A tiny fictional vignette—I love beginnings. The middle is difficult. Real life gets so messy in the middle.
First she saw the sheep. A few hundred of them, dirty white curly wool standing closely, heads to the ground munching invisible bits of brown grass. The shepherd was a dark shadow, hooded and sheltered against the cold spring wind. Towering hay bales blocked him from the worst of the gusts. His black and white border collies—two of them—sat at his feet, heads down. Waiting.
She’d always romanticized these types of vignettes imagining what it be like to live the shepherd’s life . . . the indie bookstore owner’s . . . the English professor’s . . . the librarian’s . . . oh, and a sculptor’s.
Rose resisted the urge to pull her car over and take pictures with her new (to her) Nikon D3200. Oh. That was her other dream—to be a photographer for National Geographic. All those incredible life stories best told through pictures just waiting for her to reveal. Unfortunately, she was still having a problem understanding apertures . . .
Like I said, I love beginnings. Middles and ends get so messy and real.
I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately. Escapist fiction—not really good fiction—just really well written, fun fiction. Characters I like. Plots with twists and turns, but one where hope remains at the end.
Hope. I like novels to end with hope. Authors have so much control over their characters. They can inflict them with everything imaginable, and still bring them to hope in the end.
Unfortunately being human means not having control. Jesus knew this. He lived it.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that being a Christian is easy. Following Christ is sacrificial because He was sacrificial. It means sacrificing control. Christ did. He was one with His Father, yet He chose not to claim His power for approximately 33 years. He walked with man in human form. Grappled with the same problems we deal with in our own lives, yet remained sinless. And he chose to die—to relinquish his power and control over the universe and take on our sin while suffering unimaginable pain on the cross. He let go. He turned everything over to His Father.
He is our example. Not a politician or a preacher or a friend. We must follow after Jesus. Emulate him. And he suffered. He sacrificed. He served.
It’s so stinkin’ hard when suffering encompasses us daily. We take a shower each morning and wash our body all the while thinking of the one we love that is suffering. We unconsciously shampoo and shave, nicking ourselves as we go because our minds and hearts—tied so intricately together with a thread that we can’t reach to cut—are devoured by worry over our loved ones.
Right now my daughter is facing huge health obstacles. I can’t fix it. I can’t control it. My sister is suffering with unfathomable grief. Diseases run rampant through family members—some helped with medication, but only helped. Not healed. Dear, dear friends carried a dying child to term, delivered this beautiful boy who then died within days. The grief haunts and is not lifted. It zooms in and leaves them breathless with pain. Another dear friend is watching his wife suffer with cancer.
Surrounded. Loss of control. Grief. Anxiety.
Jesus: a man of sorrows thoroughly acquainted with grief. We do not have a Savior that lives on a cloud, floating in white robes glowing in majesty. Distant. Unreachable. Unknowable.
Eugene Peterson who translated the Message Bible into the vernacular (What? God doesn’t speak in King James English? Oh my.), did a beautiful job with Isaiah 53. Just think for a minute: Isaiah wrote this approximately 700 years before Jesus was born.
“The servant [that would be Jesus] grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field [Earth/Israel]. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look [Hollywood needs to take a look at this!]. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own things, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.
He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off—and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people. They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man, even though he’d never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true.”
He died to give us hope. A future. He knows the suffering that surrounds and envelopes us making us feel like we’re walking through a foggy nightmare that won’t stop. But then we get a glimmer of the hazy green whiskers of the birch tree next door or the bursts of green from a garden still partially covered with the white death of winter and remember resurrection. Christ’s hope springs eternal.
Photo of sheep: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/33690003@N07/3137202517″>IMG_3236</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>