I’m not even a grad student and this was so refreshing to me. I have a feeling some people need to hear this….
<Image not mine…>
Credit for this article is nearly entirely due to Bob Goff, author of “Love Does“. His chapter “Stalking Jesus” inspired me so much, I decided to imitate him. Thanks, Bob Goff. You’ve impacted me more than you could ever imagine….
“I used to think I could learn about Jesus by studying Him, but now I know Jesus doesn’t want stalkers.” ~Bob Goff: “Love Does”
Stalking can be really creepy, you know? Since I was little, I have always been kinda paranoid about being watched or stalked. And the more I think about it, the more it torments me. Not that I’m particularly hard on stalkers–I just don’t want to get hurt or anything….
Stalkers watch from a distance and memorize the person they follow. They learn facts about the person, like where they go to work, when their birthday is, or who their friends are. Yet we all know they don’t really know the person they’re stalking. They’re just fans of them. They don’t personally interact with them or form a relationship. They keep their distance, too scared to come too close.
I think that we are too often guilty of stalking Jesus. We memorize facts about Him like when He was born, or what He did on earth, or how He describes Himself in His book. We learn Scripture verses about Him and His friends. We talk about Him and who He is to us. We watch what He does and take notes. We might even get up enough courage to talk to Him a bit, but not as someone who really knows Him–not as a close friend. Just a fascinated stranger. Just a stalker.
I would wonder if stalking bothers Jesus, but the truth is He talked a lot about His stalkers. And you know what He did? He actually invited them to come talk to Him instead. To get to know Him. To actually start a relationship with Him! I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty crazy to me. He didn’t freak out or turn them away. He did just the opposite. He looked each one in the eye and said, “Hey. I want to know you better. Come with me.”
I don’t know for sure, but I think that would kind of be a stalker’s dream, you know? Like, can you imagine being completely obsessed with someone and learning all you could about them and following them around just to be close to them, and all of a sudden they turn around, meet your eyes, smile, and say, “Hey. I know you. Don’t you want to get a little closer than that? That’s no way to get to know me. Come here. Let’s walk together.” ? I mean, that is really crazy. I’m not sure if the stalker would accept the offer, run like mad, or just stand there all zoned-out with disbelief….
Truth is, I’m just as unsure about Jesus-stalkers. When we’re confronted by Jesus we tend to turn and run instead of listening and accepting whatever He’s offering. I mean, the very first man and woman did that very thing. They ran. They hid. They feared. I guess we never learn, huh? If we truly understood the person we’re fleeing, we would realize there’s no need to run. He will embrace us. What He offers is grace and true love. That’s a pretty awesome deal….
I’ve finally overcome my shock and decided to stop stalking Jesus. If what He says is true, He’ll actually let me know Him better than that. I was stalking the King of kings, and He actually loves me. And that’s pretty cool….
Let me clarify one thing before I continue. This is not “why you should adopt” or “why we must adopt” or anything like that. This is actually just a record of why I think it’s a good idea to adopt, why I want to adopt, and just a little note of encouragement to those blessed parents out there who have adopted or are seeking to adopt.
That being said, this is a topic that’s close to my heart. Ever since I was little, I’ve dreamt of having kids to love and teach and experience life with. As I grew, I realized parenting isn’t as easy as I always made it out to be. Imagine that, right? But the urge to have children to adore never left me.
I was a young teenager when I was first truly faced with the prospect of adoption, and it wasn’t until recently that I really saw the realities of it for me personally. Something about it touched my heart deeply. There was something inside me that connected with it. Giving a young, suffering child hope and a home….that was—is—beautiful. Hearing the stories of adopted children and adoptive parents and seeing the need all around the world, in both general and specific senses—those things made me want to do something special. I didn’t just want to hand over the change in my pocket. I wanted to wrest the money of the world and make a difference in a life. A tangible, forever difference. I didn’t just want to do some thing, I wanted to do—I don’t know—a crazy miraculous thing! I didn’t just want to help; I wanted to change.
And that dream stood with me. I have dreamt of changing lives for the better since I was very young. I would come up with crazy schemes and plans that were often unrealistic or even silly. But I still kept that dream.
So why did it take so long for me to understand?
You see, the real reason I want to adopt is because I want to find a poor, outcast, hurting little child and I want to look them in the eyes and say, “Hey. I’m choosing you. You’re mine.” I want to find that broken little girl and wrap her up in my arms and make sure that she never, ever hurts again. I want to wipe away their tears with my own hand and whisper: “I love you.” They didn’t choose me. I chose them. They didn’t find me. I found them. They had no power to get to me, but I had the means to get to them. And I could take them as my own, as if they came out of my very womb, heirs to all I have with my birth children, and make their life something more than just worth living. Because they are loved and accepted and believed in and they have a mother who will walk with them and listen to them and be there for them as much as I possibly can.
