The pearl requires us to let go of it all

What’s the use of whining? Really, that’s a great question. Life has ups and downs. Just go with the flow, and focus on the things that are happening without getting bogged down in the analysis.

After a bit of time caught scanning and searching for what is going on this is an easy conclusion to arrive at. The never ending cycle of assessment and contemplation seems so selfish. What place, really, does navel gazing have in the Christian life? For an Evangelical like me it’s certainly not an honored practice or even understood for the most part and often rejected as being distracting from what should be the main goals. Evangelicalism has a strong work ethic and a strong disregard for those who don’t share or pursue those religious works which on the surface seem to make so much sense.

And yet, I can’t help but think of the Bible. The Bible contains the revelation of God so it’s a good place to learn about his priorities and emphases and patterns. What is interesting is that the Bible is not, first of all, a book about people coming to know God. Sure, there are some exciting parts that we read concerning this. Moses standing in front of a burning bush. Saul on his way to Damascus to kill Christians, then knocked off his horse, blinded, and called by Jesus. He arrives in Damascus, is healed by a Christian and he leaves Damascus as a Christian with a new name Paul. Joseph had those lovely dreams. Abraham was told, “Go.” Who can forget the many stories in the Gospels where people in desperation were able to touch the hem and hear the words of Jesus, God himself in human form? Cornelius in Acts was praying in the afternoon and a man in dazzling clothes appeared before him to tell him to send for Peter and hear the whole Gospel.

Those are great stories to be sure. Testimonials of God’s work in bringing salvation.

But, the Bible is not the collection of stories of how people came to know God. Those are important but not nearly the whole of the content. The Bible is a collection of books about what happens after people met God. Maybe there’s a reason all the great tales of introduction are emphasized. Because the stories of what comes next is pretty complicated.

David is anointed king of all Israel while still a young teenager. Yay for God!! David then spends his twenties hiding in caves, fleeing for his life, never settled, never finding peace. Moses is called by God. Then faces years and years and years of a discontented, grumbling people. He’s constantly overwhelmed by the demands. Joseph has those great dreams. Then he’s sold into slavery, and once he’s doing well there, he’s thrown into prison—for not sleeping with his master’s wife. He followed God’s moral rules and spent about six years in a dank prison for it. These stories can be found in just about every book of the Bible. There is a decided struggle among those who call on God’s name.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection,” Paul writes to the Philippians, “and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

I too want to know Christ. That’s why I press on and struggle to figure out what is happening in my soul. That’s why when the answers I get from pastors or other leaders don’t bring satisfaction I’ve had to go back to the past and read from those who sat in caves and spent their lives wrestling with temptations and struggles and the heavy hand of God which is not content to let people linger about the gates of salvation.

I too want to know Christ. That is the hope. That is the call which presses me to seek a wholeness and a stillness and a wisdom that seems so elusive right now I constantly struggle with abandoning it all to become eminently more practical.

That is the pearl of great price. And it is not enough to put on the Christian clothes and say the Christian words and gather together in Christian buildings. That pearl requires us to let go of it all, let go of everything, even our supposed understanding, to embrace. It requires letting go of not only our goods but also our attitudes and fears and wandering attention.

It requires letting go of our practicality, because Jesus is anything but practical.

“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

That heavenly call is what lies on the other side of the mountains. That is the journey and it’s not a journey waiting for us in the future but a journey we start at the moment we first listen to the Spirit’s whispers in our souls. That heavenly call is the peace that surpasses all understanding.

That is the hope and the reason for wanting to find the right path. Any old path won’t do. It’s not enough to just walk and see what happens. The call of God demands more of me, and sometimes that demand includes stopping and listening and searching in order to make sure that this present path I am on is not a distraction.

When I keep this hope and this call in my mind the struggles become easier, sometimes almost sweet. Forgetting what is ahead and focusing on what is behind is the recipe for despair, however, and an all too easy habit to get into.

Which is why I have to constantly remind myself, in writing, in listening, in speaking to others that there is in fact more, and it’s not a vain hope or comforting words but life itself that this yearning grasps.

Milk really. There is something in the struggles and God is working through them so that I can know Christ in full and walk with the Spirit in eternity even now. But, when a person is parched and thirsty, milk is much more refreshing than meat. So I drink this cup of renewal and wait yet still for God’s direction.

This was written May 15, 2007

A couple years ago, Barclay Press invited me to do a two week daily journal for their website. They’ve since changed their online presence so those writings are gone. I was sorting out different files on my computer this evening and happened to run across them. So, I thought, I might as well repost them here. Both to have a record of them, and maybe more so, because this was written early in 2007. A fair bit of changes have happened in my life since then, so these are records of a time in my life when all I had was faith. I was writing a lot during these journaling times, and it’s curious what came out when I sat down to write. So, mostly for me, but also for anyone whose interested, I’m going to post one of these a day for the next couple of weeks or so.

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