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Monday, July 22, 2019

Welcome: Who’s Calling? with Carolyn Roper

 Welcome: Who’s Calling?

Years ago David and I were at a conference where one of the speakers was addressing the misconceptions people hold of God. I still remember the speaker saying that for some the thought is, “If I come to God and follow Him, He’ll say ‘Ah ha! Gotcha! Now spinach three times a day for the rest of your life.’” (Kale was not a biggie back then.)

None of us have a complete picture of the God who calls and welcomes us, for we only see “the edges of His ways.” We may hear and even embrace the fact that God calls us Beloved. But then things happen. 

“There were many years I thought Jesus was the mean coach who told me I had to sit on the bench....and like it!”

Our friend Kathy recently sent a note including the words above. I don’t know what “things” happened, but to me her image was powerful. I get it. 

I think we can feel benched when we lose something precious to us: health—that we or a loved one once relied on, or when we lose a family we had so desired. We might lose the dream we had for a child. This could come if that child dies, or has constant struggles or is walking in a far country. Maybe we lose a ministry opportunity or the results we wanted in a ministry. Perhaps we have a failure of faith or are betrayed, excluded or forgotten. Perhaps we feel stuck in a place we would rather not be. The thing that can cause us to feel “benched” can be anything we have but don’t want, or anything we want but don’t have. Fill in the blank in your life.

But then, on top of the sadness to think that God says “sit….and like it!” Ooooh. That thought can take the heart out of me. Not only am I a loser (because of my losses) but a failure because I don’t “like it.” And worse than that, I become suspicious of this God who calls me to come close when I think He has taken me out of the game I love because I’m not good enough.

I have a dear friend whose school-aged child died. A well-meaning person who was a Bible teacher came to be with my friend. Patting her on the shoulder, the visitor said to the weeping mother, “Don’t cry!” Agony upon agony. More hurt. “Like it!”

The good news from the note we received is that there was more. 
 “There were many years I thought Jesus was the mean coach who told me I had to sit on the bench....and like it! When I learned He was crying with me it changed everything.”

Jesus told us in this world we will have tribulation. It’s a world of great grief, as Aslan said to Digory in The Magician’s Nephew. Digory was feeling very sad because his dear mother was very ill. He asked Aslan to heal her. When he looked into Aslan’s eyes they were bright with tears.*

Jesus weeps with us when we weep. He does as He tells us to do to one another (Romans 12:15). He is not put off by our sorrow. Rather He is touched by the feelings of what hurts us (Hebrews 4). He’s been there too. He wept over the death of his friend Lazarus. He wept over those who would not come to Him and be sheltered and comforted “under His wings.” Jesus wept (John 11:35). And He weeps with us when we weep.
Knowing the tender heart of God towards us in our sufferings can change everything, as it did for our friend Kathy Woodhall.

When Moses asked God to show him His glory (Exodus 33) God said, “I will show you my goodness.” Part of that goodness is that He weeps with us as we walk the road before us. He knows that grief is great in our land. He sees. He cares. He stays with us. Jesus Himself groaned in Gethsemane and walked on to Calvary so that we, too, could share in “the joy set before Him.” This anticipated joy enabled Him to endure the pain of this life, including the final pain of the Cross so that He could bring us Home at last.

Since the welcome of Jesus includes His weeping with us, I want to take Him up on His offer and draw near, even when I am weeping. Especially when I am weeping. As I understand His tender heart I am strengthened as well as comforted on my journey. As I remember His goodness, His tenderness, His weeping with me, I am motivated to trust Him with my losses, with my life, and with my loved one. And to do the next thing He asks me to do.  
“There were many years I thought Jesus was the mean coach who told me I had to sit on the bench....and like it! When I learned He was crying with me it changed everything.”

Lord Jesus, we celebrate and rejoice in Your everlasting love for each of us. We know that our “mourning will be turned to dancing”— either here or certainly There. We count on the joy set before us and we count on Your weeping with us in our losses here and now. Thank You, for Your welcoming heart where we don’t have to pretend a loss doesn’t hurt. Thank You, for the Hope that only You can bring. Thank You for the cost You paid to love us well. Help us to love you back and to show our love for You by loving Your other children the way You love us. Amen

Carolyn Roper

*In The Magician’s Nephew, later in the story, Digory was tempted to not complete the task Aslan had given him. His temptation was to find his own way to heal his mother at the cost of not following Aslan’s instructions. But when Digory remembered Aslan’s tears, he trusted Aslan and did as He had askedOf course, the outcome was much better than Digory could have expected. The book is a good read…again.

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