Don’t you see it?
This is the one way, the most obvious way, that I can be Jesus to someone. Not just take a flight, give little picture presentations of Christ, plop five dollars in their hands, and tell them, “Goodbye! Have fun with that!” Not that those things aren’t great things. They are. But I don’t want to stop there. I don’t want to leave them like everyone else in their life has. I want to turn back around and say, “…Or would you rather come with me. Back home. To stay.”
Because I was them once. No, I’ve never been poor. I’m an american. A white, middleclass, american girl. I’ve never tasted poverty. I’ve had riches beyond their wildest dreams. I have an air conditioned home and so much food it’s making me fat. Growing our food is something we can choose to do, not something we have to do, and I spend most of my day entertaining myself. But spiritually, I was dead! I was destitute, but God came to me, found me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Hey. I choose you. You’re mine.” He wiped my tears away and grabbed me up in His arms and held me really tightly. He whispered, “It’s okay. I love you. We’re going home.” And though pain comes in the sojourn, He is going to take me home where He will make sure I never, ever hurt again. He wants the very best for me. He wants to enjoy life with me. I could never have gotten to Him on my own. I could never have found Him. And how could I choose Him? I didn’t even know Him! But I didn’t have to. He chose me. And the very best way I can come up with to thank Him is to replicate His example. To be Jesus to someone. I mean, how much closer can you get to really being Jesus to someone than adopting them like He did you? You are setting an example that they will never and can never forget. Their very identity is wrapped up in it, just like ours is in our adoption.
I was a poor, destitute, broken little girl who was adopted by the richest, most loving, most powerful being ever. And though I’ll never do as well as He did or be the perfect parent like He is or be all that He will always be, I can at least imitate His example and give hope to a dying world—one child at a time. 🙂
So, why adoption? I don’t have to tell you. You can see it in their faces. You can see it in His. ^~^
~~(Picture not my own)~~
My family has been going through the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” series for family night. It’s been really fun, but more than that–it’s been very enlightening. And I’m not talking eastern mysticism. I mean truth. We recently finished the series, and this article is about a specific scene on the very last disc, so–I’ll only say this once–SPOILER ALERT!!!
Zuko was an amazing character. He was really childish at first. I didn’t like him–he didn’t even look cool with that ridiculous ponytail making his scar stick out like a sore thumb. But as the series went on, I grew to appreciate his pain and struggle, because it was relatable. He was meant to represent the very essence of the struggle between light and darkness, between good and evil. And, honestly, I think the writer(s) did a pretty good job with that. There’s not always an easy answer or a clear path. And we all have scars from past wounds. Usually from someone with our last name….The madness and mental instability, the pain and struggle–that’s relateable. Now, this story was made for children, so we can scream out the obvious right answer from the sidelines (like he can really hear us) and think of him as an idiot for choosing darkness–AGAIN. But, when we take a look at our own lives, when it is us on stage with everyone else on the sidelines, we realize that it’s not so easy to see the big picture. All we can see is what’s right in front of us. Everything else gets lost in the moment. We choose the dark far more often than Zuko, honestly. We are far more dual than we care to admit….
I have acted in plays before. I can tell you that there’s this funny feeling I get when I’m up on stage. It’s like my mind goes completely blank, and it’s only because I’ve carved my lines into my mind that I can remember them at all. Everything feels kinda hazy–like I’m doing everything on-the-fly. No practice, no prep, it’s all me in my bare nakedness, just winging it and hoping I don’t ruin everything. I can sit back and laugh at that now, because I’m not standing on a stage. Or, rather, because I don’t see the stage I’m standing on. Yet aren’t I doing the same exact thing every day of my life? I’m just flailing around, trying to get my lines right, messing things up A LOT, and just hoping that, in the end, it’ll all come together and touch the audience somehow. The world is my stage, and I’m a character in this play whether I want to be or not. If you watched my life, you could sit back and yell at me from the sidelines about what an idiotic decision I’m making and how it’s so obvious I should be doing something else (and, believe me, you’d be doing that a lot), but, like Zuko, I get lost in it all and I’m just trying to make it, struggling between the darkness and the light, never really understanding which one is going to satisfy me, even though the answer is obvious. In the end, though, like Zuko, I choose the light. But not before a lot of scars are made and a lot of people are hurt….
