I’ll Take The Blame

I originally posted this two Easters ago but it is such a great reminder for me I may just make it an Easter tradition.

I have spent so much time in the last few months reflecting on the teachings and miracles of Jesus that I felt like I was ill prepared for Easter week. I wanted to feel connected to the reality of Jesus’ last days, his crucifixion, and resurrection. I immediately thought of a book I read several years back called Unapologetic by Francis Spufford. His chapter on Jesus is one of the most powerful things I have ever read. His description of Jesus’ crucifiction is the kind of raw, stark, and beautiful thing I needed this week. So, I thought I would share a few of Spufford’s words and offer a little meditation for us to get in line with the level of love and sacrifice present in Easter week. More to come this week.spufford

Daylight finds him in a procession again, but this time no one could mistake him for a king. He’s stumbling along under the weight of his own instrument of execution, a great big wooden thing he can hardly lift, with an escort of the empire’s soldiers, and the bystanders who’ve come blinking out of the lodgings where they spent the festival night don’t see their hopes, or even the possibility of their hopes, parading by. They see their disappointment, they see their frustration…

Place yourself in the crowd that morning. What is going through your head as Jesus stumbles by? Are you saddened? Angry? Ashamed? Disappointed? Relieved? Glad? Are you being swept away by the jeers and cat calls from those around you? Do you want to spit at him like the person beside you? Or are tears rolling down your face? The pure humiliation of Jesus’ parade through the streets is shocking compared to the promise of just a few days before. Isn’t that just like us humans. We will turn on a person for no good reason other than our personal preferences weren’t met that day and we might as well take it out on something or someone.

…he’s turning his bruised face toward the whole human crowd, past and present and to come, and accepting everything we have to throw at him, everything we fear we deserve ourselves. The doors of his heart are wedged open wide, and in rushes the whole pestilential flood, the vile and roiling tide of cruelties and failures and secrets. Let me take that from you, he is saying. Give that to me instead. Let me carry it. Let me be to blame instead. I am big enough. I am wide enough. I am not what you were told… I am the father who longs for every last one of his children. I am the friend who will never leave you. I am the light behind the darkness…

What do you fear you deserve? What has my sin done? What should be in store for me? Jesus takes the blame. He embraces our faults and takes them in on himself. That is the picture of Jesus as he heads to the cross.

 

 

When Adults Are Dumb

Have you seen the Still Face experiment? It is movingly powerful. It shows a mom and baby happily interacting, connecting and enjoying each other’s company. Then the mom is instructed to turn back to the child with zero expression on her face. Then for two minutes the infant starts to stress out and is visibly disturbed that the mom is not showing the affectionate attention that the baby expects. The point is to show the power of engaged, loving attention and the damage it can cause when it is not present. (See the video below)

I had this video in the back of my mind recently when I read Mark 10, which contains two stories that seem to have nothing in common but actually are connected to one another beautifully. The first story is of Jesus surrounded by children who seem to be getting on the disciples last nerve. Then, in the story that follows, Jesus is approached by a young, rich and powerful man who wants to know the secrets to the spiritual life.

I had never compared and contrasted the story of Jesus with the little children and the story that follows it. In the first story, the children are being rebuked by the disciples but Jesus makes the statement that no one will enter the Kingdom of God unless they receive it like little children. He says that the Kingdom of God belongs to “such as these.” You see, these children couldn’t stay away from Jesus. There was something about the way that Jesus interacted and accepted them that seemed to make all of the difference in the world, despite the disapproval of the adults on the scene.

If the point of the scene with the children is hard to grasp, it is perfectly illustrated by the story of the rich young man. He is an obedient, faithful person who still wants more and can’t even recognize when what he wants is right in front of him. In a moment of tenderness, Jesus even looks on him and scripture says, “loves him.” The children would have taken this look and that love and been perfectly content but the man ignores Jesus’ look of love and the words that come with it.

The man, the adult, has lost the ability to accept Jesus’ love and life as all that he needs. He has Jesus’ full attention and even an interaction of love and acceptance, exactly what the children knew was worth being present for, and that wasn’t enough.

For us, we dismiss the interactive, loving, and present Jesus for things that we conclude we really need. Instead of, with childlike eyes, take what is right in front of us. Our adult preferences, pride, and know-it-all nature cloud the simple, yet transformative, presence of Christ looking at us and loving us. Jesus’ look and love are enough, I don’t need to add-on to that.

Like a baby who craves a parent’s affectionate attention, what we need is Christ and his attention and he so longs to give it to us.

No One Said The Christian Life Wouldn’t Require Work

I don’t always enjoy reading scripture. Some days the thought of spending one minute in silence sounds excruciating. If prayer is supposed to be a conversation with God, then my side of the conversation is haphazard, stunted, disjointed, and superficial. What I am trying to say is that the spiritual life isn’t always pleasant or full of rich experiences. Sometimes it just feels like a chore.

What has fascinated me recently is the process more than the finished product.

Established artist and writers understand the process much better than others. David Bayles and Ted Orland in their book, Art and Fear, state, “To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping the artwork.” Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t set out to write stand-up comedy routines, he just tries to write a joke a day. Success for him is his calendar full of red X’s showing each of the days he was able to write a joke. Similarly, writing tips talk about sitting down daily and just writing and not trying to perfect or edit until you have gotten a set number of words or pages completed. What is important is the act, the discipline, the reps, the practice.

So, why is it in our spiritual life, we read a couple of scriptures, say a couple of prayers, read a devotional whenever we get around to it and expect the finished product of our lives to be developed and mature and noteworthy? Was great art or a great athletic team or a great leader developed by just dabbling in their craft?

The spiritual life, so much more than other areas, requires off-the-spot training. For example, by spending time understanding Jesus’ sacrifice or studying love or working through our need for humility, this allows us preparation off-the-spot that assists us to be Christlike on-the-spot.

It is like Danny LaRusso from the original Karate Kid toiling away washing Mr. Miagi’s car and painting his fence. It all seemed pointless and ineffective until Mr. Miagi began sparing with him and the moves he had ingrained in his body through the chores of washing and painting were able to withstand and react with precision and effectiveness. The practice off-the-spot allowed him to perform on the spot.

I have seen this happen in my own life. Not in every case, for their are many areas where there is still great work to do, but when faced with deep struggle or challenge, I realize that have some of the spiritual resources and capacity to handle these obstacles because of the work I have done in practice and developed through the process.

If you are not seeing the spiritual results you expected God to have changed by now, perhaps you are not paying enough attention to the process of devoting energy, intention, time, and resources to Growing Up in Christlikeness. Care about this process, be committed to it. God will honor it and the Holy Spirit will guide you in it. Not just for achievement sake but for benefit of your personal well-being and those around you.