You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts..
-2 Corinthians 2:3
Right now at our church we are journeying through a wonderful six week immersive study called Rediscovering Prayer, developed by two of our pastors and based on Richard Foster's dynamic book on the subject. During our fist session, we did a simple practice to reflect on a prayer by St. Augustine. But rather than just stare at his words, we were told to write them down in our own handwriting first, and then reflect on that.
On the initial slide, Augustine's prayer looked historic and grandiose. But in my journal, it looked very human. My handwriting is really poor, so I'll say the prayer took on a bit of a desperate tone to it. The content remained the same in many ways, but the way that it was experienced was changed when my own hand penned it.
Scripture speaks to us about Jesus being the Word of God become flesh. It's a movement from conceptual to physical. But that's not the complete transition. Then, Jesus makes disciples, and eventually breathes his very spirit into their flesh as they form the Church and continue to express Jesus in the world. Jesus gets transcribed in the lives of his people. That's what I'm thinking about today.
The journey of discipleship is the journey of looking at Jesus, and then writing Jesus with our own hand. Jesus looks one way in the gospels. But Jesus takes on a slightly different texture when he is expressed through each of our lives uniquely. That's beautiful, and that's important. That's one of the things that takes Jesus from a conceptual idea to a living reality in 2021. His breath, our lives.
You see, it's a good thing that I can't write in sans serif font by hand. My writing is choppy and lopsided. Another's handwriting is smooth and artistic. But without these expressions, those words have the potential to remain inaccessible to others. Truth needs to be seen and felt to be believed, even if it is imperfectly expressed. Each of us has a real task, if we are to follow Jesus well and reveal God's heart to the world. We have to take words on a holy page, and write them in our own lives. Chances are that it won't appear quite as incredible as the grand stories of God in the Bible (though maybe it will!). And certainly, some things will look a little different than the original, but only in texture, not in content.
Dallas Willard used to say that Christians spend too much time trying to become who Jesus was, when the real task is to become who Jesus would be if he were you.
Yes, we copy Jesus, but Jesus will take on beautiful, diverse expressions based on whose hand is writing it. Yet the overall message should remain consistent, even as it's written across many lives, if our hearts are focused on Jesus.
When God wrote himself onto humanity through Jesus, it was a movement from the high and holy inaccessible God, to an intimate, accessible experience. Jesus invites us to continue the movement, making him readable to the world around us by writing him with our lives everyday. We sit with the words of Jesus and we sit with the presence of Jesus long enough to begin copying the compassion, mercy, generosity, healing, and humility that we see.
It will look unique in each life. But it will be real. And when people read our lives, they'll walk away just a little more familiar with the hopeful message of God's kingdom.
Jesus, help me to translate your hope into my own unique life and context, so that others may see you through me today.