As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (John 6:66-67 NASB)
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:9-15 NASB)
Gentle Readers, we are this day in an extraordinary memorial time… Holy Saturday… the Sabbath Day between the Crucifixion and the glorious Resurrection Day of Easter. We have come through what is, in many traditions, a time of preparation called Lent. In my own life, this has often been an extraordinary time when God teaches and transforms, renewing the mind and deepest recesses of my heart bringing some new understanding of life, of love, of Him, to this ever-so-stumbling child that I am.
Now, this year has been more extraordinary than any other, and I’m not going to try to describe here the picture God has carefully been painting, stroke by stroke, layer by layer, onto the canvas of my soul. For one thing, while I can now discern its outlines and contours, the work is not finished yet… and description would be incomplete and inappropriate.
But I CAN testify, and glorify Him, and witness to the marvel that is His grace and patience teaching so slow a learner as I… and share just a glimpse of the texture He weaves through Scripture and His Heart.
Without bogging down in detail, God has drawn a number of incredible threads and themes into my life across recent months… and been braiding them, harmonizing them, into a challenge that I understand, comprehend, embrace deeply into my heart and spirit, the texture of HIS heart regarding love, forgiveness, wholeness, healing. Everything He has taught, everything He has challenged, everything He has illuminated in scripture has keyed on a singular theme… “Relationship”. On “love as I love”. On how HE sees sacred lives, on how He defines relationships, and how He commands communion.
In these last intense weeks approaching tomorrow, you may recall my struggles with the idea of “forgiveness” when called to work towards the healing of victims subjected to unspeakable offenses. How do I love the “offender” as strongly and purely as the “victim”? For so Jesus has challenged me to do. How do I grow strong enough to absorb an indescribable amount of vicarious hurt and damage from innocents as I work with them, without reflexively curling up to defend my trembling heart to shield it in an armoring layer of “professionalism” and “clinical detachment”? How do I answer a challenge to take no offense at anything at all, to pour myself out without hesitation or reservation, in a pure one-way flow of grace and love… regardless of feedback? How does one yield sufficiently to “Christ in me, the hope of glory”… to Christ-likeness… to the Indwelling Spirit… that one gives, one loves, one speaks the words one is called to speak, that one embraces any and every sacred child of God equally and infinitely, without even KNOWING OR CARING whether they receive and respond to that love… or reject it… or even reject you and your heart and motives entirely and vilify, accuse, and alienate from you instead?
So big… the picture of God’s heart. Too big to get down here.
But a couple bits, a couple strokes, will fit on this page.
That is a contour we can fit here.
And this… a strange one… “I don’t care!”
I found myself saying this a great deal a while ago. I would struggle with challenges… tasks or frustrations or obstacles that seemed to entwine themselves and keep me from meeting my goals. And I would ponder and fret, trying to find a solution to situations or problems that seemed too convoluted to untangle. And I would find myself figuratively throwing up my hands in frustration at my own inadequacies, saying “I don’t care” HOW this is supposed to work out, I’m just going to move forward step-by-step, blind as I am, following what dim light I can make out, and not care about outcome, process, or mechanics.
The phrase made me uncomfortable.
“I don’t care,” is not a series of words that fall frequently from my lips. They reflected a deep sense of weakness and sense of inadequacy. I am not accustomed to a sense of “incapacity” or futility, and the jarring nature of hearing such words in my ears made me stop and examine… was I leaving the path? Was I tarrying in darkness or shadow? Was I yielding, in my pain, to a sense of despair or doubting of grace and God’s sovereign capacity? I offered my heart, this weakly pulsing, perhaps doubting, heart to Jesus, asking, “If I am out of order, if I am looking elsewhere but You, please recapture my attention and focus!”
Jesus comforted…. that no, I was not disoriented… I was yet securely focused on Him, but we were passing through a dark place and I did not yet understand, did not yet see, what He was trying to teach and show me… but it was a process, and this was all progress, and I was to be patient… both with Him and with myself. That yet, He Himself, was teaching me the phrase, “I don’t care”. But that I, of my humanity and experience of life thus far, took the phrase to mean I would not pour myself out for others, that I did not or would not love or allow grace to flow through me to others. And that perception and perspective was NOT me or my heart.
But Jesus challenged me to embrace the phrase, not reject or deny it, but allow it… realizing that it had another meaning as well. I had only seen half the story. To wait, to keep allowing, keep absorbing, keep embracing anything and everything He brought into my day, and allow Him to grow me to see the phrase another way.
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Yesterday, Good Friday, I got it. I understood.
Tomorrow, Easter, I will understand more.
But to wrap this up…. to invite you along, Gentle Reader… on this journey and challenge, here’s what I have come to understand as of yesterday!
The verses quoted at the opening of this post reflect an amazing truth. They say, through Jesus’ very words and actions….
“I don’t care!”
That is, they point out that Jesus’ is going to think, do, say, and love PRECISELY as the Father does, wills, and flows through Jesus. What Jesus thinks, does, says, and how He loves…. has NOTHING AT ALL to do with how His disciples, now “friends”, respond to that.
Whether they come or go. Whether they believe or deny. Whether they obey or sleep. Whether they remain with Him or flee into the night….
JESUS DOESN’T CARE! HE JUST LOVES THEM, AND LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THEM.
There’s two ways of “not caring”. One is not to love in the first place, and to refuse to put oneself out for the other. The second way is to pour oneself out fully for the other, give oneself with abandon, to God’s expression of love to and for the other, without counting the cost or conditioning that by what we “get back FROM the other”.
Jesus, without hesitation, condition, or remainder, literally poured out His life’s blood for…
His friends the disciples (all but one of whom abandoned Him in His loneliest hours)… for you… for me… (and I’ll confess, I’ve never come CLOSE to being His most grateful friend)… for the jeering crowds surrounding Him who blasphemed, spat upon, and threw garbage at Him… and, frankly (scripture says)… for all who fell in Adam. (As in Adam all men sinned… so…)
Bottom Line: “I don’t care” is an incredibly important phrase that I needed to learn to embrace.
GRACE FLOWS ONE WAY ONLY! Father to Son. Son (through Spirit) to us. And then… in Him… from and through us to others and into the world He provides around the creation that is our lives with which He graces us each and every day.
It is the same lesson with which He opened His ministry at Sermon on the Mount!
I am to LOVE. I am to FORGIVE. I am to BLESS. I am to SPEAK FORTH THE GOOD NEWS OF HIS HEART. Wholly, totally, and without remainder, condition, or measurement of the cost or the nature of response of the “sacred other” with whom I am relating.
Because this is how He loves us. This is how He loves me. And, if I am His, then I am to love others… ANY others… ALL others… exactly the same way.
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Keep me in your prayers, Gentle Readers. Yet a work in progress. I can almost see the picture now. Just a few more brushstrokes and He will be done. When? When will I get to see the unveiling? When He says so. And how soon is that? Exactly what will it all look like?
I don’t care.
And that, is good.