Small tangent: Okay - you may not realize this - but I really love it when I remember to get a pic that's just right for the post right at the top ... If I forget to add the pic right away at the beginning of the post - it's a tiny bit trickier to get it just right ... so today's post is about sustainability - which predictably led to a google search with lots and lots of green pictures ... green maps of the world, green globes, green city skylines and such ... no problem ... I like sustainability and green skylines - but that's not really what this post is about.
so then I searched "pure endurance" - and that turns out to be some powder you add to your ... everything to make some store at the mall rich ... sooooo anyhoooo ... long story short ... here is the best picture I can come up with for what I mean by sustainability ...
Like that? Great art. The artist wishes to remain anonymous. ahem.
How do you suppose Jesus taught the disciples to be with Him while He was with Him? "What a silly question!" you say. And you're right. That's pretty much obvious - right? How did He teach them to be with Him after He was gone? That's less silly, isn't it? But I bet when you read that - you didn't think of Jesus' trappings - but rather Him, Himself. It's interesting to me that Jesus - who could've made it so - that when we read His words we would essentially only read of Him telling us how to be with Him - instead of recording all that other stuff - like Him saying "catch a fish and pay my taxes". And I'm on board if you say "well, really, all of it IS Him teaching us how to be with Him" ... but I'll still circle back to the thing He did say "this is Me teaching you how to be with Me - is a little prayer called the Lord's prayer and we teach it to children and even people who aren't in church every time the doors are open know at least a lot of "Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name ... "
Jesus' teaching His disciples how to pray - while He was with Him - was a whopping sub-70 word message on prayer.
Yet how many of us have this ideal way to spend time with Jesus that's just ... well, it's just ... not sub-70 words ... it's kinda ... if truth be told ... grueling.
To be Christian - sometimes - feels like "to want to love Jesus, just a little bit more than I do now."
What if the best way to love Jesus more - is to just love Him now. That's it. Just love Him in this moment. Simply. Directly.
Call me crazy - but I think that Jesus didn't slip "give us now our daily bread" to leave us groaning - exhausted with tortured looks on our faces "daily?"
Here's another radical idea ... maybe the goal isn't to have this ueber-time with Jesus every day - including the perfect prayer, the perfect scripture study, the perfect intercession, the perfect worship ...
Maybe perfect isn't all these little bits we add
Maybe perfect is just us being with Him - and a few dozen words.
Don't get me wrong - I'm really into spending time with Him - praying, studying scripture ... big time. I confess. Think I'm kidding ... my current journal is #79 ... I have over 7,000 filled journal pages ... and that's after I edited a bunch and set a whole banana box full of old journals on fire.
I don't say that maybe less truly is more because I don't want more - but because I do want more. And I want more for the students I talk to and work with. But I've also seen them looking at my journals and saying things like "I should journal". Gag.
So for the record ... You cannot get into heaven by journaling - daily or otherwise. Nor can you secure your salvation by engaging in the most technical Bible study. Memorization?: Ditto! Name a spiritual discipline - and the answer will be the same.
But over and over again I hear and see people talking about spending time with God that sounds just so grueling. In fact - one of the first sermons I remember hearing was called "No Bible, No Breakfast!" I was about 12 - and I'm afraid I remember it for all the wrong reasons ... the preacher lost his mind up there preaching that sermon. He went ape. He lost his temper - his cool - his composure - and he lost a 12 year old girl sitting in the back row in the middle of the youth group.
But what if the key to anything "daily" with Jesus were as simple as "you be with Him - and He'll be with you - and maybe you say a few words"?
Okay - let's think about this another way: what kinds of "equipment" did most of the people who Jesus ever preached to have? Um ... their clothes. Apparently some showed up for revival meetings without even a picnic basket full of goodies for the "well-duh! there's going to be a pot-luck afterwards!" ... and had to settle for fish-sandwiches. It's hard to imagine any context in which they were all functionally literate - never mind toting around a rig like this ...
As a person of faith - I think Jesus came when the world was ready ... and that includes their daily rig. Nobody had anything like this going on back then. Even the Essenes sitting at Qumran didn't carry around a rig like this.
Also - I believe Jesus modeled for us a way to be with him that was accessible to all. You know what else - I think sometimes I have covered my imagined insecurities with purchases ... with stuff. That's just me though.
So - based on what was sustainable at the actual time Jesus was teaching people how to be with Him - I keep coming back to "If it was really that important for our spiritual growth and development - He would've said it, taught it, modeled it. Jesus said "pray" and He modeled praying. Jesus said "pray to the Father - and He prayed - both with the disciples and sometimes He went off by Himself for "extended periods" of time ... but when He taught His disciples to pray He didn't say "thou shalt go off and pray all night every night." ... I have sure added to the Lord's prayer myself plenty of times ... "Give us this day our daily ... verses to live by, deep thoughts to impress others with, meaningful interpretations to get the attention of the leadership, leatherbound Bible looking respectfully tattered PLUS a journal bursting with notes ... "
Another way to look at this whole conversation is the "daily bread" part ... Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread of Life - and that surely was an homage to how God sustained His people in the desert on manna. Also back then - bread - a hand milled, stone-ground stuff naturally leavened in the air (think: sour-dough) and baked in an earthen oven or over an open hearth fire - was actually and rightfully on the daily menu. This was a whole-grain food - because there was just not such a wild abundance of food that anyone was nuts enough to farm by hand to grow a crop and then throw over half of the edible portion out just to make "softer bread" ... people had flat middles and hard bread - and they were eating to avoid starvation. Bread was essential.
Bread was essential. Jesus is essential. He's comparing Himself to what's essential.
If the way you're spending time with Jesus isn't essential - enjoyable ... you crave it ... change it. Please.
I don't want to tell anyone how to do this - but for the sake of example - I use what I do. Sure would love to hear what you've found is sustainable day over day.
I love being out-of-doors. I love camping, hiking and backpacking, kayaking and all that ... but don't worry - if that's not your thing - then please substitute what is your thing ... But this is literally my essential, daily Jesus - and I find that the more I do engage in this practice - the more I want to engage in this practice.
The practice is this ... in my mind - I go to my favorite camp-ground ever ... and I go down and sit on the beach. (As luck would have it - I have a picture of the view across from this place - see above) I recall that scene after Jesus resurrection when He sat on the beach grilling fish with His disciples ... and I just sit there with Him. I imagine the cracking fire. The sounds. The feel. The smells. Often it is in fact wordless. Often it isn't. It is always pleasant. Utterly sustainable. I finish this one day and immediately want to go back and do it again. I have never once had to cajole, berate, guilt, or bribe or engage in any other such technique to force myself to comply. I have found - that being with Jesus is alluring, calming, encouraging, uplifting, engaging, fulfilling, restful, peaceful, inspiring ... it feels exactly like being loved in a place I love. Feel free to try it for a minute or two. Stay longer if you want. Don't if you can't.
And it turns out that the thing that in the way of this much longed for sort of experience all my life was all trappings I brought to it. Now - participated in at it's essential level - it really is this: