Matthew 11:28-29 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I love these verses.
I loved them when I was taking full course loads each semester at a university and working in my spare time to pay for them.
I loved them when my children were little and I was teaching full time, usually having to put in an hour or two of unpaid overtime each day.
I loved them when I went back to college to pursue my master’s degree while teaching full time, raising two around-teen-age children, and serving leadership roles in several Christian groups.
I loved them when problems piled on top of each other and I saw no way out.
I loved them when the stresses of life weighed down on me while I struggled with strong PMS symptoms each month.
There was just one problem.
They didn’t seem to work for me. Spending time with Jesus didn’t make my work load lessen and I never felt rested for more than a few minutes at a time. Peace, yes. But not rested. I did make it through – if that counts – but just barely. So I did with this scripture what I did with others I didn’t understand. I filed it under “nice idea, but confusing”, and hoped someday God would explain what He really meant.
Many years went past.
Then today I came across it again. And this time I had a light bulb moment. He’s not talking about our daily life burdens, He’s talking about religious burdens. The kind that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were putting on the people. All the dos and don’ts and rituals and ceremonies. Making sure to follow all the rules was a heavy load to carry. It still is today, if that’s what we’re trying to do.
Jesus came to show us a better way. His focus was on restoring our relationship with the Father, not in adding rituals or ceremonies. He wanted to set us free from religion so that we could enjoy our relationship with our Father. Coming from a very religious upbringing, I can testify that these verses did and still do work exactly as He said.
How did I not see this before? How could I have read these verses for over 40 years, and never “got it”? It makes me wonder how many other verses I’ve taken out of context over the years. Maybe it’s time to reread the New Testament, this time not skimming past the familiar verses I think I know, but really looking at them in context.
Sighing, I continued my physical therapy exercises as the You Tube video I was watching was interrupted by yet another ad. Usually I tune out the ads, but something in this one caught my attention. I stopped moving and stared at the tiny screen on my phone.
A young beautiful woman was talking about her abusive past, and that she had found something that helped her overcome it.
Was it Jesus? I had never seen a testimonial ad on You Tube. I continued watching.
She got a good job, was able to save money, and even travel. And she was so thankful. This something had turned her life around.
Was it Jesus? Sure sounded like it. I waited for her to give Him the glory.
Then somehow she lost that something. Everything in her life fell apart. She lost her job, her home, and her happiness. One day a friend led her back to that something, and again her life was restored. And now she wanted to tell the world about it.
About Jesus? I was ready to celebrate with her, but…
Nope. It wasn’t about Jesus at all.
It was about… a bracelet.
A very special bracelet, infused with good energy by specific rituals, and accompanied by clear directions on how to wear it (make sure you touch it frequently to… what?… show it your faith?) and what not to do with it. She attributed all her well-being to this bracelet, and all her problems to having lost it. It even had a name.
I was floored.
Here in America, we don’t worship man-made objects, right? I mean, in this country we can’t just go to the market and buy a god or two. We (Westernized Christians) generally think of idols as pride, wealth, or status. But what if we’re wrong? What if idols actually mean idols? And what if we are as full of them in the Church today as the Israelites were in the Old Testament? As Christ-followers, we have been commanded to seek all our needs from God, to look only to Him. If we seek joy, prosperity, health, wisdom, peace, safety or anything else from anything other than our Father, how is that any different than what the Israelites were doing? And if we are as guilty of idolatry as they were, regardless of what we call our idols (good luck charms, energy stones, and healing crystals, among others), then aren’t we as much in danger of judgment today as the Israelites were back in their day? God is still a jealous God, and will not share His glory with another. We have been warned numerous times.
Let’s do ourselves a favor. Let’s be like Josiah, the king in 2 Kings 23. Let’s examine ourselves and our stuff and get rid of any idols we may have, before our Father has to come down here and do it for us. Then we can enjoy his blessings instead of facing his judgment.
Deut 7:25-26 The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take if for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction.
2 Kings 23:24-25 Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had found in the house of the LORD. Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.
Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.
2 Cor 6:16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance.
“Right. You’re so smart! What’s this number?” I point to a 1.
“It’s a 1. What about this one?” I point to a 2.
“No, it’s a two.”
(smiles and looks away)
“What’s this number?” I point to the 2 again.
(knocks it off the fridge)
“Time to play another game?”
And off we go.
Later I got to thinking about this number game. Why was my two year old granddaughter able to identify the numerals 3-5 so well, but just couldn’t seem to get 1 or 2?
Then I figured it out!
From birth she has always striven to be older than she was. Now that she’s passed her first and second birthdays, those two numbers don’t matter anymore. She’s older than them (or so she thinks) so they aren’t worth her time. Her interest in the higher numbers, the ones she will be one day, reveals that she’s focused on where she’s going, not where she’s been. In other words… forget the past; the future is what’s important.
It reminds me of what Paul said to the Philippians: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14)
If that number game is any indication, my granddaughter has this mastered.
Romans 5:8 But God shows his love for us that while we still sinners, Christ died for us.
When I first met Jesus, I was like that solid orange pom pom. My heart and my life were a mess and falling apart. But just like the pom pom maker tied a string around the center of each pom pom to keep the strands of yarn together, Jesus tied Himself around the center of my heart, keeping me together.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
A pom pom is made to serve a purpose.
So was I.
And now Romans…
Verse 1: I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
A pom pom is completely subject to its maker. It has no will of its own.
However, God created me with free will. Therefore He waits for me to present myself to Him as a living sacrifice. That means I give up my rights, my wants, my opinions, my stuff – and place myself completely in His hand.
Verse 2: Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
That messed up orange pom pom looks more like the skein of yarn it came from than a finished pom pom. In order to get it to a more pleasing and usable shape, much yarn has to be trimmed of.
I was no different. I looked, thought, and acted just like the world in which I came out of. Those worldly ways needed to be trimmed in order to make me into a more pleasing and usable person for God.
Verse 3: For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Once trimmed, the pom pom looks so incredibly better that it might be tempted to believe it has become the most beautiful of all pom poms. But that might just cause the others to raise their eyebrows at it. If you look closely in the picture, the pom poms each have some defects. Strands sticking out here or there, or misshapen in some places, none of them are perfect.
I, too, am soooo much better than I used to be, and if I’m not careful, I could start thinking I’m better than I really am, especially when I compare myself to people who haven’t been trimmed as much. I know I still have parts that need to be trimmed and rounded. Thinking soberly, or rationally, about myself, I know I am no better or worse than any other person.
Verse 4: For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function,
Some pom poms are made to be sewn on clothes, bags, or key chains. Others are made to be tossed around by a two-year old…
Likewise, I, being part of a body of many members, have a different function than the others. It might be similar to someone else’s but most like will not be identical.
Verse 5: so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Although there are many different pom poms, they are all part of the group their maker made.
I, along with all the other Christians, form one body, and as a member, I have a responsibility to the other members.
Verse 6: Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
None of the pom poms were given exactly the same strands. Some have the same colors, but in different arrangements; some were given more unique colors; and one was given only one color. But all are as they were designed to be.
My spiritual gifts differ from gifts given to others in the body. And how I use those gifts also differ. One such gift given to me, a prophetic gift, is much different than what is generally thought of when thinking about a prophet. I don’t prophecy over others, nor do I predict the future. But I can see what God is doing, and hear what He is saying, when He reveals it to me. Instead of fretting that I don’t do what the other prophets are doing, I am learning to use my gift according to God’s grace and my faith. I am learning to accept and enjoy my uniqueness and the way I was designed.
Verse 7: if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;
I am also a teacher – over thirty years in the public school system, as well as many small group spiritual teachings over the years. But I found that my teaching style also often differed from my peers. Which was a good thing, because not every student learned the same way. (My dream/goal is to combine my gifts of prophecy and teaching and create prophetic teachings that God can use to impact His people.)
