Definitely NOT a Weekend Camper | Matthew 11.13-17
Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. What then? A sheikh in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet? That’s right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear. He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, ‘I’m sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.’ “Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him. For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God’s kingdom. But if you read the books of the Prophets and God’s Law closely, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the kingdom. Looked at it in this way, John is the ‘Elijah’ you’ve all been expecting to arrive and introduce the Messiah. Are you listening to me? Really listening?” Matthew 11:13-17 | MSG
If John saw his life as a paint-by-the-numbers production, the numbers weren’t adding up as he languished in Herod’s dungeon and waited. And waited. And waited. This comforts me. Every one of us that is human second guesses and wonders deep down if we missed something somewhere, if our whole take on life was one big mistake. And so from that darkened prison cell, John sends some of his friends with a question: “Are you the One, or do we look for Another?” Which of us hasn’t asked – doesn’t ask – this question? Not out loud, usually. But we ask it. And he hears it. And I love how as John questions the very identity of this Jesus he had been so certain about before that Jesus unequivocally owns him publicly, anyway. “No one in history surpasses you; the point man, the dipper, the prophet of all prophets.” In our doubts Jesus owns us. And while John’s calling was certainly unique, the lessons of his life are applicable right across the board to us. When we allow ourselves to be unleashed on the canvas of our life embracing all the colors of the palette placed before us, we are headed for a wild place where the numbers will not add up. No sedate, cozy, predictable existence, this. We are trading in our silk pajamas for camel’s hair garments and a leather strap for a belt; fine dining for locusts and wild honey; Facebook likes for our share of disapproving scowls that, who knows, could see us languishing in our own darkened cell awaiting the ax. John Eldredge came in for his share of criticism for his Wild at Heart. But he clearly had one thing right: life is not a cruise ship, it’s a battlestar and living out our purpose will demand a soldier’s familiarity with muddy trenches rather than weekend camper’s “camping” on manicured lawns with all the craved creature comforts. Not that life always has to be hard, austere, and devoid of creature comforts (I like my creature comforts!). In fact, enjoy them when you have them, then open your hand and blow them away like the ephemeral dandelion seeds that they are. To step into our purpose is to step into the wild. Leave the camper shell and pick up your walking stick.
When have you found yourself wondering if your whole take on life was one big mistake? What do you do with your doubts at such times?
Abba Father, thank you for being big enough to handle my doubts and questions – and for still affirming the purpose of my life in the face of them. Give me the courage of John to bring my deepest questions to you – and to trust that even if I don’t hear the answers or get it when I do hear them, that you embrace me still in this wide, wild world. Through Jesus.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.