Lent is a time when – traditionally – we give something up. 40 days (not counting Sundays) running up to Easter where we sacrifice something to draw closer to God.
In theory, anyway.
I’ve never been good at that side of things. I’ve been involved in prayer and fasting both on my own and as part of a group praying toward a common outcome, but the Lenten sacrifice has always been like a New Year Resolution for me. It usually lasts about a week, then I’m back to normal with a shrug and decide to try next year.
Hopefully this year will be a bit different.
I heard a tape set (yes, I’m over 40) back in the mid 1990s by Andrew Wommack focusing on John’s Gospel, specifically chapters 14-16. He called it the “Christian Survival Kit”. He’s also made a set called the “Christian First Aid Kit” based on the same chapters. The most recent versions are available at www.awmi.net for download along with several hundred hours of other teachings. What I’ll write here is not meant to compete with Andrew’s messages, but rather to try to show how a deeper understanding that began with those tapes 20 or so years ago has impacted my life and walk with Jesus, and (hopefully) get across the message that if it can make a difference for me, it can make a difference for anyone.
These entries will have more of a journal-type feel to them than most of my blogs, and be more testimony based. This is deliberate and the result of a lot of prayer before moving into them.
I’m impulsive. I do things quickly, sometimes it appears recklessly and without thinking about possible consequences. I know this about myself. I try to be more measured, but then this whole “carpe diem” bit grabs me and I act on my gut feeling. It’s served me reasonably well my whole life. I trust my instincts from my guts as it’s where I’ve always found God speaking to me first.
Take marriage for example. I dated a girl I met at school for about 3 years, sharing a house with her for the last year of that time. I didn’t follow my gut then, which told me it would be a bad idea with poor consequences emotionally for both of us. When the relationship ended we both got hurt and hurt one another. It was years before we established a distant friendship. My second serious relationship followed a similar pattern. I listened to my head, not my gut, and we were involved for about six months. There were good parts, but I wasn’t ready for a serious relationship. After we broke up we tried to be friends for a while, but I couldn’t sustain it. I tried to reach out a while ago but I guess I hurt her too badly and my attempts went unresponded to.
Then there is my wife. We met in 2001 online. Chatting online was strange for me, and I felt my gut tell me to be completely open with her – so I was. We met in person, got engaged and got married by the end of September 2003. It’s not always easy, but I’ve never regretted it.
But this is about perspective.
Time – they say – heals all wounds.
All time does is allow us to either let a wound fester or give us perspective on it so we can let God heal it. Time on its own only brings in loss.
Jesus tried to tell the disciples on the night of the Last Supper to see things from His perspective. The perspective of Eternity.
Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and I will take you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; so how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-AMP-26675a" data-link="[a]”>I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:1-6 Amplified)
Jesus asks the disciples to place the same trust in Him as they do in God. Complete, total and absolute trust. When He sent them out in His name earlier in their time together, the disciples cast out demons and healed the sick just at the power of His Name. This was not a new concept to them. Everything in the following chapters was reminding them of what they already not only knew, but already walked in.
He puts an eternal perspective on things, reminding them that this World is not their final destination, but a stop along the way to His Father’s House where a dwelling place waits for them. The King James edition describes it as “mansions”. Whatever form the dwelling place takes, the important thing for perspective is that it is with god and Jesus whatever happens here on Earth. He reminds them that He is going ahead to prepare their (and our) places for them.
I tend to lose sight of that perspective when a crisis hits.
In the 30 years I’ve been a Christian there have only been a couple of times when I’ve kept the perspective Jesus wants us to keep as the waves broke during the storm. I’m forgiven, not perfect. We all are.
It’s more than important that we remember that. It’s vital to being able to keep our feet in the storm crises that hit us all too regularly.
With my second relationship the crisis was life-threatening illness. I lost perspective and could only see the injustice of the issue. The resulting insensitivity I showed drove her away and I resented her for that for a long time because I couldn’t see with the right perspective to offer what she needed her partner – fiance at the time – should have offered.
Perspective defuses anger instantly. I didn’t have a handle on that then. I couldn’t see the perspective I needed to have because I was unable to take a breath.
I’m still impulsive. I still get angry – very angry. So angry it threatens to consume me sometimes. It has an impact on my marriage so I’m seeing a therapist to get a grip on it.
He asked me if I remember the story of the man at the pool that Jesus asks if he wants to be well. I’ve heard people speak on that passage. I’ve taught on it myself.
It’s the first time anyone put my shortcomings in the spotlight of that perspective. And I got angry. Then I was finally able to ask myself why.
My anger is born out of pain, and a deep desire to avoid it at all costs. The irony is that avoiding that pain by embracing anger actually causes more pain than it solves.
I like Thomas in this chapter. He asks a question and isn’t rebuked. Not every question gets a rebuke for faithlessness from Jesus. Mary asked how she could have a child since she was a virgin and the angel explained. Zechariah asked how it could be possible he would be a father and was rebuked by being struck dumb because of how they asked. Or rather because of the state of their heart when they asked. Thomas, here, asks from the place of not doubt, but seeking instruction – a teachable spirit. And Jesus responds by teaching him. He’s asking how he can get the perspective Jesus is talking about. What does he need to do to gain the offer Jesus is giving them. There’s no doubt of the sincerity of Jesus’s offer here, just a man wanting to receive the offer.
This passage, more than any other, should put to death any notion of all religions worshipping the same deity. “Jesus said to him, “I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” The only Way to God.
It again comes to the point of perspective. Once we accept that Jesus is the only route to relationship with God we can move on in confidence and get away from (in my case) the anger holding us back – or whatever it is that blinds us to what God is offering through Jesus.
Look through a telescope and it enlarges whatever you point it at. Turn it round and it shrinks it. We live our lives with the telescope backwards – especially in Westernised cultures. We focus on the problem right in front of us, not the possibility that God is and has the solution to it.
Turn the scope around. It’s not easy, but it’s always possible.
Get God’s perspective.