Verse 8: the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
I LOVE exhorters! However, I am not one. My husband is and sometimes it’s hard not to envy his gift. I know people with gifts of generosity, leadership, and mercy – none of which I have – and all for which I’m grateful for. They are all extremely important in the Kingdom.
Verse 9: Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Just as the pom poms are trimmed of parts that interfere with their purpose, so I am trimmed of what interferes with my relationship with God and His purpose for me. But sometimes I have to do the trimming myself. God teaches me what is good and what is evil. It’s my responsibility to trim away all evil as He reveals it, and keep the good.
Verse 10: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Imagine the pom poms chatting. Which set – A or B – do you think they would be saying to each other?
Aw, you are so pretty! I love your colors! You look so soft! Here, let me make room for you. You’re so awesome! You are looking better every day! I love how the yellow mixes with your white.
Hey, you look stupid with that little piece sticking out. Let me get fix it for you. Hmmm… feeling a little out of shape this morning? That’s too bad. Come back when you have better control over yourself. Pssst… did you see the white one today? Can’t believe it thinks it looks as good as us colorful ones.
God has recently revealed to me that I need to be more like those pom poms in set A. Instead of focusing on someone’s imperfections or differences, I need to see what He sees – a perfect pom pom in the making. This is way harder than it sounds, but also so much more important than I realize sometimes.
Verse 11: Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Pom poms are all they are made to be. A bunch of yarn tied together and shaped into a ball. Pom poms just sit, until a force acts on them.
I am so much more than a bunch of cells shaped into a human, waiting for something to move me. With God’s Spirit indwelling me, my spirit is alive and in love with my Maker, and as long as I stay focused on Him, He motivates and enables me to remain fervent in serving Him.
Verse 12: Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
A pom pom can’t rejoice, be patient, or pray. But I can. I can rejoice in the hope of continual improvements. I can patiently endure the trimming process, like a pom pom submitting to the hands of its maker. And I can pray throughout every day – for myself as well as for others as they go through their own trimming experiences.
Verse 13: Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
I want to do this. I think about doing this. But I end up not doing anything sometimes. I’m glad so many people are so much better at this than I am, but that’s no excuse for me not to. I have my place in the body, and need to help support the rest of the body whenever and however I can.
Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
One day, I will be a perfect pom pom – softly round and perfectly trimmed. But most likely not before I get to heaven. In the meantime, I’m content to be in the hand of my Maker, trimming away the parts I can, and allowing Him to trim the rest.
There was once a man and a puppy. The man loved his puppy with his whole heart, and she loved him in return. He took care of all her needs: a comfortable bed, the best food, plenty of water, and lots of fun toys. He was quick to take care of any physical ailments, and spent many hours playing with, grooming, and cuddling her.
The only thing he asked for in return was her undivided love, and for her to stay in the yard he prepared for her, which would protect her from danger, and would also keep her from becoming separated from him. She happily agreed because the yard was beautiful and contained everything she needed.
Every time she heard her master coming to spend time with her, she would run from wherever she was and jump into his arms, kissing him with her puppy tongue, and wagging her tail so hard her whole body wagged right along with it. He would laugh and hug her tight, and then put her down to start their favorite game of chase. It was a great relationship which they both treasured.
One day while he was away, she noticed some loose boards in the fence. Curious, she pushed on them and found that she was able to peek into the next yard. She couldn’t see much, but she could hear excited barks. She pushed on one of the boards a little harder, and was able to make out a group of puppies chasing each other. That looked like fun, and she wanted to join in, but she remembered that her master wanted her to stay in the yard he made for her. So she resisted the temptation to call out to them and just watched them instead. Day after day, when the man was away, she would sit with her face framed between the loose boards, and watch. Eventually the other puppies noticed her.
“Hey, would you like to play with us?”
“I wish I could, but I can’t. I’m not supposed to leave my yard.”
“Why not?” asked a tan puppy with black spots.
“My master says it’s not safe.”
“That’s just dumb,” said a scruffy brown puppy. “We’re here every day and nothing has happened to us.”
