Over the past 6 months I have been fortunate to work with a group of extraordinary parents who have taught me so much, the least of which is the importance of playing the long game. This work has also revolutionized how I view the power and potential of people, and for that I’m so thankful. It reminds me of one of my favorite bible stories, and the lesson that I believe faith teaches us about how to view our lives within the broader context of what God is doing in the world.
One of the more interesting sagas in the New Testament is the story of what happens after John the Baptist has been locked up in prison. Here’s a man who prophecies about the coming Messiah, telling everyone who would listen what was to come. And yet, like any person, when faced with the reality of his own mortality while in jail, his faith too began to waiver. So John incredulously sends his own disciples to Jesus to ask, are you really The One we’ve been waiting for, or should we look for someone else? Wow. This coming from the very man who scripture records hearing the voice of God say, this is my Son in whom I am pleased. Wasn’t he there for the heavens opening, bird landing moment?
I love Jesus’s response though. Jesus told them to go back to John and tell him what was going on. Here’s what’s happening: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the downtrodden of the earth learn that God is on their side. Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourself blessed!
Is this what you were expecting? That’s sort of God’s answer to each of us isn’t it? What are you really looking for, and does it align with the bigger picture of what God’s trying to get you to see? Jesus went on to chastise the crowd around him (there were always big crowds), are you listening to me, really listening? One translation says it like this, next Jesus let fly on the cities where he had worked the hardest, but the people had responded the least, shrugging their shoulders and going their own way. That’s the danger of not paying attention. Here Jesus was in the flesh, and if John could doubt and question his own experiences with Jesus, you know others were struggling to fit Jesus into their preconceived boxes.
That’s why Jesus left us with his hint, this signal of how to really find him and recognize him at work. Jesus shares a prayer: thank you father for concealing your ways from sophisticates and know it alls, but instead spelling things out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.
I believe that God is a planner, and grace is his plan. I also believe that so few of us really catch on to the amazing things happening in the world around us because we’re so caught up in the details of our own lives. Lately, I’ve been praying that God will help me to be present enough to see things from an eternal perspective. I don’t want to miss the moments happening right now. I’m finding that when I do focus on being present, this is my calling card, Jesus’s final exhortation to people who were fortunate enough to see what he was trying to show them:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me- watch how I’ll do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Now that’s a long game worth playing.