Waiting for True Family (Love Received. Love Expanded.)

Weekly Reading: Luke 8:19-21; 13:31-35; 15:11-32; 18:15-17

I recently heard an interview on NPR that had me pause in motion, sit down and simply listen. It was with Sheila White, a sex-trafficking survivor who I too had interviewed a couple of years ago. Sheila grew up being hustled from one foster family to another. This fragmented and disoriented experience of family primed her for trafficking.

When the NPR host asked if she’s had to rethink her view of family, Sheila’s voice grew solid as she responded: “Family is who you make it.”

Family is who you make it. Curiously enough Jesus communicates a similar sentiment—both in word and deed. However, he does it in some provocative ways.

In Luke 8:19-21 Jesus audaciously re-imagines family.

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they couldn’t get to him because of the crowd. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to see you.”

 Jesus replied, “My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.”

Admittedly, I’ve struggled with this little snatch of Scripture. When I read these verses a few weeks ago Jesus struck me as dismissive and divisive…almost anti-family.

I got stuck. Paralyzed. And then…the questions erupted.

So Jesus, are you throwing off the construct of blood family that glibly? Really?

Why in the midst of mass disappointment with our relatives do we still long for family? Are you dismissing the desire for families to be formed? Are you disregarding the hope for fractured families to be shored up? Can you be that flippant about your mom and your brothers? Did you ever long for family yourself?

And yes…why can’t I still shake the hope of having my own family?

Oh, and while I’m at it…does everyone have to be perfect in your family—do they have to hear and obey God to be loved by you?

I still don’t have this Scripture sorted, but as I’ve screamed and whispered questions at God for the past few weeks a suspicion has come. Jesus loves family. He longs to collect everyone up into family. Perhaps he’s not limiting a vision of family but expanding it…extending the invitation to family further than it ever had been.

In a moment we’ll see how Jesus identifies with mothers, fathers and children. But let’s pause first.

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WEEK THREE = You + Me + Jesus: WAITING for Home

Reading: Luke 9:57-62

For a year in my mid-twenties I didn’t have a proper address. I strung together house-sitting, dog-sitting and cat-sitting gigs. I backpacked in Europe for months. I lived with friends and friends’ parents.

I owned little. I lived richly.

During that time I learned some formative lessons…such as people’s pets shouldn’t eat better than you, even if they can; don’t take the Portuguese night train renown for drug deals, even if it is cheaper; be suspicious of Greek all-inclusive resorts for $19, even if they do have showers. Beyond those gems I discovered a couple of ideas about home…ones I’m still endeavoring to embrace.

However before I reflect on those, let’s look at Jesus’ days without a proper address. Jesus lived life on the move, sheltering with friends and strangers during his three years of public ministry.

In Luke 9:58 Jesus responds to someone interested in following him by saying, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

It’s so curious thinking about the Son of Man/Son of God being essentially homeless. Jesus not only left the splendor of heaven, he didn’t even have the comfort and security of a home on earth.

Jesus wasn’t on an anti-home-ownership crusade. However, he did challenge the notion of comfort and security usurping his plans for people.

In the next couple of verses in Luke we see Jesus invite two people to follow him; both request a rain-check due to reasonable reasons. One needs to bury his dad and the other wants to say goodbye to family.

Jesus’ response seems harsh, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Regret, distraction, lack of follow through—these aren’t helpful approaches when it comes to a mission to rescue the world.

Comfort and security can be gifts but not when they hold us back or entice us to look back and miss something greater.

Jesus was driven by a desire for people not to miss out on the best gifts God had–the gifts of relationship with him and service to others.

Anything that got in the way of that needed to wait…including a home.

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WEEK TWO: You + Me + Jesus: WAITING to Get Got

Weekly Reading: Luke 6-7

Here’s my suspicion: One of our deepest desires is to get got. When we encounter someone who gets our intentions, our wit, our brilliance–our sheer persona–without great explanation, a kind of homecoming happens in us. (Personally I experience a curious paradox: I spark with energy and simultaneously feel at rest.)

Yet getting got is a bit of a mystery. It can be developed through shared history; it’s that friend who saw us through our big hair days, our jock crushes, and our post-graduation funk. Or at times it’s someone who shows up in our lives suddenly, swaps secrets, and adores our quirks. We point to each other and declare, “You’re my people.”

This gift of getting got is a treasure—and often a rare treasure. We can wait and wait and wait for that best friend, that sense of community, that soul mate. Wait. And wait. And wait.

And in the interim we can get missed a million times. We encounter people who just don’t catch on to how freak’n funny we are, how nuanced our look at the world is, how much we have to offer. And when that happens we can feel a bit banished, like displaced people. (I can revert to that fourth-grade feeling of being picked last on the kickball team.)

