There are times when the muscles in my throat grip. I am conscious of my scalp stretching tight across my skull and skipping thoughts get stuck to the knees in molasses.But it happens when I read inspiring books. Or when I hear about church growth strategies. Or consider living out an authentic faith. That's right - it scares me. Deeply.
I get deep-in-my-core anxious. I hear an honest challenge to give more of myself and risk more in an attempt to love and serve people I don't yet know. And as I hear it, I briefly contemplate shutting my ears, ignoring the challenge.
Because I'm sure I can't do it. I don't know how, and I'm puzzled about where to begin. I prefigure failure as I play possibilities in my mind.
And often I don't want to go to all that trouble. What if I put myself into this sacrificial life and it doesn't work? Or its ignored?
Do you get that fluttering-bird fear, trapped in your ribcage, that you just can't do the stuff required to be a proper God-follower? That the mission that defines us is too hard? I am enthralled by a vision of the cross-bearing, Jesus-following life but I struggle to see myself in that vision - I feel too prosaic, too clumsy, too selfish to inhabit such a view. Truth is, I am. I cannot live out a life of righteousness, of sacrifice, of Jesus-shaped cross-carrying proportions on my own.
Being helpless, anxious, restless, I pray. Slowly I am learning that this is where I need to be. That God has been patiently waiting for me to ask him for help here and not just try to manage things myself.
Relieved, I pray. My humanity wishes for a more capable response but the Spirit in me sighs and groans. Let the Spirit speak.
'This is too hard, but you are the God who can do what the law cannot. I am overwhelmed but you are not. I feel helpless, but you do not. I fear failure, but you do not. You are the God who makes possibilities and opportunities and rescues my weakness. Show me what I can do today to follow Jesus.'
You can pray this prayer for anxieties, too.
Imagine a world, where we are not ruled by fear or by hopelessness, or even by the need to not fail. Where we can give grace, out of the riches of grace and comfort we receive. Where daily we pray and daily we follow.
Today's thoughts, which challenged me (that is, made me anxious), that called me to pray,
"In the incarnation, God enters fully into close relational and physical proximity to humanity in the pursuit of reconciliation. Likewise, if exiles today are to model their lives and ministries on that of the exile Jesus, they must take a stance that promotes proximity between themselves and those among whom they live……
……Christians must be prepared to go where Christ would go: to the poor, to the marginalized, to the places of suffering. They must be prepared to die to self in order to follow Jesus’ radical lifestyle of self-giving and sacrifice……
……To embrace an incarnational ministry, then, involves a willingness to relinquish our own desires and interests in the service of others. Of course, our suffering doesn’t atone for the sins of others, as Christ’s did, but our self-emptying or sacrificial love will direct people to the higher and more efficacious sacrifice of Christ…
…Pity, condescension, or paternalism misses the mark; only a compassion that acts is acceptable in incarnational ministry……
……So, if we take the incarnation seriously, we must take seriously the call to live incarnationally – right up close, near to those whom God desires to redeem. We cannot demonstrate Christ-likeness at a distance from those whom we feel called to serve. We need to get close enough to people that our lives rub up against their lives, and that they see the incarnated Christ in our values, beliefs, and practices as expressed in cultural forms that make sense and convey impact."
(from Exiles: Living Missionally in Post-Christian Culture)
linking with Ann and Emily today.