be available to you always.
Do you dwell on the beautiful moments of your past? Be filled with gratitude at those moments and the influence of others in your life who faithfully led you there. Let it be a tool to learn how to press on and faithfully love others. Let it spur you to new depths with Jesus.
As we learn a healthy balance between our past and our future, it may be helpful today to ask these questions:
Do I invite God to teach me from my past, or do I simply dwell on mistakes or glories?
Am I waking up each day seeing myself as a new creation in Jesus and living expectantly, or has the weight of life kept me from leaning into the future with hope?
If you’re looking for a way to prayerfully look back over each day with God and you’re unfamiliar with the prayer of Examen, try it out.
Jesus, help me learn from everything in grace.