JESUS, NO STRANGER TO IT ALL

This longing to get got and the reality of being missed are fundamental to the human experience…and so not foreign to Jesus.

During Jesus time on earth his family and dearest friends misunderstood him, his religious community rejected him, one of his followers betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver, and strangers chanted for his death.

And yet Jesus shared deep and at times instant affinity with the most surprising of people: tax collectors, prostitutes, scholars, and Roman soldiers.

In Luke 6 and 7 we get just a glimpse of Jesus’ relational life—with its deep rejections and soulful interactions. And through it we might gain wisdom and strength in our own waiting to get got.

In Luke 6:1-11 we get two snapshots of Jesus on the Sabbath (the Jewish weekly day of rest and worship). In both scenes certain Pharisees (religious leaders) criticized Jesus’ actions.

I can only imagine how frustrated Jesus was. The Pharisees were supposed to be Jesus’ people. They had committed their lives to studying God’s law and seeking God’s face. They should have recognized Jesus when he said he was Lord over the Sabbath and celebrated the fact that he healed others on a day of worship. But instead, these guys were enraged and became hell-bent on attacking him.

In the face of striking rejection from the religious community Jesus’ response is fascinating. He didn’t fiercely pursue revenge tactics or reputation-management strategies. Rather, he stole away for a time of prayer and solitude.

In Luke 6:12-16 we see Jesus go to a mountain and pray the whole night. He sought God and had time alone—I suspect to be reminded of his true identity. No matter what others said, he remained God’s Son, beloved. And then he chose his twelve disciples the next morning.

I am in awe of Jesus’ response.

Perhaps prayer and solitude are the most potent guardrails to dealing with rejection and for developing community. Out of communion with the Father and comfort with himself, Jesus pursued others.

REFLECTION EN ROUTE: How do you respond to rejection? How do you approach friendships?

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WEEK ONE: You + Me + Jesus: WAITING to Begin

This Week’s Reading: Luke 3:21-4:30

Have you ever waited and waited, and then when you finally thought your waiting was over you’re told: “Sorry. You have to wait a bit longer.”

You land the job and then there’s a hiring freeze. You get engaged, and your fiancé gets cold feet. You spend your day-off at the DMV and then don’t have all the paperwork. Ugh! The stops and starts of waiting can physically, emotionally and mentally undo us.

Curiously enough, Jesus was no stranger to the extended wait.

LET’S GET GOING

In Luke 2:41-52 we get a snapshot of Jesus as an adolescent boy bantering with rabbis in the temple. Luke tells us Jesus goes on to grow “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all people” (Luke 2:52). But from age twelve to thirty Jesus seems to live in obscurity.

No doubt some of Jesus’ peers become rabbis and he watches as messiahs appear on the scene, claiming to be Israel’s saviors. All the while he takes up carpentry (stone-cutting) and waits. Almost two decades Jesus waits.

Then the moment comes. Luke spotlights Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist gathering crowds in the wilderness to be baptized (Luke 3:1-20).  John invited people to repent and partake in an ancient purification ritual and ready themselves for the true Messiah. And what does Jesus do? After all this waiting, he sets the record straight and makes it known he’s the legit Savior. Not quite.

Jesus gets baptized too. While he has no need to repent, he submits. Instead of making himself known through miraculous acts or self-declarations, Jesus humbles himself.

As he does the Spirit descends like a dove, then a voice from heaven announces: “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy” (Luke 3:22). Jesus’ public ministry begins with an affirmation of his identity rather than a display of accomplishments.

Before we see him teach, heal or cast out demons first we see his Father pronounce delight.

REFLECTION EN ROUTE: So often I’m fixated on the fulfillment of my external desires that I miss the deeper realities of what I already have. I just want to get going. But when the day finally comes for Jesus, he pauses. He is postured to hear what is most important—what will carry him through the seeming stops and starts of his call. He is beloved by his Father.

This week as you wait for whatever you’re waiting for how can you create space to hear God’s voice love? Perhaps you’re reminded of God’s delight as you take a brisk walk outside. Maybe you determine to pause and savor the laughter of your kids, and in their joy you sense God’s joy for you.  Perhaps you cook one of your favorite meals and dare to believe you are God’s child extravagantly loved.

I believe the biggest saboteur to us waiting well—and ultimately beginning well—is a failure to remember our true identity. We may finally get what we’ve waited for but if we’ve lost our identity as a beloved child of God than our fulfilled desire will never be what we hoped it would.

INTERLUDE.

Luke seems to break from the Jesus’ story just when it’s getting going to remind us of his linage (Luke 3:23-38). It’s as if Luke is saying you might think Jesus waited for decades for this day to come, but imagine if he’s been gearing up since the beginning of human history. That’s some epic waiting as the Son of God. But don’t forget he too is the Son of Man, just as human as the rest of us. Ok, then.

 HALTED YET AGAIN. SERIOUSLY.

So Jesus is now ready to get going. His identity has been affirmed. His stature has been established. The masses are bound to embrace him as Savior of the World. Right?

In Luke’s next scene Jesus, full of the Spirit, treks off into desert (Luke 4:1). There, however, he doesn’t encounter crowds clamoring to see his Messianic mad-skills on display. Rather, he’s greeted by the devil.

A cosmic showdown transpires. After such a long wait Satan tempts Jesus physically, emotionally and mentally to take shortcuts to fulfill his immediate desires and long-term call.

PHYSICALLY 

“He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’” (Luke 4:2-4)

What? Jesus responds in the exact opposite way I usually do. I tend to treat myself to physical comforts if I’m waiting for emotional desires to be fulfilled. If you’re not going to give me what I want right now, the least you can do is serve me a pound of dark chocolate, a goblet of Merlot, and you might as well throw in a cappuccino while you’re at it. (Cheers to my victim-thinking, once again.)

Jesus forgoes immediate gratification to be reminded of a greater desire for God.

REFLECTION EN ROUTE: What’s your physical comfort go-to (food, alcohol, drugs, sleep, sex, etc.) when you’re not getting what you’re waiting for, especially after a longtime?

What if during Lent we asked the Spirit to help us refrain from whatever our default comfort is in order to cultivate a deeper desire for God?

Choose a passage this week that reminds you of God’s goodness and presence. For me it’s: “If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, your strength will support me.” (Psalm 139:9-10)

EMOTIONALLY

Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God
and serve only him.’” (Luke 4:5-8)

The devil offers Jesus a shortcut to power if only he would worship him. Jesus was called to rule the kingdoms of the world but he was called to do it through love and sacrifice. So Jesus responds by saying you must worship the LORD your God.

When we’ve been waiting for something—especially for a long time—our emotions become weak and easily deceived. We settle for lesser loves. We forget our deepest passions and instead we vie for money, power, security, sex, control, etc. We lose sight of what God has for us, and how he desires to give it to us.

Our lesser loves can turn into the gods we worship.

When I’m emotionally spent and most vulnerable I worship the god of perfectionism. If I could be perfect, surely I would get what I want and I’d get it a lot sooner. In fact if I was perfect I’d already be married and a mom, right?

The call is for me is to abandon the god of perfectionism and trust God’s invitation to be faithful.

REFLECTION EN ROUTE: What is the god you’re tempted to worship when your emotions are threadbare from waiting?

How might the Spirit be enticing you to worship the true God?

This may sound curious but one of the best ways for me to kill the god of perfectionism is to give myself permission to play, rest and have fun. The joy of faithfulness does judo on the pressure of perfectionism. What defiant act might you do this week against your default god? Have fun with it!

INTELLECTUALLY 

“Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” (Luke 4:9-12)

The devil tells Jesus to jump off the temple and let God rescue him to prove he is the Son of God.

As I observe this interaction it’s as if the devil provokes Jesus to doubt his own identity as God’s son and God’s ability to come through for Jesus.

After a long season of waiting it’s so easy to doubt our worth to God and God’s good intentions toward us.

I have a tendency to think, “God if you are good, if you love me, you would give me_________.” I begin to determine God’s character based on God’s fulfillment of my desires. And I not only put God’s character to the test based on his capacity to fulfill my desires but to fulfill them on my timeline.

When that happens my intellectual engagement with God gets distorted.

REFLECTION EN ROUTE: In the midst of your waiting how have you doubted your identity as a child of God and God’s ability to come through for you?

Consider praying this week: “Lord forgive me for doubting you…for putting your character to the test according to my timeline. Help me revel in the reality that I am your beloved child and you are good.”

GIFTS IN THE DESERT: Nutrients for the next terrain…

After Jesus emerges from the desert, Luke shows him entering his hometown (Luke 4:16). Jesus returns to Nazareth keenly aware of his call. He is initially embraced but when he expresses such an expansive view of God’s love (that encompasses the foreigners and doesn’t line up with their vision of the Messiah), they actually try to kill him.

Yet Jesus is undaunted by their rejection. He had come out of the desert fortified—physically, emotionally and intellectually strengthened. His faithfulness in the long wait enabled him to withstand the challenges he encountered as his public ministry took off.

REFLECTION EN ROUTE: What are the ways God might be fortifying you in your desert of waiting?

Spend a few moments exploring what you may be gaining physically, emotionally and mentally as you wait. How might those gifts help you when you finally get what you desire?

 MY PRAYER: My prayer for you this week is that you would sense God’s extravagant love for you and trust that He is doing worthwhile work in you as you wait. May this hope grow large in you.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5

 

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