He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies… Psalm 23:5
Amid conflict, some people lose their appetite altogether.
To even think of eating when your stomach is twisting, and your fork is clattering against your teeth can leave a bad taste in your mouth. Even if the conflict is not your doing, it causes triggers of past trauma for days afterward. Sometimes I wonder how it is possible to continue loving the antagonist when such a war is going on inside myself.
But somehow, I do. Just like you.
We walk into that kitchen, shaky and breathing deeply. Put on the coffee and steal ourselves for some time with the Lord. We remember who we are- or at least we try. And when we cannot, the Lord reminds us. We sure as hot potatoes know we will need that moment of assurance to make it through the rest of the day.
So, it got me thinking: How does one keep on loving amidst a storm? It is one thing to grow strong and brave in the comfort of one’s home, but quite another when the strife has been brought into the home to stay.
“…for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross…”
Jesus was a visionary. Even on the cross, he must have kept in his mind’s eye the glory shared with his Father and the precious fellowship he would have with us, his co-heirs to the kingdom of God. Most certainly, he felt pain and for a moment… completely alone. What if Jesus had not spent time during his life remembering the glory in heaven and longing for God’s glory to fill the earth? Would he have given up the cross? Ah, but his great, great love for us, for his Father, and attaining joy!
Now that’s a puzzle; how can joy give one strength to endure?
“Grin and bear it,” does not usually bring about a pleasant image of sweet smiles. “Shut up and put up,” is out human way of pretending to be strong. But, no joy is found there either.
Yet, our Lord’s way is to become weak to be strong.
In joy, He becomes vulnerable. For, joy is relationship-based. Happiness may come and go through pleasures in other things than relationship. Our Lord is not that way; he is a relational lover.
Therefore, with joy set before Jesus, he opened himself wide to the will of the Father and endured the cross. He could have become bitter. He could have felt God took advantage of his vulnerability and his love. Indeed! The Father is not to be manipulated and manipulates no one. He is pure, upfront in all his ways. A manipulated love is not a love worth having.
No, there were never bribes or confusion between Father and Son; just gut-wrenchingly honest communication. Requests; Answers. Shared dreams; joy. Listening; teaching the disciples.
Our God is not a God of confusion, but of sound mind, peace. The verse in Hebrews continues, “…[he] despised the shame and sat down at the right hand of the Father.” The word despised means to dis-esteem. In my mind, that is to knock off the pedestal. We sometimes hold our shame in a place of esteem, becoming familiar with its presence and even choosing our course of action to align with shame’s outrageous demands. …Demands that many of us sense as familiar; like hiding our true thoughts and opinions. Even opinions as small as preference in wall color and wishing to read instead of being outdoors. Shame makes the world go black. There is no more light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, there is no hopeful light at all. We lose vision for why it is so beautiful to be ourselves and perhaps that we could even be curious and expand our dreams. Stating our independence is terrifying. Ironically, it may open us up to the connection we long for as well. Connection is what God designed us to experience. Connection brings joy. Joy makes room for endurance.
Put shame in its rightful place; dis-esteem. That is not to say we ignore its existence or presence in our daily lives. Only, we have the opportunity to rank it where it belongs. And if it does not belong very high, what does belong on those top shelves? Joy? Being seated in Christ at the right hand of God?
You, beloved, have been crucified with Christ. Therefore, it is not you who lives, but Christ in you. When you are weak, put him on display. He calls you his friend. Climb into his lap. When you hide, hide in him. Safe. Vulnerable. Loved. Wherever he is, there you are as well.
Isn’t that cause for joy?
Abigail Wiggins, Nov 28 2020