“Yeah, your master sounds too strict,” chimed in another scruffy puppy, this one white.
“But he loves me and wants what’s best for me.”
The tan puppy ran closer to her. “Really? Then there’s no problem. He wants you to be happy, right?”
“Would you be happy playing with us?”
“Yes, I think so. It looks fun.”
“Then what’s wrong with having a little fun with us? Your master will be glad that you’re happy. Besides, he’s not home. He won’t even know.”
She frowned. Something didn’t sound right about this, but the tan puppy made sense. “Okay, but just for a little while.”
The other puppies barked excitedly, welcoming her as she pushed past the loose boards.
Looking around, she immediately noticed this yard wasn’t as beautiful as her yard. It was dirtier, and crowded with all kinds of things. Some looked nice enough, like the wading pool, colorful balls, and yummy smelling chew toys. But others, like the thick chains, dirty muzzles, and rusty cages, were kind of threatening. “Don’t worry about those,” they assured her. “Just play with what you want.” So she did, and found being there as much fun as it had looked. Chasing the other puppies, fighting over toys, splashing in the muddy puddles, and barking at nothing were all amazingly entertaining. When she got tired, she rested under the tall, spreading trees. When she was thirsty, she drank from the community water bowl, gradually getting used to the taste of the discolored water. And when she got hungry, she shared the synthetic food the others ate. Eventually she began to worry about the time.
“I think I need to go now.”
“Sure, thanks for joining us. Will you come back tomorrow?”
“Maybe,” she said as she slipped back into her yard.
When the man arrived, she wasn’t quite as eager to greet him. A sense of guilt interfered with the joy she normally felt. Would he know that she had not stayed where he told her? But he didn’t say anything so she put the feeling behind her as they began their daily game of chase. Usually he chased her first. As soon as he touched her, he would run off, laughing and calling to her as she chased after him. It usually didn’t take long for her to catch him, and then they would roll around on the ground with lots of delighted laughter and happy barks. But this day was different. For some reason she could never get quite close enough to catch him.
The next day she couldn’t resist the urge to join her new friends again. The fun was just as intoxicating, and again the man didn’t say anything. Maybe he didn’t know. Maybe he wouldn’t have to know. Or maybe the other puppies were right. Maybe he didn’t care where she went as long as she was happy. So as the weeks went by, she not only joined them each day but arrived earlier and stayed later until she was spending most of her time over there.
Without being aware of it, her joy in her own yard slowly faded. She still loved her master, but found her new friends and their yard much more enticing. The more she played with them, the more she wanted to be with them. Chasing and digging and barking filled her days, and she returned to her yard guilty and exhausted each evening. Her run-and-jump into the man’s arms was replaced with a crawl, sometimes even reluctantly when she was especially tired. She still enjoyed her time with him, but sometimes had trouble staying focused on him as the thoughts of the other yard filled her mind. She still ate her good food, but it became more of snack because the cheap food kept her stomach full. And the more of the dirty water she drank, the less thirsty she was for her own clean water.
The man saw the difference – in her attitude, in her lack of cleanliness, and in her health as slowly the unhealthy food and water took its toll. He knew she had been leaving the yard, but he had been waiting for her to realize the consequences weren’t worth the disobedience. And he was hoping her love for him, and his love for her, would be stronger than the pull of the other yard. But one day he couldn’t wait any longer.
“Where have you been going?”
“Nowhere,” she lied, looking away from him.
He shook his head sadly. “Don’t you know that the filth of that other yard, the filth that now covers you, separates us?”
Convicted, she whispered, “I’m sorry. I won’t go back. I don’t want to be separated from you. Please clean me up.”
He did, and their relationship was restored. But the pull of the other yard was strong, as were the voices of the puppies calling to her. So again and again, she continued to leave her yard to join them in theirs. And again and again her master cleaned her when she asked. Eventually though, she came to think like the other puppies. “My master will always be there. He loves me and will always forgive me. So what’s wrong with having a little fun?”
