Readings for May 19, 2019
I was a scrawny, loud-mouthed 6th grader trying to ready myself for what I anticipated would be the toughest years of my life; junior high school. To prepare, I was going to need two things: a reputation and girl who would notice my greatness. So to impress a girl, I picked a fight that, in retrospect, I could not possibly win. I lost quickly but ended up in the principal’s office with a bloody nose and lip. Very impressive for a fight that lasted all of two minutes. While being lectured about fighting on the playground, the principal handed me a moist towelette and told me to wipe the blood from my face. With all the attitude I could muster, I just stared ahead and refused to wipe the bloodied badge of my toughness. This was to be the new me, holding onto my newfound toughness by refusing to become clean.
A short time later, my mother marched into the office, took the moist towelette from my hand, wiped the blood from my face, firmly grasped me by the wrist and stared down my attitude as she angrily escorted me home from school. Naturally, the audience viewing my escort home was significantly larger than those who saw the blood I shed on the playground. It was a day of trial, and I lost. Twice. Three times in fact, considering that the girl didn’t talk to me for the rest of the school year.
The lesson I finally learned much later in life is that these trials of my youth were trials I brought upon myself. I was not fighting for righteousness or for something worthy of redemptive suffering, but for my own glory. The loss, then, could only be pinned on my own failings.
And these failings were too often the antithesis of Paul and Barnabas’ teachings to the early church. The trials they pointed to were life-and-death tests of their faith, not trials found in the pursuit of personal glory. The true prize is God’s Kingdom, not my own fiefdom.
God is fitting me for “a new heaven and a new earth.” If I continue down the path of seeking my own glory, I will be among the old things that are wiped away. But in His mercy, God can make all things new. I must sweep away the old, stubborn, unchanging ways of my heart and accept the new creation God has in store for me. Jesus leaves me with one command and it does nothing to enhance my own glory. I am to love others as he loves me. This is my personal life-and-death test of my faith.
Am I strong enough to let go of myself, accept who I am, and love those whom God has placed before me? Jesus asks this of his disciples knowing he would be put to death the next day. This sacrifice served as both an example and a clean slate. The old has been wiped away as if done so with a moist towelette while my proud, naive heart is ushered home. My “yes” to Jesus’ call affirms the glory of his sacrifice so that I can have everlasting life with him.
Make clean my heart, O God, so that I can make room for Your love in my life. Accepting Your new creation in me, may I forever live out Your merciful love with those around me, proclaiming the Good News of Your Son, my Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen