I had a friend share a gift with me the other day, and I’d like to share it with you.
I received this gift in the context of considering the hurry in my life. If you’re like me, your life seems to always be about hurrying: making your “to-do” list, having a full calendar, checking things off as you rush through your day. It seems as though we’re all busy. If you ask someone how they are, they’ll invariably reply “busy,” won’t they? So will you. And, you’ll mean it.
Checking off our to-do list sometimes gives us a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes it gives us a sense of control. Sometimes the hurry in our lives becomes a source of stress, of consternation, especially when other people interfere with our ability to get things done. You know, when someone pokes his head into your office or into your hectic life with a “got a minute?” And, it’s never a minute; it’s much more than that. It’s an investment of time, of energy, of presence-of being-into that other’s life. It steals away from your precious hurry, your all-important to-do list.
Whether we deem these interruptions to be “intrusions” or “divine appointments,” both these folks and the lists they distract us from are expectations, demands placed on our lives, calling for our attentions, asking something of us. Society asks something of us, too, doesn’t it? If you’re a mom, it asks that you have it all together, have your kids in the right things, be in the right places at the right times; perfection is your standard. And, looking sensational while you’re doing it. If you’re a dad, society asks you be strong, successful, and in control. Before we know it, and if we’re not careful, fulfilling these roles, checking our boxes, and being available when those who need us call all become our identity. They become the way we measure our value, our worth in our work, our family, and, maybe even if we’re thoughtful enough about it, to our God. That’s when the to-do list, and the expectations of others, become truly crushing.
Which is why I so appreciated my friend’s gift the other day. He asked me to contemplate Jesus, to let my imagination about Him run. In Mark 5 and Luke 5, as in other places, crowds are always pressing in around Jesus. They all want something from Him. They all expect Him to be something. Chances are their expectations are as varied as there are people in the crowd. Whether great military leader, healer, teacher, king, or Messiah, they all have perceptions of what He is, what He will be. They all want something from Him. And, they want it right now. Can you imagine how overwhelming that feels? I’ll bet you can.
But, Jesus didn’t heal everyone. He had a very specific mission, one of which He was all too aware. He knew He wasn’t going to meet any of their expectations in exactly the way they were expecting. In fact, He was ultimately crucified, in part, for not meeting those expectations. The crushing expectations of the crowd, and the knowledge that He would not only fail to meet them, but that not meeting them would hasten His death, had to create tremendous stress for Him. Wouldn’t it for anybody? I mean, He was God, but He was also fully human, right?
So, Scripture says He retreated to the wilderness. Often. He walked away from these serious needs and expectations. And, as my friend invited me to do, let your imagination take you into this sanctified relationship with God. If Jesus was human, in these times alone with His Father, did He vent these frustrations? These feelings of being overwhelmed? The exhaustion of feeling the press of others on His soul, knowing that He could not meet their incessant needs, feeling overwhelmed, yet fighting hard to resist the temptation to place His identity in being needed and wanted? You’re familiar with that feeling, too, aren’t you? Do you cry out to your Father, in the very real, raw way that David, and Jeremiah, and Moses, and even Jesus–all of God’s beloved, through the ages, have cried out to Him?
And, in that crying out, how do you think the Father responded? I’m betting as a perfect, loving Father: not with reproof or criticism, but with compassion, and love, and gladness. And, then, I wonder if God said to Him, as He would to us: “Thank you, my Son, for casting those burdens on me. And, now, may I remind you of who you really are? Not who everyone calls you to be, who they want you to be, but of your ultimate reality? Do you remember that day I baptized you, before you did anything for this world? What did I say? Do you remember? ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ You are my beloved. You are my Precious One.”
Do you remember?
Was that what re-grounded Jesus, and gave Him the strength to go on, to return to others and their demands with a clear sense of who He was? I’m sure it was a gift for Him, because it certainly is for me: to keep going back to the wellspring, to my Father’s arms, to be reminded that I’m His Precious One, not because of what I accomplish or whose expectations I meet, but simply because, through Christ, that’s who He’s declared me to be.