Now for the big question… did that puppy turn away from her master?”
And for an even bigger question… have you turned away from your Master? I know I have. We all have. It’s just a degree of how far into that other yard we’ve gone.
God’s calling us to come back. Can you hear Him?
Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (emphasis mine)
James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
A book has a beginning and an end. Without both, it would be incomplete.
A coin has a front and a back. Without both, it would be valueless.
A house has an inside and an outside. Without both, it couldn’t exist.
A staircase has a top and a bottom. Without both, it would be useless.
A toothbrush is a hard and a soft part. Without both, it wouldn’t be a toothbrush.
Many things have two sides, both equally important.
So does our God Most High.
He is loving, kind, long-suffering, patient, faithful, merciful, and forgiving.
He is also just, jealous, holy, righteous, wrathful, and a consuming fire.
He is God.
He is not a god.
He is the LORD God Most High.
We did not create God.
His character is not open for debate.
Liking or not liking His traits does not negate them.
Understanding or not understanding Him does not change Him.
He is who He is.
He is God.
Focusing on only one side leaves you shortsighted.
Those who focus on the ‘God is love’ side tend to become presumptuous and complacent, accepting everything, even sin.
Those who focus on the wrathful God tend to become fearful and legalistic, rejecting anything outside their view.
To know God you have to know both sides.
We either accept Him as He is, or we need to find a god more to our liking. Even if that god is us.
The truth is…
God Most High is both loving and jealous.
God Most High is both merciful and wrathful.
God Most High is both forgiving and holy.
God Most High is both faithful and vengeful.
The side you see depends on where you stand.
Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
Psalm 83:18 That they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.
Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 46:9 Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
Exodus 34:6-7 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”
2 Chronicles 34:21 “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LOR, to do according to all that is written in this book.”
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
1 Peter 1:15-16 But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all you conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Psalm 11:7 For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.
Psalm 86:5 For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
1 Cor 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us for all unrighteousness.
“There it is!” Amalia pointed to the large wooden boat that was swinging from one side to the other in large arcs. “I’ve always wanted to try this ride!’
“It looks fun,” Jesus said. “But there’s something I have to do first. Sit here on this bench and wait for Me.” He pointed to a small bench just outside the entrance gate.
“Sure,” Amalia agreed. She sat backwards on the bench, facing the boat. It was huge! She wondered what it would feel like to ride it. To feel the thrill of the rise and the adrenaline rush of the fall, both frontwards and backwards. Would she scream like so many others? Or would she laugh? It couldn’t be as bad as a roller coaster, so she thought she’d probably laugh. After all, it was a big solid boat, moving in a predictable manner, and not nearly as high as the roller coaster.
The best thing about it – there was no line! It seemed everyone who wanted to ride it was on already on it- because it was packed! There was probably less than a handful of empty seats. Amalia sighed in pleasure. She had never gotten to be first on a ride. Besides, she hated feeling crowded, so the anticipation of riding this boat without having to sit shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of strangers added to her excitement. This was going to be great!
As she watched the boat move, she noticed it wasn’t rising quite as high as it had a few moments before. The ride must be ending soon. And still no one in line. Amalia looked around for Jesus. Where was He? There was still a little while before the boat ride would fully end so Amalia decided not to worry about it. Jesus would be there before it was time to board.
Before she could turn back towards the boat, a group of boys caught her attention. They were laughing and pushing each other. One boy pointed to the boat, and within minutes they heading in her direction. Oh no! Amalia glanced at the gate. Should she get up to make sure she remained first in line? Jesus had said to wait on the bench, but the gate was almost within touching distance. Surely waiting there would be just as good. But what if He meant what He said? She had agreed to wait on the bench. Would leaving it be disobedience? Before she could make up her mind, it was too late. The rowdy boys were at the gate. The best she could be was fourth now. Disappointed, she consoled herself with the reminder that there were so many seats on that boat, it would still feel empty even with the group of boys. Being fourth wouldn’t change that.
A married couple with three children walked up.
