John 6

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Lessons from the Wasteland: The Ache

Published February 26, 2013 by joypatton

The Ache is the gap between how life is and how I think it ought to be.  The gap between Eden and reality.  The longing for perfection and justice that is never fully satisfied this side of heaven.  No matter how much I hate it and want it to disappear, the ache never goes away.  I tell myself if this happens, then life will be good.  If my life were better, then it wouldn’t hurt so much.  But the Ache never goes away.  In so many moments and situations, the Ache remains.  Will ever stop?  Is its defeat even a legitimate goal?

In the life of Jesus it seems that the Ache was constantly with him from the very beginning to the very end.  He was born in a stable and his mother felt the ache of wanting a warm, safe, clean place to bring him into the world.  And yet God’s provision was a stable.  The Ache of wanting the whole world to know, but his arrival only known by a faithful few.  Everyone in the story instinctively knew that this was no way for a King to be born, and yet it was exactly how the King was supposed to come.  The Ache is the gap between how we think it should be and how God made it to be.

As he chose his disciples, the Ache of knowing that Judas would be the one to betray him.  And yet, he chose Judas.  He walked with him.  He ate the Last Supper with him.  We see this gap in John 6.  He asks his disciples if they too would turn away.  Peter makes a beautiful declaration of belief, and yet Jesus feels the ache of knowing that one of them is a devil.  The gap between good and evil.

And how does Jesus deal with the ache?  Does he run away from it?  Does he pursue happiness hoping to remedy the ache?  Does he exert his power to force people to change, to make them right?  Does he cut off and cast out those who add to the ache?  No.  Instead he pushes in.  He stays consistently true to who he is and what he is called to do.

This is so contrary to everything inside of me.  I chase happiness and peace and perfection.  I cut off anyone who threatens that.  I run away from hard relationships and hard conversations because it’s just easier to ignore the ache.  I am satisfied with moments of happiness from my favorite escapes that take me out of the present: shopping, television, movies, and fancy parties that make me feel important.

And yet Jesus seemed content in sadness, chaos and imperfection.  He is at peace because he has submitted all things, including himself, to His Father.  He asked Judas to be one of the Twelve because that’s what the Father asked him to do.  He knew the Father had a purpose for the ache: His glory.  The Ache is what makes Jesus beautiful, unfathomable, supreme over all.

Jesus shows us that we don’t have to be afraid of the ache.  We don’t have to run away from it or try to fix it.  That the pain of life is mixed in with the joy.  Like the joy of sharing a good meal with good friends and the pain of knowing that it will be the last time.   The joy of feeling life in your womb and the pain of knowing it will be short lived.  The joy of being who you were made to be and the pain of being rejected and misunderstood.  Both exist in life simultaneously.

It is because of Jesus that the biggest ache, the biggest gap between God’s righteous perfection and my unrighteous imperfection, has been bridged by the blood of Christ.  Every other ache is temporary.  Every other ache will be remedied in His eternal Presence.  This is the hope we have: that because of Jesus, it won’t always be like this.

But for now…it is.  Like Jesus, I must trust the good hand of the sovereign God who is working all things for good.  In the ache, I remain true.  I pay attention to my heart.  I push in to hard relationships and hard conversations to know Him more, to follow in his steps more closely.  So rather than run from the ache, try to fix it or change it, because of His example, I embrace it.

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Lessons from the Wasteland: Rest

Published November 12, 2012 by joypatton

In the wasteland seasons of life, it often feels like God has taken everything away. The things that we once used to fill the time are no longer there. Sometimes by choice. Sometimes in spite of all our best efforts. We go from feeling busy, wanted, fulfilled or purposeful to a vaste expanse of feeling nothing. All the things we used to do for others, for ourselves, for the kingdom have fallen away and the calendar feels empty. Maybe not empty, just not full of the things that once were, just different.

We go from fruitful, lush, productive land to nothing but ugly lumps of dirt. And I remember that rest is important. That in order for the ground to be fertile, it has to rest every seven years. It feels so counterintuitive to plow up fruitful, good soil and just leave it, untapped and unused. Wouldn’t it be better to use it? But the truth is that the land must rest so that it will continue to be fruitful. If it doesn’t rest, it will lose the nourishment that makes it so prosperous.

Lately I’ve been pondering what Jesus said in John 6, that he was the bread of life. He compared himself to the manna that God sent to the Israelites in the wilderness. As I thought about it and went back to Exodus, the gift of manna was quite amazing. They were in the Wilderness of Sin and complaining about not having food. Their hungry bellies made them long for the old life of slavery. They begged Moses to take them back and criticized him for bringing them out to the desert to die.

Out of his love for his people, God decided to feed them with bread from heaven in the morning and quail at night. Consider how amazing this was after a slave life in Egypt!  They didn’t have to do anything for it. They didn’t have to make money to buy grain.  They didn’t have to grind grain.  They didn’t have to chop wood and build a fire to bake it.  If they didn’t make enough bricks the day before, the bread still came.  In the wilderness, they just had to gather what they could eat in a day.  And the quail came right into their camp!  They didn’t have to hunt for it or track it for days.  It was there.  They didn’t even have to make clothes!  The Bible says that their clothes didn’t wear out during those forty years.   As a woman, I think it must have been an amazing time of rest to have two of my main areas of responsibility completely cared for by God.  No cooking and no sewing!

When I think about Jesus being the bread that came down from heaven, I am even more amazed.  He came down as God’s provision, so that I could rest.  Because he died on the cross for my sins, I can be forgiven.  In John 6, he describes eating the bread of life as believing in the one God sent.  God loved us so much that he didn’t see us wandering in the Wilderness of Sin and turn away.  Rather he chose to make provision for us.  Abundant provision so that we could rest.

The amazing thing about grace is that I didn’t do anything to deserve it.  So even when I’m doing nothing, God’s love, grace, and provision remain.   In the wasteland, he takes everything away so that he can be my provision.  He wants to be everything to me so that I will learn to trust him with everything.  Sometimes I think he gets tired of competing with everything else in my life and he takes it all away so he can have me all to himself.  He wants to be my salvation so I don’t have to strive and work to make my own way.  Jesus is the bread of life, manna from heaven, and when I eat him, when I take him into my heart, I gain eternal life.

Rest sounds good, and I know it’s important, so why do I hate it so much?  Mostly because I’m not in control.  It’s not manageable and predictable in the wasteland. It’s boring because every day and every meal is the same.  Plus without all the distractions I’m forced to see myself for who I really am and sometimes that’s not so pretty.  I have to admit that my identity was defined by doing, that I believed I was only valuable because of what I did.  But he takes me into the wilderness to remind me who I am.  To remind that I am His and He is mine.  To remember that I am no longer a slave in Egypt, but a chosen one on the way to the Promised Land.

There have been days when I have grumbled and complained just like the Israelites.  It feels like he brought me out to the wasteland to die.  And yet he is patient with me.  And I know that I am loved, not because of all things I have done or not done, but because of all that He has done for me.  He brought me here so that I could die…to myself.  So that I could find life in Him alone.  He knows I am like the fruitful field that needed to rest for a season.  When I enter into this season of rest, I am not bound to the busy-ness of life and expectations of others.  I am free to rest.

Will you enter into His rest today?

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