Matthew 13: 44-46, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."
Yesterday, I was in a Bible study with some beautiful old ladies. We met in a conference room at the church and it immediately became clear that these ladies weren't messing around. Passionate conversation flashed across the table and it kept knocking me in the head and heart. The first discussion was about what we thought it meant to be God's beloved. We had just listened to a beautiful spoken word by Graham Cooke about being "beloveds" and the soaking silence was quickly broken with the intimate thoughts of these women. The oldest lady in the room sat in her wheelchair and spoke over and over, "I love God, I love God, I love God." One confessed from across the table, "I don't think I know what it means to be beloved in my heart." Another gave a wise word, "It brings Him the most joy when we spend time with Him. That's how beloved we are." My own voice chimed in, "I think what it means to be beloved is that I'm not striving for anything. I have the gaze of Love Himself which fulfills my entire life. If my existence is about love, and I have the love of God poured out on me every moment, my job is to rest, receive, and believe it's all true."
The lady who looked most like a queen stared straight at me and said, "You will have wisdom downloaded into you and be an arrow of influence shot through your peers, in the name of Jesus." I teared up. Another lady said, "You're like a light on a plane runway. Strategically placed and incredibly important. God will use you in special and specific ways." The image is still lodged in my mind's eye.
Every one of my mentors and teachers have commented on my wisdom and discernment. Sometimes, I think people notice only because I'm young and maybe they weren't walking with Christ in their younger years. I can write off what I carry or I can carry what I carry. As I think about these things and what I'm meant to do on earth, God's voice comes through and reminds me, "What you have to share is important. And what you have to share is that intimacy with Me brings freedom."
People think I'm wise, but really I'm just in love.
I think intimacy with God will be my niche ministry at the end of the day. I love marriage, relationships, and slowing people down long enough to take a good hard look into the eyes of Grace. I can sense in the atmosphere when love is strangled or shelved and I just cry. I've had special revelations and experiences of God's bridegroom love and He's grown humility in me enough to where I know I'm only at the cusp. God is Love Himself. There's always more of this ocean to sail upon, swim in, and gaze at and I want others on this journey with me and so does God.
Like God said and continues to shout everyday, only when we live out of an identity of being a beloved of the Lover can we experience true freedom.
I was reading the above passage in Matthew and God wouldn't let me move past it. I felt like these parables were contradictory. How could The Kingdom be both like a treasure and like one seeking for the treasure? Which identity is it?
The passage says plainly that The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure and like a merchant "looking." We are treasures in God's sight. We are the prize on the line in this cosmic battle between good and evil. When Jesus wants something, He does exactly what it takes to get it. He searches for His precious pearls until He finds them, then, He sells everything He has, even His life, and buys it. And He doesn't just buy the treasure; He buys the entire space where He found it. It's all sacred ground to Him. We are not misplaced throw away creations. We are not practice rounds for God's creative hand. We are planned and painted with incredible excitement. The enemy wants us to feel forgotten. He wants us to feel like mistakes and like optional decor. Jesus wants us to feel like hidden treasure that He gets to uncover, hold, and behold.
The Kingdom of Heaven is a treasure itself because unconditional love is it's makeup. The king decided this because He is love through and through. Before the boundaries of the world or of our skin, unconditional love was the law. The Kingdom is ruled by a king who doesn't hesitate to leave the 99 to find the 1 even if it means His own death. Our king doesn't need to fear death. He resurrects dead things constantly. That's what Love does. One experience of Love and we are reborn.
I think what all this means is really quite simple. Our fears are stilled, because perfect love casts out fear, and our strivings cease because God has done the work to fulfill our deepest need: to be loved by Him. What is there to strive for? In the area of love, nothing but continually making our vessel more roomy and moldable for The Spirit. I know that belief is often a battle and we are called to war for The Kingdom. But we can't war well unless we know who we are and who we are warring alongside. We are the loved and we are the victorious because our king is the Lover and our king is the Victor.
