This word came to me Sunday morning and seemed only to be a personal word. Yet four days have now passed, and this message continues to incubate in my heart; thus the sense that it may be for others as well?
The Christian journey is both a daily experience, as in “new every morning,” as well as a collective experience; a layering of life year after year, that becomes ever enriching personally, though deeper each year in its challenges.
I still recall like yesterday, the first morning after I had met Christ. I was a young teacher at 25 years of age, who with car windows rolled down and wind in my face, sang a new song all the way to my high school chemistry classroom, on that chilly morning of January 3, 1973. My world had changed almost in an instant just the night before, as by grace I received Christ into my life. I still cannot explain what happened at that moment, for it was more about Him finding me, than me seeking Him.
New faith arose in my heart as I heard again a distant but familiar voice, possibly first heard in my mother’s womb? And just as the scriptures describe, that tiny mustard seed gift of faith, has now grown over the years into a “tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches” (Lk 13:19)…a place of rest and comfort for those who need support as they too navigate through life; and like yeast (vs.20), faith has now “worked all through the dough” of my life.
Doors of opportunity have been given to me that I could not have imagined prior to His entry into my life. It’s one thing to have life handed to you by a familial heritage; it’s another, to experience the favor and provision of God, allowing one to live in privilege well beyond one’s own personal capacity. I can’t explain my election to that life of privilege, for many seem to have been given a lesser lot of grace?
This is not pride, but humble testimony to the work that began in 1973, a literal rescue of a wayward young man, which I’m convinced came through the prayers of my parents.
Yet now, that same life seems to be calling me to a higher ground, just as things were opening up financially and politically in a way that has been enticing, even seductive. Choice is both wonderful and difficult. Grace seems to bring hard choices and I trust I have been discerning in my response though I know I will be misunderstood by some.
Matthew describes the kingdom of God “like treasure hidden in a field.” When this man stumbled upon it, he quickly secured it for himself and “in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field.” I naively thought at one point, that buying the field was a shrewd financial investment that would set me up to do the Lord’s work, even build a legacy that could someday merit a trust that would give beyond my own lifetime. If that was what Christ meant, I missed it.
In Matthew 13, the Lord continues his series of career based metaphors, unveiling truth about kingdom journey. The next story is also about an entrepreneur, a merchant out looking for fine pearls, possible a jeweler, who at a moment in his successful career, stumbles upon a priceless once in a lifetime opportunity…he risks everything to have that pearl. Was Jesus applauding high risk, high return investments or alluding to the trap that “mammon” can bring even to the wisest of men?
In fact, both these deals offered opportunity for high wealth, yet he then follows with a parable that describes the sorting of fish “caught” in a net, transitioning to the eventual reality of separation of the wicked from the righteous, the former cast into a fiery furnace much like the one Luke described in chapter 16:19-31. This man and his brothers were so seduced by riches that Jesus offered no remedy for their souls, even if one were raised from the dead, as Christ would later actualize.
This is not about wealth bashing, but about the last couple years and especially the past few precarious months of my life. Really it’s me processing a recent decision! After investing myself in the kingdom for all these years, knowing the favor and provision of the Lord, I found myself at a place of choice, with opportunity to step above the financial fray and continued dependency on the Lord, seizing the benefits of an entrepreneurial spirit, even justifying that life choice by the benefits it could then bring to my family and others. For some that may be a life calling, for me it was a life choice, for the deeper I was involved the more troubled in spirit I became.
Is this choice easy? No. Can life be lost in a bad choice? Yes. Does one always know when they have been discerning? No, that’s why it’s called faith, described by Thomas Merton, as “a dark journey where hope is our feet and love is our light.”
First a mustard seed, a mere measure, then we discover the treasure, the pearl of great price. Truly, the moment of a lifetime is not some seductive moment, that seems to offer the entrepreneur a chance at gaining the whole world, but rather a moment of choice to lose life in order to enter the kingdom. Then, we must sell all, sell out, buy the field…not for wealth and fame, but rather “poverty of spirit” and thus be called the Sons of God.
Possibly misunderstood but hopefully bringing life to others!