“Excuse me,” said the woman. “Are you in line?”
Amalia shook her head. “No, not yet. I’m waiting on someone.”
“Okay, just making sure.” The woman motioned to her kids. “Go ahead, she’s not in line.”
Right behind them came another couple, and then a group of girls. Amalia’s stomach began to tighten. Where were all these people coming from? This was supposed to be her ride, not theirs. She was supposed to be first. She was supposed to ride an almost empty boat. Jesus knew she didn’t like crowds. Why was he delaying his return? Maybe she should go ahead and get in line before it gets any longer. No, Jesus said to wait. On the bench. And she was going to do that. Maybe no one else would come. There were still a lot more seats than people. It will be okay.
The boat was barely rocking now. Soon it would stop and Amalia would… would what? What would she do if Jesus still hadn’t returned? Get on without Him? Miss the ride? No, she trusted Him. He said it would be a fun ride, and He told her to wait. So she would wait.
The waiting became even harder as other people joined the line, now about twenty yards long. Twenty yards of people who got ahead of her. Amalia felt envious. They didn’t have to wait. They could get in line whenever they wanted to. And here she was just sitting on a bench. She felt left out, and a little silly. She wanted to ride. Jesus said she could ride. Did He really say to stay on the bench? Or did He just say to wait, and the bench was her idea? Why couldn’t she wait for Him in line? It wasn’t like she would board without Him or anything. Besides, He said He’d be back. Did it really matter if she was on the bench or in line when He returned?
Amalia’s attention was drawn to the behavior of those waiting. Many were minding their own business, but there were some that weren’t. The rowdy group of boys next to her was calling out rude comments to the group of girls. Amalia could see the girls blush as they tried to ignore them. Amalia felt bad for the girls, and wondered why no one was saying anything to make the boys stop. Further down the line a young girl was pulling on her parents, begging not to have to ride the big boat, but the parents seemed angry and were ridiculing her fear. That didn’t seem right to Amalia either. It actually seemed cruel. She was glad when one man called out to the parents. But instead of interceding for the child, the man began calling the parents names which soon escalated into a loud argument. People around them began to take sides, and Amalia grew tense as a fight seemed likely to break out at any moment. A quick movement caught her attention and she looked away from the imminent fight just in time to see a pickpocket making his way through the crowd. How does he get away with that? Can’t people feel someone else’s hand in their pockets? What if she had been a victim earlier to a pickpocket and she had not noticed? Quickly she felt her back pocket, and was relieved to feel the bulge of her wallet. Other sounds of discord quickly claimed her attention. Some people began grumbling and complaining about having to wait so long in smelly crowd on such a hot day. Others were making snide comments about what other people were wearing, or the way they looked.
Maybe it would be better to wait on the bench. She didn’t want to be part of that crowd. She turned back to the boat and watched as it slowly settled until it came to a complete stop at the bottom. People piled out, some talking enthusiastically about their experience; others white faced – or green faced – hurrying to get away. When the boat was empty, the people in line began to board it. Amalia looked around. Where was Jesus? It was time to get on, and she didn’t want to miss it. But He was nowhere in sight.
She looked at the line, trying to estimate the number of people. Would they fill up that boat before Jesus returned? And even more people were joining them by the minute. Torn between the desire to join the line in order to ensure a ride and the command to wait on the bench, Amalia wanted to cry in frustration. Where was Jesus? Why was He not back already? Had she heard Him wrong? He said the ride would be fun – but what if He meant fun for her, and not for them? Maybe she was supposed to get on it by herself. It was even harder watching all those people get what she wanted. They didn’t even deserve it. Their behavior should have gotten them kicked out of line. But there they were, gleefully filling up the seats that Amalia coveted.