By nature I'm a mull-er. I often get tangled up in a subject that I can't seem to walk out of until I have the answer. Sometimes this is to my detriment. But more than anything it reminds me that my mind and intellect have boundaries. When the tension in my shoulders gets too much, I have to remember to breath and ask God what He thinks. I get the same answer every time, "I think I've made you whole, I think you work too hard, I know I love you, and your place at my feet grows cold. Come and remember who I am and what I have done for you." Gets me every time. Proverbs says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I fear the Lord by keeping His commands and His first command is to love Him. So that's what I do. I study His Word because I'm in love, I love people because I'm in love, and I love Him because He first loved me. Anything beyond this is too complicated even for my mulling mind.
Like I said, people think I'm wise, but really I'm just in love.
And this is not just a privilege or a "spiritual level" reserved for me. This is not just how my mind works. This is Jesus' invitation for everyone; for you. As I prayed about this post, the Lord said, "Love is out of no one's reach." It's not out of reach because God is continually reaching down and out to us. He is within us, around us, beside us, behind us and ready to be found. We have this freeing intimacy and were born out of it. We have the gaze of Love and we have the choice to live in that kind of Kingdom. If each citizen is a treasure, and each interaction with the king breathtaking, I think our decision is made. Being beloved means we agree that we're on the winning side and that we're not going anywhere. Our shepherd knows us and tells us who we are. Let us be content to spend our days knowing Him right back.
I've walked past that spot dozens of times, but never really took advantage of it. At the state park nearby, there's a thin trail that follows the water's edge. As you walk, you come to a spot where a fallen tree hovers over the lake. It's thick enough, it's stable enough, and it's teasing enough to make me want to tip-toe on out. So I did. I went as far as my bravery took me, then just sat and stared and swung my toe across the water's surface. My bravery built back up then I ventured further. This process of settling in then venturing out brought me to the very tip--a place that teased me before now supported my relaxation and gave me a view.
I try to be the kind of person that lives darefully and recognizes that all my lack of bravery means is that I need to get used to the idea a little longer; I need to settle in and stare at where it is I'm trying to go. Eventually, I'll be able to head out. I think we are ready for adventure when we are brave. Little by little, fear becomes ever more clearly just cardboard I can knock down with my breath.
I don't think I would have a reason to be brave without Jesus. I definitely wouldn't have the desire to be brave. The ideas that chance and my own preparations drive my quality of life and where I'll end up are terrible companions. But thinking about the excitement and wonder which accompany Jesus wherever He goes helps me throw caution into the wind. Not only is He trustworthy, He is incredibly fun.
It's easy for me to see when I've outgrown my tank. Jesus sees it too and invites me into something new even a bit before I think I'm ready and way before I'm brave enough. But, that's the beauty of it; that's what makes it so relational. Responding to Jesus' calls will always require something of us. Part of that something is always bravery and always accepting adventure. By choosing Him and choosing to be brave, I've loosed fear's hold on me all the more.
Jesus isn't this polarized being. He isn't just the one that whisks us away on whimsy and growth or disciplines us when we don't steward our current task well. He helps us make the most of where we are. If that place is sadness, He is sitting there with you slowly undimming the lights so that your eyes can take it in. If that place is contentment, He is walking next to you commenting on how beautiful you're becoming. If that place is radical transformation, He is your coach cheering you on and giving you no reason to look back. I've had a pretty boring view of Jesus until recently, It's super unmotivating to see my Savior that way. So I started looking for the fun.
Here's an awesome story that a friend of mine experienced a few months ago. She said she was walking home from class and praying when she felt like she was supposed to go uptown. So she did. She walked into Bagel&Deli (an amazing bagel sandwich shop), and still didn't know why she was there. She begins to ask God why she's in this bagel shop in the first place. She hears God say, "I got this." She orders her food and she recognizes the worker. They chat a little and just as she's about to pay the worker says she can just take it. My friend said, "God bought me a bagel today."
I don't know about you, but I believe in a God who takes His daughters on dates to Bagel&Deli just as strongly as I believe in a God who shows off resurrection power.
If Jesus is anything less than what amazes you, that's probably why it's been hard. He is easy to love when we look at Him straight in the face. And when we are in love with something or someone, it's easy to be brave and go on any adventure with them. Whether that somewhere is just a better view or to that delicious hole in the wall bagel place.