A Radical Life

Pope John Paul II

Lent is a time for a radical reset.

One has to go deep in God, before one can go deep and out into the world. Going deep into the silence of the desert for Lent does not mean nothing is happening. No, in fact so much is happening, it’s deep soul work. When we fast in the desert the deepest desires of our hearts emerge. For God is always at work. Yet, it’s something we cannot control, manipulate, or force.

For many of us, that it is difficult because we’ve been doing just that all our lives – making life happen our way. Always analyzing, evaluating, examining, and synthesizing. Instead of just letting God be God and allowing His plan to be revealed in His time. It’s so simple and yet, so hard to do. Hands down, I’m guilty of over analysis, I’ve been told again and again. I’m grateful God has more patience than me!

What we can learn to do is to become disciplined and cooperate with the Lord’s grace and the stillness. We must let the Lord’s grace, do what the Lord’s grace will do. The beginning of wisdom is to realize God knows what He’s doing and to truly fear Him.

“For whoever loves discipline loves knowledge.” Proverbs 12:1. And knowledge of the Holy One breads understanding and births wisdom. Scripture tells us wisdom is more precious than gold. Godly wisdom fears the Lord, is pure, peaceful, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy, and has right judgement. Who doesn’t desire that? The ability to be wise in life; work, vocation, recreation, finances, relationships, and ministry etc. To be wise in living life! I’ll take that.

So it’s in the stillness, the quiet, and nothingness of His love that God does His best craftsmanship and grows wisdom in our souls. He’s the best surgeon, gardener, and de-cluttering organizational psychologist I know. He knows what needs to go for life and wisdom to grow. God needs no spreadsheet or checklist. His administration is completely divine. It’s pure and holy wisdom.

So If we sit long enough and open the door to our heart the Lord will flood our souls with unbelievable grace. It’s in the dry, baron desert one’s thirst breads a greater expectation of faith. However, no one enters or leaves this baron place without suffering. Therefore, a dose of abundant grace is certainly the antidote from the divine physician to soothe and heal the brokenness that lives in one’s soul.

If only we knew how much He desires to give us His grace. I think we’d ask more often and be open to receiving it. His grace is something we cannot see, hear, feel or control. It’s a matter of faith and trust in knowing it’s present and believing it exist. His grace is not something we can earn or manufacture. It’s all gift. His grace is sufficient, He tells us so in 2 Corinthians 12:9.

For most of us that’s a tough pill to swallow. For there is no checklist, diagnosis, equation, or timetable to follow. No measuring cup of how much grace is being given. No charts or spreadsheets to mark up and fill in. No to do list or shopping list to keep the mind busy and body moving. No crafting or wood working project that gives us answers.

It’s a place and space of “being” and “not doing”. That’s right “being” and “not doing”. It’s a surrender to the unknowing of what the Lord is doing deep within our souls. To let God be God. To sit and be still. So He can enter into the corners we can not see, but exist. A place where our passions, desires, and dreams live. So many attachments that have taken up residence and found a home. The only rent these attachments pay is the comfort and safety we’ve grown accustomed to. However, the space they occupy cannot co-exist with the destiny of the Lord’s plan for one’s life in Christ.

So the Lord comes in the morning and in the middle of the night when the air is crisp and still and the world sleeps. He says, “give that corner of your heart to me?” “That one I question, oh not that one! That’s a long held dream and desire, I’m not sure I’m ready for a total renovation of that room Lord!”

Begrudgingly, I open the door. He ever so gently enters and by His grace I gesture Him to sit on the throne of my heart to dine. He can sense the fear, the longing, and the sheer terror of the night of my not knowing. So, I cry out in anguish from the very core and depth of my being before Him and drop to His feet. Kneeling in full surrender in adoration. I weep bitter tears of sadness, sorrow, and never knowing. My cry sounds like the song lyrics by Plumb, Lord, “I know you are faithful, but I can barely breathe. God help me”.

I feel so vulnerable in telling God that sometimes I’m sacred to death of not knowing what’s next in His plan. Yet, there’s no one more vulnerable than You, Lord hanging naked on the cross. I’m weak, you’re going to have to bear it all once again for me. Make me strong like you, because I don’t understand your plan. I’m not sure I ever will.

Lord, do you hear my cry, like you hear the cry of the poor because I’m completely and utterly improvised. I have nothing left. The externals are all gone, I only have my dreams, desires, and passions left for you to take. And now it appears you want those too. Complete dependence on you? Seriously, I’m not sure I’m ready for all that. For You know, I cannot love as You love and have all these attachments too, but these attachments are my friends. We go way back. Our roots run long and deep, they are all I know and part of my history. But if you must Lord, prune away I give you permission.

Come Lord I say, take what is yours. Take everything, even the kitchen sink. I’ll give it to you. For my ways are not your ways, and frankly my ways lead to death and not life. I desire life in you above all else, even if I have to begrudgingly give you the kitchen sink. I insist you now take it. There’s an incredible amount of tension in this threshold and I want out.

Come and bring the lion of Judah this Lent because I know I’m not going down easy on this one, history shows I never do. This wrestling match is going to require a complete take down and pin by You. I know there is a cost to follow You.

