“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’” [Matthew 11:16-18]
Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [Matthew 9:10-13]
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Our third day of travel was pleasant and productive, though perhaps a bit slower than I’d have liked. My beast of burden seemed to labor more heavily than I thought needful. As we camp for the evening, the Lord walked among us. He drew me aside to my baggage, looked into my pack, and commented that He would like to see the gift I planned to present.
This was awkward, for my gift was a pearl I intended to give. It was a lovely pearl, multicolored, round and smooth. I had sought this pearl long and hard, and offered it as my most treasured possession. But… but… being round and smooth, it had worked its way to the bottom of the pack. I could not reach it. I could not even see it… hidden as it was beneath all my belongings.
The Lord peeked in to my bag, smiled, and said, “You’ve packed too much baggage. These things encumber you. Why not use this journey to rid yourself of these things you have no more need of? Why not learn to travel faster, lighter, more nimbly than you ever have before? These things, this debris between you and your pearl, is a waste of space.”
This seemed harsh to me. I protested, “But Lord! I NEED these things. I’ve always had these things. They are part of me. How can I live if I rid myself of them?”
Gently, smiling, He said, “Little Monk, you don’t need nearly as much as you think you do. ‘I am sufficient for thee’…” He quoted. “And that is TRUE, Little One. Tell you what. I’m not saying to dump out this whole bag right here. I’m not even saying you HAVE to rid yourself of these at all. But how about considering ridding yourself of one piece of this meaningless debris at a time… one item per day… but only as you yourself SEE that you no longer need these things? How’s that?”
Um, Gentle Reader, it rather shames me to admit… but, while I agreed to the Lord’s terms, my tone was not exactly a hearty “hail fellow, well met” about it. It was a bit more timid a whisper of… “Um, sure, Lord. If that’s what You really want… I guess that will be ok.”
Why? Why all that timidity and hesitation? Well, because, strange to say… I didn’t and don’t KNOW exactly what that is in that pack. I know ABOUT it, but not specifics. I know that it’s the “stuff” I consider indispensable to me and my life, my ego. It’s the stuff I think I cannot live without, but which isn’t really needful. Imagine our lives being a Temple of Holy God in our own universe? Well, this stuff is the “clutter”… those items we acquire, collect, and treasure for reasons that satisfy or glorify ourselves, but not Him. See now, my hesitation? These are my “Teddy Bears”… my “Blankies”… my “Binkies”. And we all irrationally cling to and treasure such things.
But Our Lord has asked me, challenged me, to “trust Him” here. He has assured me He will not violate, not “tear anything from my grasp”. Rather He is going to point items out, one at a time, let me ponder them, and see if I still see them as needful. If so, I may keep them. If not, then I alone will choose to release them and cast them out along the path here.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He pointed to a scroll atop the stack of my stuff. I knew this scroll. It is one of my most prized possessions. It is like a certificate, with my name writ large on the top, signed by leaders, friends, persons of stature… proclaiming that “Little Monk is hereby recognized as respectable, orthodox, legitimate in humanity and ministry!” This scroll is my “‘I’m OK’ Certificate”.
The Lord POINTED… at THIS! The Lord bid me GET RID… of THIS! I was horrified. I protested. He answered.
“Little Monk, it is not that this is a BAD thing. But, in you, in your life now, this is a NEEDLESS thing. THIS… this is ‘your reputation’.
The Lord went on, “This was built through the first half of your life, as you had no regard whatever for YOUR reputation, but only for MINE. And you were successful. But suddenly, one day, you received this scroll. And you were proud of it. All right. Not a bad thing in itself. But… but… NOW, you begin to be concerned for this. You begin jealously to guard this. You hear the voices of the hypocrites, who say, ‘Don’t jeopardize your reputation, by going to wrong places, being with wrong people, doing things others may judge to be wrong.’ Little Monk, you are beginning to hear those voices, consider their counsel, and constrain your steps to retain their approval.
“Little Monk, I… when I walked the earth…. never HAD their approval. They tested Me, they tried Me, they tried to trap and catch Me out, ultimately they tried, convicted, and murdered Me. Every moment of My ministry, they tried to constrain My steps, and I would not allow it.
“You are beginning to do so. You have begun to succumb to the siren’s song of specious argument… ‘what would the community think?”… “what example do you set?”… to churchmen, to youth, to the community at large. The answer to those questions is simple and straightforward… the example you are to set is as it has ever been… Me! You are to let Me walk in you, speaking My words, loving with My heart, touching with My hands. I have never changed nor wavered, and I never will. They judged Me as Me in My time. They will judge Me in you the same way.
“Release this, Little Monk. Let go your love of your reputation. Let Me simply be Me in and through you, and stop constraining My steps, My love, or My hands for fear of “what others will think”, or your concern over your reputation among churchmen. Release your reputation, Little Monk. Trust Me, and know, when you love as I love, do as I command, you WILL be rejected, reviled, and persecuted by those who love themselves, their darkness, their control, and their boundaries. They always did, they always have, they always will. That just goes with the mission.
“But it is your own choice. Embrace all that, and release this concern for your reputation. Or, don’t. Hold on to this instead. I’ll not love you less nor think less of you. But know this… this weighs us down, constrains and fetters us. And you will be much happier as My free child, than as their fearful puppet.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This made sense to me. I picked up the scroll with one last look. Realized how empty and meaningless it was, and placed it in our evening fire. As the parchment ignited, glowing red, then curling to black ash… I felt as though a shadow had left my heart, and it felt lighter and more free. Freedom is a wonderful feeling.
My reputation… meaningless… burnt to ash… an empty illusion. Being true to Him… following Him… going where His feet lead me… taking Light into dark places? THAT is real. That is joyful. THAT is free!
This has been a good day on our journey.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Anyone else have anything for the campfire?