Despite Zuko’s folly, I grew to love him as a character. Sure, he WAS pretty childish, but remember he was still basically a child. He was terribly sorry for all he had done, but there was nothing he could do to make it right. His suffering would not make it right. Good works would not make it right. Correct philosophy could not fix the damage. What does one do when they kneel before the one they’ve hurt and there is nothing–NOTHING–they can do to fix it?
The answer is only that mercy is necessary. Because vengeance, violence, suffering–these things will not heal. They will only worsen the pain. So, the answer is obvious. You are at the victim’s mercy. Literally. You must be at their mercy. They have to let go of the past and grow something new in its place….
And that moment, when Zuko knelt before his uncle, tears streaming down his face, begging Iroh to forgive him for all his foolishness–that moment as Iroh clutched Zuko tightly in his arms, tears streaming down his own face–that moment when Zuko was unworthy but found grace–it struck a chord with me. It resonated with my own heart. Because, there I was, kneeling before the One I had betrayed, the One who had loved me, cherished me, grown me, cared for me–I was kneeling before the One whom I had hurt the most, tears streaming down my face, begging for forgiveness–and I found grace. I could have wept. The moment was moving for me. It touched me deeply. This was no children’s tale. It is the story of every prodigal son who ever knelt before their Father figure and found grace. Countless lives, innumerable souls, all finding the same grace He extends freely to everyone who will take it. Because, like Uncle Iroh with Zuko, God loves us deeply and only wants what is best for us. He sits there by our side while we drive around madly on a wild goose chase, going a 100 miles an hour in the wrong direction, and He sighs, trying to steer us the other way. But we don’t listen. He stays with us as, time after time, we fail in our endeavors to bring satisfaction to our souls and honour to our name, and He tries to tell us the answer. But we don’t listen. He leaves us in silence as we fume and rage, trying to find our own way. He weeps with our weeping, rejoices for our small gains, and ever watches, heavily, as we choose darkness over and over again, betraying Him with our every step….And, after we have run our last mile, worn out all our efforts, and come to our wits’ end, He whispers to us softly the hard truth. It is then that the paths diverge….
Some of us, as Zuko did, will ultimately choose the light, and will come weeping before Him with all our shattered pieces, expecting all the well-deserved wrath to be poured out on us. But, instead, He wraps us up in His arms, weeping for our ultimate return to Him, cherishing our very being, though we’ve hurt Him more than we’ve hurt anyone else. He gives grace, and, ultimately, He will let us rule with Him in a new kingdom of prosperity and peace and love….
Yet others will be Azula, choosing the maddening darkness until their very last breath, and meeting the ultimate ruin of their own selves, because they would not heed the light. For all my lack of care for Azula throughout the series, in that last moment, when she is wailing and squalling like a small child, trapped and helpless, at her literal wits’ end, I had nothing but pity for her. I wanted to help her, but there was nothing left to help….
As for the Fire Lord, well….We know his end. His power will ultimately be taken away, to do no more harm to anyone ever again….
For now, I’m still on the stage. I’m still flailing and wandering. I’m still being clutched in my adoptive Father’s arms, still weeping because the pain is yet too near, the struggle yet too real. I am still often betraying Him, yet I find a neverending supply of grace. He has every right to be angry–to eliminate me–but He chooses to love and forgive me instead. And that brings healing. That brings redemption. Because of that, I am being made new. And this, my friend, is the greatest redemption story ever. 🙂
***DISCLAIMER: Images used in this article are not mine! They are strictly the porperty of their original poster….***
(Picture not my own…)
“O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight. ”
(~”O Come Emmanuel”)
One thought plagues my mind this Christmas, and I am constrained to share it with you all. This message really starts with one small baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger….
As we marvel at the “Christmas Story” of Jesus’ birth, I cannot help but thumb through His life. It helps me put things into perspective. As we follow Jesus through the Scriptures, we find him mentioned as a baby at his birth and dedication (and pre-birth prophecies) and then as a toddler when the “wise men” show up, bearing gifts. This is all-too-familiar to us and many grow weary of hearing it. But time goes on. Jesus really was a human. He didn’t stay in the manger. He grew up. Think about it…
He played with toys, no doubt, and perhaps some neighborhood sports. He had friends and siblings and family. He undoubtedly worked as Joseph’s apprentice in carpentry. He was the first-born son, so he would have been expected to take up the family business. He kept the Sabbath and followed the law and celebrated whatever Jewish holidays were on the calendar. He shared gifts and meals and stories with real people. Can you imagine kid Jesus laughing with you about how much fun you had out on the lake? Or talking excitedly with you about an upcoming holiday? Or how about him tripping over something in the floor and spilling his food everywhere? He was really there. Undoubtedly, people around him thought him a strange child. He never sinned; so no fighting or lying or stealing or dishonoring his parents–the usual childhood diseases. He wasn’t even greedy or obnoxious or prideful or mean or ill-tempered. I mean, when you really try to imagine a child like that, they begin to seem fantastical, don’t they? I imagine the women getting together for general gossip and talking about how abnormal Jesus was. Imagine the things they must have said to Mary! Anything from,
“Your son is soooo well-behaved! I wish my kids were more like that….”
