34 *Then Jesus called the crowd and his disciples to him. “If anyone wants to come with me,” he told them, “he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me. 35*For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36Do people gain anything if they win the whole world but lose their life? Of course not! 37There is nothing they can give to regain their life. Mark 8:34-37 GNT
But, my dear hearer, it does not matter much whether you know all about the arts of nature and the wisdom of the world. Be satisfied with what your experience and common sense teach you. It is enough for you to know that in the summer other work must be done than in the winter; that you know how to attend to your farm, stock, home and children. Beyond this think only how you may know Christ. He will teach you how you may know yourself, who you are, and what power lieth in you. Then you will know God and yourself, which the masters of the arts of nature and the wisdom of this world do not learn.
But a solved life is a reduced life.
There are days where I would love the idea of a solved life. To have a place for everyone, and everyone in their place. (same thing for…things) The clean desk, the organized calendar, the perfect family. To have a government that isn’t petty, but actually does it work with the intent of providing peace and safety to all.
It sounds like a nice utopian village, and is utterly, completely impossible.
And as I think about it, I am glad it is.
For knowing that life will be chaotic is a blessing, for it strips away that part of me that wants to play God. There is no illusion in my life that life is under control, much less “solved”. I have to approach life much as Luther indicates, satisfied to know the basics of survival – and what must be done now, With that, I find more time to seek after Jesus, to be drawn by the Holy Spirit into His presence. Or to see that presence revealed, for Jesus was there all the time.
This resonates with the gospel of Mark, where Mark is urging us to set aside everything–to lose it–in order to see Jesus save it. For we can’t save ourselves, or even manage our lives once they are saved.
Being not in charge means living in a way that seems out-of-control – even chaotic. But that is okay, when we realize the promise of the one who does understand, and shapes all that chaos into blessings beyond our expectation. Blessings that are full of peace and joy, for they are given by the Lord who is present. I might hate the chaos, but in Christ, we will thrive on it. That isn’t a paradox, it is a promise of God Almighty and All-knowing. Understanding this doesn’t make the chaos any less hectic or disturbing, but it can build a joyous expectation as we wait to see how God will make it all happen.
Heavenly Father, when life seems chaotic and out of control, remind us of Your care, and Your will for us! Amen!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 13–14.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 72.
The Unforeseen Second Devotional Blog of the Day:
Plan everything? Everything! you told me. All right: we need to use our prudence. But bear in mind that human undertakings, whether they are hard or simple, always have to count on a margin of the unforeseen; and that a Christian should never shut off the road of hope, or be forgetful of God’s Providence. (1)
If you read my first blog this morning, maybe you can understand why I am struggling to get about my “duties”. About planning 4 services, two funerals, to regular church services. I want to put off the work, as I would want to put off mourning – what sociologists call “denial”. If I don’t plan them..well.
So I turned to a favorite book, some short quotes and comments (if you are a regular here – you know I often work off of these writings – or find them complimentary to my own devotions) and I see the above quote. It strikes me as oddly powerful – even as I realize how much I am weak as my days change, as my plans have to adapt.
Don’t get me wrong, I tend to thrive in the unknown, in times of chaos…. there is something… thrilling isn’t the right word… but.. energizing? in dealing with the constant flow, where God’s presence is needed, and indeed, becomes palpable. Yet even as I thrive on such times, they can weary me, unless I realize what St Josemaria tells us to focus on above. The “road of hope”, the very journey expecting, knowing the promise of God that sustains our steps, the providence of God, the mercy and grace and love that more that causes us to be sustained, that causes us to soar with wings of eagles….
I am not saying God can’t work with us in our ruts, in our daily grind, in those days where we have to plan, to be disciplined. For in those times as well – we have to dwell in hope, we have to account for the blessings we will encounter, the providence that lets us rest…
It all boils down to this very things…. the Lord is with you.
Therefore you have hope – and expectation of His grace…and you are sure of His providence.
Lord Have Mercy…. we cry…trusting He does!
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2648-2651). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.