That sink is broken down, out dated and it leaks. Even the faucet no longer matches the landscape of my life. The sink is too small to hold what is to come. That much I know. A much larger vessel is needed. Therefore, it must go. Take it I say. Toss it out with the trash come Monday. I don’t need it anyway, it no longer fits behind that white picket fence. I know there is a cost to follow You.

I know this renovation is going to require so much more empty space. Less me and so much more of You, Lord. Less pride, much humility. Less control, more submission. Less knowing, more wisdom. Obedience and sacrifice. Purity of heart and poverty of spirit. More praising of You, O’God. Ultimately, less me. And more dying to self. Increased vulnerability. Oh Lord, that’s so hard I say. And scary too! A decreasing like I’ve never known. Oh Lord, grant me the grace to desire it. There might be blood, sweat and tears this Lent, but I can only receive You and the mission for my life if my hands are empty when You come. I know there is a cost to follow You.

I wonder, will I even be seen? Or will I disappear to a place with no face like the woman in the sculpture and only be seen by You? Who will know and understand me, but You? Who will have my back, but You? Who will dwell in my well, but You?

It’s a radical place in which only You know for the world refuses to live in such a way. A place of heaven on earth. Where paradox lives and breathes. Where parables make sense. The poor inherent the kingdom and the meek are strong. Where farming fruit matters more than making money and racking up achievements to hang on the wall. Where one’s resume with Jesus matters more than one’s resume to the world. Where what’s in one’s heart matters more than the zeros in there salary and retirement plan. Where the kingdom is in the midst, already here, but not fully yet.

With your grace Lord, I believe I can live there.

I’ll call it home. For home is wherever your heart is… No zip code required.

A few times, I was corrected in two different theology classes for writing papers in which I called discipleship and following Jesus “radical”. I was told to “not” use the word radical and that I needed “to be careful” in that line of thinking, but no explanation as to why was provided. It’s funny to me because following Jesus and the call to follow is absolutely radical! Just read the gospels; healings, casting out demons, raising the dead, losing oneself to find one’s life. That’s some radical stuff my brothers and sisters in Christ and since this is my blog. I can write what the Lord puts on my heart opposed to what’s assigned. Trust me, there’s no heresy here.

Too often we water down the gospel. We easily forget, He’s the master and we are the student. He’s the one training us, not the other way around. We domestic Jesus, like domesticating a cat. Our thoughts and actions attempt to move and maneuver God into doing monkey tricks. When in reality, it’s Him who’s trying to train and maneuver us into position. And yes, from the outside it probably looks like our life has become a zoo.

For Kingdom life is anything, but steadfast, consistent, and boring. Sometimes it looks and feels like you’re at the zoo. For it looks as unusual as a red-lipped bat fish, goes against the grain of current culture, makes no sense to many sitting in the pews around you, the secular world, and yes it looks crazy at times. But that’s just the Holy Spirit bringing order the world doesn’t know or understand. We can theologize, and catechized Jesus all we want, but do we know Him in our hearts?

Jesus is the most radical figure in all of history. He’s absolutely radical! Only He could radically turn our worlds upside down. Only He could turn us on our heads with an invitation to leave behind so much and follow Him. His call to follow is radical and if you don’t think so, I’d dare to say then you’re living in a place of cushy Christianity that seeks La-Z-Boy discipleship and not the real, genuine authentic discipleship the gospel demands. There is in fact a cost, because giving your life away to serve the kingdom most certainly has a price tag and it ain’t cheap.

Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost. Lk 14:28

What are you willing to give up or lose in order to drop your net and follow Jesus? Better yet, what is God asking you to give up and die to this Lent?

Maybe, you have no idea what I’m talking about or the story I’m referencing (read Matthew 4:18-22). Maybe, you’re watching from the sea shore and wondering why people follow Jesus at all. Maybe, you’re in a storm of life and there’s too much pride to invite Jesus into your heart and ask for help. Maybe, you’re still in the boat and too afraid to step out because your current lifestyle and community brings comfort and safety. Maybe you’re sinking in the water like Peter and calling out for God because you’ve lost your faith and taken your eyes off Him. Maybe, you’ve never dropped your net. Or, maybe, He’s calling you further than before which means you can’t look back to those old, worn out fishing nets. Those old nets catch nothing, but worldly praise and pleasure, and not the sites of sanctity and heaven.

I don’t know where you are…

But I do know this….

He wants to make you a fisher of men. It’s a radical life, are you ready? He too wants your kitchen sink, will you let Him have it this Lent?

This Lent turn your heart to prayer, fasting, and alms-giving toward the sacrifice on the cross and what it means to die to self and follow the one who calls  you by name.

Jesus said to them. “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Mt. 4:19-20

The Call of the First Disciples Mt 4:18-22

For further meditation listen to Pescador de Nombres (it stands for Fishers of Men). I know it’s in Spanish. I’ve learned language has no true translation, only the love of God has that kind of power and it’s in this mystery the Holy Spirit comes and evangelizes your heart. It’s this song many years ago that God used to romance me in the pews in Peru. Just let the words wash over you.

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