“I’m telling you, Mary. There’s just something not right about that boy. Something unnatural….He’s got to be ill in the head! Look at him stalking off alone all the time! I really worry about him, Mary….And the way he talks….”
And, for a moment, place yourself in his siblings’ shoes! It can be summed up in one statement:
“Oh, really, James?! Why can’t you be more like Jesus???”
I mean, when you think about it, Jesus must have had a pretty rough childhood. The next time Jesus is mentioned (chronologically) is when he was 12 years old. He and his family made the trek to Jerusalem for the Passover. By a bizarre set of misunderstandings (I have actually witnessed something similar before), Jesus was accidentally left in Jerusalem. After a frantic and painstaking search FOR THREE DAYS, his parents find him in the temple having a deep theological discussion with the rabbis there. The rabbis were astounded with his depth of thought and understanding, especially for someone so young. We all know the story, right?–
(Luke 2:46-51; KJV)
“And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.”
One thing that sticks out to me is that Mary asks Jesus, “Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been searching frantically!” She calls Joseph “your father”. Understand, even though Joseph was Jesus’ father by law, he was not Jesus’ biological father. I sometimes wonder what Jesus called him, especially when I see Jesus’ response here. Mary makes a statement about Joseph as Jesus’ father, and Jesus points her to who his Father really is. Interesting….The next time we read about Jesus (other than Luke’s words that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”) is at his baptism.
But here’s my point in sharing this today: Notice something here. As you read through Jesus’ baptism and ministry and death and resurrection–Do you notice that someone seems to be missing? Joseph. After Jesus’ episode in Jerusalem when he was 12, we never read about Joseph again. Matter of fact, when Jesus is on the cross, he gives the care of Mary over to John (John 19:26-27), which he would not have done unless Jesus was the primary caretaker of her. We can only assume that Joseph passed away sometime between Jesus’ 12th year and his baptism.
Now, most of us don’t ever imagine Jesus crying. Yet we see clearly two times when he did, and strongly: 1.) When Lazurus died and 2.) in the garden of Gethsemane. So, we know he was certainly capable of feeling deep sorrow. Think about it though–He was human! He lost his dad, even if it wasn’t his biological father! Imagine it–his whole family grieving. His mother suddenly a widow. Jesus finds himself fatherless, in the physical sense. And then it hit me harder: Jesus was the firstborn son. It would have fallen on his shoulders to provide for the family and be the caretaker of his mother and father to his siblings. He could have been as young as 12 or 13….
This makes me remember what Isaiah said in the prophecy:
(Isaiah 53:3a&4a; KJV)
“He is…a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief….
Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows….”
This is the beauty of the whole story encompassing Christmas to Easter. God the Son forsook His royal throne in heaven to descend to earth. He was born from a woman just like you or me. I mean, for several years, he was just an abnormally good and wise young boy. He cried. He laughed. He played. He cuddled. He giggled. He pooped. He had sleepless nights and illnesses and simple childhood woes. He had siblings who squabbled and talked with him and imagined futures of carpentry and marriage and wealth–perhaps a way out of a poor man’s life….He was just a kid. He was just Joseph’s son. But he wasn’t. As he pointed out to his mother, he was someone more than they could imagine or grasp. Their beloved Messiah was among them that entire time. Can you imagine them praying in the synagogue for the messiah to come and save them, weeping for the prophesied One to come, all the while he was sitting their as a growing young fatherless poor man in their congregation. He was bowing his head and seeking the Father’s will and learning who he was and why. And all those people who expected him to take up his “father’s” role as a carpenter were astounded when he told them he was called to be a rabbi. He was a human yet God. He was humbled into human form though he held all glory in his being. And for all of who he was, and all of what he deserved, he chose to come into a poor family. He chose to be a fatherless child. He chose to be a widow’s son. He chose to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows, and know intimately what it means to be human. And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all….
