Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Reckless Abandon

I've heard it said that our greatest stories come out of our darkest hours and from my own life, I know this to be true. Birthed from my hardest times have been my greatest victories, and the internal pit of hell I found myself drowning in back in 2007 marked the re-commencement of my relationship with Jesus Christ. Though I didn't understand what giving my life to Him meant 16 years ago when I initially invited Him into my heart, I grasp it clearly today, and it's rarely an easy walk.  God has gotten involved in my life's most personal and intimate details and shaken things up in such a way that has sometimes hurt, but always, always been worth it.  More recently He has been leading me down a path of both inward and outward exploration as I endeavor to navigate through the daunting task that is my dissertation. In heuristically examining the phenomenon of abandoned faith among former clergy (more posts on this later), I have purposed to immerse myself in the life narratives of those who have gone from serving God in the church to a life of atheism, and the journey already has been challenging.  While one day I'll experience great success in finding answers, other days like today found the enemy a temporary victor over my mind and heart.  As I tearfully talked through some of my struggles with my husband this afternoon, he gently reminded me that God isn't the only One walking alongside me on this path.  Our adversary, the devil, walks nearby as well, and as 1 Peter 5:8 says: "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." As I reflected over this, it occurred to me that I had momentarily let down my guard over the last couple of weeks, and unfortunately, the enemy is always watching and waiting for an opening and the door need only be ajar.  In he came and tore at my spirit, but God is faithful and reminded me that the enemy is desperate and fights us harder as our light shines brighter. To this end, I must give God my all in reckless abandon. 

Merriam-Webster defines "reckless" as  "marked by lack of proper caution :  careless of consequences," and though I initially disliked the use of the word for this entry, I eventually realized that the greatest followers of Jesus Christ lived in just such abandon. Peter, for example, stepped out of a boat (Matthew 14:28-33) in the dark during strong winds and high waves to walk on water towards Jesus.  Who does that! I'm afraid of a simple ride on the Ferris Wheel, so the thought of stepping out of a boat at sea  in the dark with raging waves and winds and unseen creatures below the water appeals to me not.  It's reckless and unsafe, so again, who does that? Peter did that, and although he lost his faith and began to sink when he looked down and saw the danger, the fact that he jumped out of the boat to walk towards His Lord must not be overlooked.  It was a moment of reckless abandon that allows only one man outside of Jesus Christ to be able to claim the experience of walking on water.  The problem in Peter's experience came when he took his eyes off of the Lord.  Though I'm grateful for the lesson from his shortcoming, I empathize all too well with his small faith.  He stopped looking to God and began looking at his circumstances, and consequently, he began to drown. Where are you looking today?

Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith, and the Message Bible enthusiastically says it like this:  "Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in.  Study how He did it.  Because He never lost sight of where He was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever.  And now He's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God." Just recently I found myself in a situation where I took my own eyes off of Jesus, and not surprisingly, I was absolutely tormented for several days by the voice of the enemy though at the time I believed the voice was God's.  Don't be surprised if the enemy comes at you with Scripture.  He knows the Word, and as 2 Corinthians 11:14 says: "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light," but as one of my sweet sisters in Christ reminded me last night through words penned by Shakespeare, "The devil knows how to quote Scripture to his purpose." The difference between his voice and God's is the difference between love and judgment, punishment and forgiveness, acceptance and rejection.  God will lead you to verses that reassure you of His love, while the enemy will guide you to passages of judgment and the Law.  Don't get me wrong, God's judgement, punishment, and wrath are as real as His love, and Scripture attests to this, but when you're earnestly seeking to please Him and follow Him, He's not going to do anything that will put you in a place of turmoil and fear. So, how do we remain steadfast in His voice and not the enemy's? By recklessly abandoning all that we are to His care.  

What does reckless abandon look like? Well, we saw Peter step out into raging waters and walk on water, and throughout the Bible many more examples exist.  In Matthew 4:18-20, we see Simon Peter and his brother Andrew immediately stop what they were doing to follow Jesus, and in verse 22 of the same chapter James and John also leave everything, their father included, behind to follow Christ. While this may not look like a big deal, imagine yourself leaving your entire life behind at the single command of one man who told you to follow him.  Would you do it? Look around at the comforts of your office or home.  Think of your parents or your children.  What about your animals and clothes and bank account?  Your job? Your friends? In an instant, these men made the seemingly reckless decision to walk away from life as they knew it and follow a man they had only just met.  Pretty reckless right?  Absolutely, but guess what? They are the disciples that got to eat, sleep, and pray with the greatest Man ever known.  What we do by faith today, they got to do in person with Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, God's only Son.  Wow! They got to look into the eyes of the living God made man and touch his flesh. He washed their feet and taught them about discipleship first hand.  Their names are now penned in the most sacred text in existence as great men of faith and teaching.  How?  Because they recklessly abandoned themselves to walk with Him.  Recklessly abandoning yourself to a car driving 100 miles an hour might not end well, but recklessly abandoning yourself into the arms of Jesus will be the greatest adventure you've ever known.  You want to be free from the grips of evil and sin? Tired of the addiction? Are you in need of forgiveness and acceptance?  Give yourself to Him today in reckless abandon and watch the enemy flee.  

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'" - Matthew 16:24

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