Amalia clenched her eyes, trying to squeeze back her tears. It just wasn’t fair. Her thoughts drifted to her Friend. He had had to face some unfairness Himself. And much worse than she was facing. Feeling remorse, Amalia silently asked God for forgiveness. If He wanted her to wait, she would wait. What He wanted was more important than what she wanted. She would trust His timing. And if she missed this ride, then so be it. She would rather have Him than a ride. Even a ride as great as this one ride. She quit fretting about all the people filling up her boat, especially the mean ones, and the ones she had seen cut in line. Her priorities once again in their right place, peace filled her heart. She opened her eyes and began praying for the people as they rushed past her.
A few minutes later Jesus walked up. “Are you ready?” He asked her.
“Yes, but I don’t think there’ll be any room left.”
“Sure there is. Watch.” He pointed to a couple of security guards walking towards them. A shout from the boat caught their attention, and they pushed their way through the line to investigate. Soon more shouting erupted, and more security guards came running. Before Amalia knew what was happening, the guards had ordered everyone off the boat.
“Let’s go,” Jesus said warmly. He took Amalia’s hand and led her past the people lining up along the fence towards the boat. She could hear snippets of emotional responses to the guards’ questions as people justified their behaviors and pointed their fingers at each other. Jesus gently pushed Amalia up the ramp and into the boat. She looked around in amazement. It was empty! Other people began to board after her, the ones let go by the guards, but she had been first!
“Where do you want to sit” Jesus asked with a smile.
Ps 37:7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
Ps 37: 34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
Lamentations 3:24-26 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul. “Therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Hebrews 6:15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.
Micah 7:7 But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.
Deut 10:12 … what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
Matt 22:37-39 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Carlynne frowned in confusion. It didn’t make sense. Why would they want to wear coats on this warm, beautiful day? Maybe she could ask them. She walked towards them until she could hear their conversation. They were admiring each other’s coats while at the same time describing what they loved best about their own. Carlynne looked down at her own body. She wasn’t wearing a coat. She used to have a coat, but had gotten rid of it a long time ago when she discovered she didn’t need it anymore. The sunshine itself was all she needed to stay warm. Yet here was a group of people who not only wore coats, but delighted in wearing them.
“Hi,” she called out to them. “I noticed you are all wearing coats.”
“Aren’t they beautiful?” a short woman answered.
“Yes, they do look good, but…”
“I just love how they make me feel,” a taller woman said.
“I can see that. But…”
“I feel so special when I’m wearing mine,” an older lady interrupted.
“I can see that. But don’t you feel a bit… bound… in them?”
“Bound?” a large man asked. “What do you mean?”
“Well, your coats are kind of thick. I would think that would make it harder for you to move as freely as you could if you weren’t wearing them.”
“I can move just fine,” answered the man.
“Well,” a young woman said slowly as she stretched her arms out in front of her. “Now that you mention it, it does kind of restrict my arms.”
Several other people nodded as they stretched their arms, but stopped when they noticed some of the others in the group were shaking their heads at them. “It’s worth the sacrifice,” they were told.
Carlynne said, “You do know you can take off your coat, right?”
“Take it off?” the tall woman gulped, clutching her coat tightly to herself. “I wouldn’t dream of taking mine off.”
There were a variety of assenting sounds, and Carlynne noticed they were all now holding tightly on to their coats.
But aren’t you hot in them? The sun is…”
“It kept me warm when I needed it,” interrupted another man. “If I took it off, I would be cold and vulnerable.”
“But the sun…”
“My coat is what keeps me warm,” interrupted the older lady.
“But I’m not wearing…”
“My coat is the most important thing in the world to me,” interrupted the shorter woman.
Tired of being interrupted, Carlynne gave up. Walking away from them, rejoicing in the freedom she had being coatless – feeling the warmth of the glorious sun directly on her skin – she wondered if any of them had noticed that she wasn’t wearing one. Maybe one day, they would. Then maybe they would be open to hearing why. And maybe, when they understood the sun better, they would find that that they no longer needed their coats either.
Religion: noun. A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices (Merriam-Webster)
Carlynne – “she who has freedom”
Psalm 84: 11 For the LORD God is a sun and a shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Philippinas 3:1-11 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Col 2:6-23 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority, in him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us, with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – “Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch.” (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.