Therefore, this is for you, the fatherless and widows who suffer with your own afflictions: My dears, he was also afflicted. He knew personally the griefs of widowhood through his mother. He experienced the grueling trials of being fatherless. He knew what it meant to lose someone. He knew what it meant to feel loneliness. He knew what it was for no one to believe in him or think much of him. He knew what it meant to be overlooked and forgotten. He too had to remember that he was not truly fatherless, that he had a father in heaven, just like you and I. He knew. He felt. He was there. It is because of this that he is able to bear your sorrows and carry you through your trials. It is because he went before you that he is able to be with you and understand you. It is because he humbled himself and gave himself over to his meager life that he now is there, knowing where you are and holding the answers, pointing you to your real Father in heaven….
(Acts 17:27; KJV)
“That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:”
Take comfort: he knows your pain and he is there. When you feel overlooked or forgotten, he is there. When you feel helpless and alone, he is there. When you are poor and and hungry, he is there. When you are hopeless and desperate, he is there. He is not far from any one of us, but his heart is nearest to and hurting for “the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27). Trust me, he cares. You can never imagine just how much….
Merry Christmas to you all and remember what we celebrate: We celebrate God become man to forgive and walk with each of us every day–all who will come to him. Celebrate the gift of Jesus, and remember his sacrifices as you begin a new year bearing his name….
(Isaiah 53; KJV)
“Who hath believed our report?
and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground:
he hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth:
he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment:
and who shall declare his generation?
for he was cut off out of the land of the living:
for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death;
because he had done no violence,
neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:
by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;
for he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he hath poured out his soul unto death:
and he was numbered with the transgressors;
and he bare the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.”
***MAJOR SPOILER ALERT***
-Do not read this unless you have read Little Women–
Josephine March and Friedrich Bhaer (from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott) taught me something very important.
I was actually having a bit of quiet time with God and was listening to the song “Empty My Hands” by Tenth Avenue North when it all occurred to me. I was sitting there, begging God to empty my hands of junk: dreams, ambitions, and distractions. I wanted Him to empty my hands and fill me up with Him.
In Little Women, when Bhaer comes to Jo to ask her to marry him, the end of their conversation goes like this:
~”Ah! Thou gifest me such hope and courage, and I haf nothing to gif back but a full heart and these empty hands,” cried the professor, quite overcome.
Jo never, never would learn to be proper, for when he said that as they stood upon the steps, she just put both hands into his, whispering tenderly, “Not empty now,” and stooping down, kissed her Friedrich under the umbrella.~
I suppose it was because I was singing about empty hands that I thought about this particular happening (it is one of my favorite romance quotes), but a new view of this suddenly opened up to me. I realized what a beautiful picture this truly is of us and God. We are Friedrich Bhaer. We come to God so full of love and longing, and feeling so unworthy. We wish to give Him something in return for all His love and goodness, but we find only ourselves. We have nothing but full hearts and empty hands. Then God reaches down and places His hands in ours and tenderly whispers, “Not empty now….” He gives us Himself and then we are full. Full and overflowing. We are so overwhelmed by His offer that it only fills our hearts further with love. I am close to bursting….
In that moment, I realized that He defines ‘lover’. He is the Creator of romance, and He is far better than anything we could ask for or imagine. And I look up adoringly into His loving face and echo His reply, “No, not empty now, or ever…..”
I have been on a journey. I took a break to find out truth. And these are some thoughts that made me set aside my pen and stylus and think deeper on what it means to speak my mind. I do not know how much longer I will go without writing, but I feel I must take the time it takes to learn the lessons I must learn so that I can speak the words most needed and not simple ramblings without meaning. These are my words unexpressed:
The words won’t come to me.
The blank page stares back defiantly.
What do I seek here?
What is my purpose?
It is nothing but blubber.
I am desperate for a change
But can words speak to a cold, hardened heart?
I am speaking to plastic people,
Puppets in the most bizarre of plays.
Different faces, different fears,
All covered up neatly in our death masks.
And this is how we want to die?
But what is my purpose in speaking?
To condemn? To heal?
To redeem? To kill?
Am I speaking for the pride of it?
Am I speaking just to be heard?
If my purpose is so arrogantly simple,
So will be the fruit it reaps.
If my words are no more than vain babblings
Then I should never write again….
“The Sound of Silence”
They say that silence is cowardess,
A weakness in disguise,
A problem to overcome,
A deadly compromise.
But what if silence is the height of honor
And foolish babblings the cross of shame?
What if silence is discretion, wisdom,
And utterance merely want of fame?
‘Love and be silent.’
‘Tis the noblest you can do.
Move on and not be violent,
Let be what can be let.
The sound of silence
Is the loudest
In the place where chatter
Is the norm.