Dying flowers. A friend's baby is born, you cut some flowers, stick them in a vase, coo, look in a basinet, (I thought that the word was "basset-hound" until I was four or five, I didn't understand), and the baby cries, eventually the flowers die. Funeral, huge bouquets of flowers around the casket and sometimes around the room. The person in the casket was commented upon as being "life like." Questionable. Person is buried or cremated. Flowers die. Marriages, first communions, baptisms, hospital stays, wedding anniversaries and getting out of trouble. Things are celebrated, flowers die.
Many of these occasions included a small cross of Jesus being given to the family or a member of the family to hang at home. It would often be made of brass or some metal. On other occasions it would be wood. A suffering and very thin Jesus would be mounted on the cross. The cross would be no more than twelve inches in height and no more than seven inches in width. After the service or celebration, the recipient takes the cross home and mounts it on the wall. It had rested on the top of a casket or perhaps been given in a box at the baby’s christening but now it hangs on the wall in the home. It stays there until whomever received it, moved or died and then it was lost or hung on someone else's wall.
I am not mocking this tradition at all. In fact, I have participated in this tradition for most of my life. It was only a dozen or so years ago that I started to really reflect upon it.
In every case that I have described, for my family and many others, the cross became almost a good luck charm or a talisman to remind people to pray to Jesus in time of need. It was a reminder of Jesus’presence rather than a reflection on His life. There was a subconscious sense that Jesus was with you, but close to your size and power. This meant that you would petition as if you were asking to get into a club and needed to get past some velvet rope for entrance. I call this believing in "Little Jesus."
Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. The Word. He was there in the beginning. The power of the creator of the universe and all that is in it. HE'S REALLY BIG! Jesus does really big things all of the time (Genesis 1:1-31, John 1:1, Revelation 1:8).
I have faced adversity. I have been divorced, broke, a single father with a son who didn't want to stay with me and have had difficult health conditions. Not all of these things in my life are settled, but many have been over the years. I tell you this because some of those past challenges in my life were the result of unanswered prayers. They remained unanswered for years. When God did answer my prayers, He did it differently and much bigger than I could have imagined.
Here’s an example. When I was about 25 years old, I bought disability insurance. You may ask yourself: Why does a 25-year-old buy disability insurance if he doesn’t do any physical labor or work in a dangerous profession? I don’t know.
Every year I considered cancelling the policy. Paying the premiums had been a regular reminder to me that I was wasting money. But I paid the premiums because a voice in my head told me to. I did not know at the time that the voice was the Holy Spirit.
Twenty-five years later when I was fifty I became disabled. Without that insurance policy, my family would be without an income. For twenty-five years the Holy Spirit had watched over me, guiding me in God’s plan, for the moment I would need what I could not have imagined when I was only twenty-five-year-old.
Jesus does not always do what we ask the way we ask when we ask. He has a different plan for us and it’s often not realized early on, nor is it supposed to be. It will show itself later in ways we may not understand. Not very comforting in my opinion. I know what I want when I want it and how I want it (like most of us do). This of course sounds a great deal like the tantrum of a four-year old child but ignore that sensation for a moment. To be candid, cookie-cutter responses to my questions about God, pain, and faith wear me out. I do not find much solace in the answers, even though they are accurate.
For me to live a life as a follower of Christ, I have had to change my perspective of his size, or possibly it was the perspective ofmysize. In my mind He had to grow from the size I had defined for Him to the infinite of His true being. That is actually harder than it sounds. How big is Jesus? I am not sure. I truly have defined Jesus in the past by the size of my problem and usually a portion of my problem. That means that I did something and then Jesus was supposed to do the rest. Jesus was the size of "the rest." It was as if Jesus was the anchor runner on the relay race of my problem.
I am trying to shake it. Did you catch that? "I" am trying to shake that impression. I just can't seem to let go! Must bring in the big guns, the Holy Spirit. It's the only way. It is so hard with for the human mind to embrace the concept of INFINITE. For me, the size of worth and size of Jesus is wrapped up in my worth and size. Am I worthy of the infinite power and size of God's love? On my own, of course not! What a stupid question! God had to send His son and His son had to leave the Holy Spirit for us to make this possible. However, through all of those glorious and divine intercessions and gifts, I was able to be one of His children and have access to the infinite power of God, if I just don't get in the way. God always answers, (Psalm 65:2, John 14:13) just not in the way I always want. The issue is not the answer in this moment, it is the true size of the ask and the belief that I have access to the infinite love and power of God.
God, through the Holy Spirit, will guide us on the "what's left," not the other way around. What about Jesus? (I always stumble over my human understanding at this point). They are all together. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. He's in that receipt of prayer.
Ok…hold on. I just went all "preacher" on you. I apologize. The last two paragraphs I DON'T even fully understand. They sound right, but they are not particularly helpful. Let me try this again.
1. Jesus is bigger than me. And everyone I know. And everyone I have ever met. And everyone they are connected to.
2. Facing this world, start with the power of Jesus, and keep Jesus with you. This means do not exhaust all other approaches and then when you are all out of ideas, you turn to Jesus. (Side note: I get this one wrong A LOT! I think it is called pride.)
3. Jesus always answers. When the Infinite answers a prayer, then the answer comes from the infinite power of Jesus as connected to the Father, God. That means He sees beyond what we can see and answers beyond what we can understand. You may not like the answer, but he always answers. That is part of being Infinite. He sees everything, including everything we do not.
4. Rest in Jesus. I received this from a pastor who had just started driving part-time for Uber. (Don’t judge, Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament was a tent-maker) His point was clear; when you have prayed and left your worry or petition at the feet of Jesus, then rest in the faith that Jesus will do His work. Jesus needs you to stop fighting Him through your worry, which is a demonstration of a lack of faith. You need to get out of the way in order for Him to do His work. Believe that Jesus will do His work and He will. Rest in your faith in Jesus.
Whew. I hope that was helpful. It was for me. I will probably hit on this point in other places in this book. I think it is because I struggle with all three of these points in my faith all of the time. I have the worst habit of starting with me and treating Jesus like a pinch-hitter. In reality, He plays the whole game.