My life sometimes seems masochistic, for the deeper I yearn to be like Christ in the practical application of my faith in the marketplace, the more I draw friendly fire from those served.
My conclusion, life is not about the now, but more about our becoming. There will come a day, after this life, when what I am becoming will have adapted this sinful soul for a new Kingdom, more beautiful than my now limited mind may comprehend. Therein my friend lies hope, when Hell seems to reign.
“For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.” (Is. 50:7 AKJV). My face is set and my eyes fixed on this hope!
This last year has been quite the journey, and the destination quite different than many might assume. For the one who may be reading with little context, the destination has never been a political office, but rather to know Christ. Politics has simply served as a means, a laboratory of sorts, though not one readily chosen by me.
My objective has always been to explore areas often avoided by pastoral leaders, hoping to extract insights into the effectiveness of American Christianity; still yet, with a practical side of service to my fellow man. Politics, both within the church and the state is a brutal means and may explain why God used that same combination to deliver His lamb to slaughter in 33 A.D.?
Stay with me, as this is neither some “crying in your milk” session, nor evidence of a martyr complex; simply processing aloud for whatever benefit to those who need not go this way, but can learn from my own experience.
Some years ago, I began to realize that few in the Church really come to know Christ “in the power of His might.” (Eph. 6:10). “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” (Phil. 3:10 NIV). For me, life would be more than “$3.00 worth of God,” as taken from an anonymous poem by that title:
“I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please
I would like to buy just a little of the Lord
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep
Not enough to take control of my life; I’ll keep
Just enough to equal a cup of warm milk,
Just enough to ease some of the pain from my guilt.
I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please
I would like to find a love that’s pocket sized,
Not enough to make me love a black man,
Not enough to change my heart:I can only stand
Just enough to take to church when I have time.
Just enough to equal a snooze in the sunshine.
I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want the warmth of the womb
But not a new birth.
I would like to purchase a pound of the eternal in a paper sack
Guaranteed or money back.
You see, I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please.”
There is a “fellowship” of sharing in His sufferings, that brings great joy to my heart; at times causing me to erupt into laughter, with as tears often pouring from my eyes, when caught up in His personal presence! Mind you, no religious requirement, for our faith comes through grace, the full work necessary for our salvation accomplished at Calvary. “It is finished” were the words of the Christ on the tree, but there is rational justification for choosing suffering, for it affords spiritual knowledge; even Jesus learned by the things He suffered (Heb 5:8).
Most choose the happy life, as Phil Roberston of Duck Dynasty would say, Happy, Happy, Happy! Hopefully this rids the reader of any sense that I lack humor, or am feeling down (though red-neck humor it is)!
Years ago, I prayed that before death, I would be owned by God; akin to the slave whose master, with awl in hand, would pierce the earlobe of the slave against the doorpost of his household. Then too, to be totally used up when I die as, George Bernard Shaw stated in 1907:
“My life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is a privilege to do for it whatsoever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Combine these thoughts and you will understand my life.
Is it comfortable for my family? I know better; for they love me. Have I brought some progressive leadership to the community in my service, I think so. But the pearl is in knowing Him and knowing me. Suffering drives one to inquire of self-motive and with that inquiry, revelation comes freely from God. He is then more beautiful, and I, more diminished. In fact, the ugly form on the cross was the very metaphor of my brutal small self, manifested upon His flesh. “Father forgive them,” the treasure of grace spilling from His dying lips, the true nature of who He was.
Community embeds me with those whom Christ loves, yet the tighter in service one becomes the more the probability of suffering, given the nature of mankind. Even my reader may recoil at this statement, for we do not want to own our “small selves” even though we love the persona represented by Christ; possibly all would truly like to live like Him, whether or not they comprehend Him as God in the flesh.
The twisted irony is that we can only know Him through suffering, though not His requirement, but rather our own. For if we serve and love, we draw out the sin of well-meaning folk like us; the more religious or political the sooner it manifests. Yet, people are social, societies need leadership and leaders must love.
Love is painful, as the Skin Horse informs us in Margery Williams Velveteen Rabbit:
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you.
When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time.
That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Some political leaders are smarter than I, adept at avoiding the sand traps built in by others to vet the less intelligent, humiliate the sincere and control the change process.
What more perfect machine than public service to know Christ? I now understand what I hear when I recoil in pray, resisting the call to serve, “embrace the cross.”