Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
– Jesus, Luke 17.33
It is so helpful to place ourselves in the shoes of those whom we can’t understand.
From our hindsight vantage point of Christ’s crucifixion, it is easy to get wrapped up in bewilderment over the crowd and government’s behavior and actions. But when we take the time to put ourselves in their place, without a context of the centuries following the event, we can see how we are not so unlike them.
An example of this can be found in how the people added to Jesus’ torture by saying, "He saved others, He cannot save Himself ... Let Him come down from the cross now and we will believe in Him." How often do our prayers sound very similar to this?
“Do this and then I will believe.” I know that I have prayed that way many, many times. It has been at points that I would call crisis’ of faith, like when our first son passed away before birth. I saw the figurative nails that pierced his body and felt the death and pain and prayed, “If You really are God and worth anything, prove it! Help our son!” The help I wanted, believed in, and asked for never came. Just like what those people asked for Jesus to do for them while hanging on the cross never got it. If you think about it, we would call it a good prayer, “Jesus, please do this and we will believe in You!” Yet, hopelessly, they watched this man who gave them hope and performed miracles hang there and die.
Is God only worth seeking, following, and worshiping because we believe He can do powerful things? Or is there more? Our understanding of power and the miraculous blinds us to Its reality. We see the miraculous in Jesus changing the condition of the leper, but completely overlook it in the helpless circumstances of being nailed and dying. But It is there!
Life. Life is miraculous. Literally, all of life is sacred and miraculous.
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” (John 1) “there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live,” (1 Corinthians 8) “in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, … all things have been created through him and for him,” (Colossians 1).
Yet, we ask for more. We want something else. We want Life to be something other than it is right now. We plead for God to do and be something other than what God is in this sacred and unfolding moment.
Jesus modeled for us that Life is not just something that is effortlessly happening, but also a choice. Our actions are either those of Life or death. Life is a Way of Being: Love in the face of hate, forgiveness in the face of woundedness, peace in the face of confusion, kindness in the face of callousness, and gratitude in the face of grief. These things cultivate and give Life. And through Christ, all Life exists.
Do I wish my son had lived? With every fiber of my being. But I am also eternally grateful for the time we had with him because his life, as tiny and limited as it was, brought us life more abundantly than we could have ever imagined. Our lives grew because of him. And our ability to love his brother has grown because of what he brought into our lives. His life was and is a miracle and nothing less.
I would be completely remiss if I recognized the grief felt in my son’s life more than his life itself. His grief does not eclipse his worth and significance. He’s worthy of loving and mourning because of his inherent, internal, and eternal value, not because of circumstantial and temporal pain. I believe it is the responsibility of people of faith to consciously and actively strive to live with this Reality.
Our prayers and beliefs too often reflect the sentiments of those who looked at the wounded Christ and said, “Do something miraculous and we will follow you.” Would they have instead observed and been present to His pain and death like the centurion who watched Him breathe his last breath, they would have exclaimed with him, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15.39)
How often do we blind ourselves to and limit the evidence of God’s presence and love by expecting it to only be expressed the way we see fit and imagine? All the while, the greatest expressions of God’s presence and love are taking place right in front of us. “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is within you,” Jesus said (Luke 17.20/21).
“Christ Jesus, grant me to love You without limiting You, to seek You everywhere without forsaking Your being right here, right now.”