"Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I've found. I've found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay, simple acts of kindness and love."
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
J. R. R. Tolkien
Sunday, April 1, 2018
I maintain a commitment to regular exercise: six days a week, every week. This commitment started over 30 years ago when I wanted to reclaim my body after our second son was born; it grew stronger as I began to appreciate the broader benefits of exercise—increased energy, positive mood, deeper and more efficient sleep, and a boosted immune system. But even with this history, it is more common than not that when I get up in the morning, I don’t feel like exercising. I am tired, and I would prefer to sit at my computer with a cat in my lap and check the morning news. And, sometimes I do. But then, invariably, I put my running shoes on and get the dog ready for a jog, or I get the kettle bells out of the closet. I still don’t feel like exercising. My choice to do it anyway doesn’t deny my feelings; rather, it represents my understanding that exercise is the most effective way to resolve my feelings of fatigue and lethargy.
As we move from the season of Lent through Good Friday, and into Easter, it is a good time to consider Jesus. His prayer to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals that He didn’t feel like going to the cross. Those feelings were far from unreasonable: bearing the sins of the whole world for all time, compounded by the tortured death of crucifixion, was not something anyone would feel like doing. But Jesus went beyond His emotions and made a determined choice to go to the cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). He wanted a reconciled and restored relationship with us so truly and so deeply that He accepted the emotional and physical agony necessary to get there.
So what do we do with this? First and foremost, the Easter season is an ideal opportunity to meditate on and praise God for His sacrifice for us. We can thank Jesus for moving beyond His feelings and making the choice to die for us. We can gratefully marvel that God loves and values us so much that He sent His son to die to restore our relationship with Him. As we internalize this glorious truth, we, too, can follow Jesus as our Savior, Lord, and Model. We, too, can choose to accept sacrifice as we are called to participate in God’s work of redemption, of calling people to Himself. Is my daily choice to exercise equivalent to Christ’s emotional agony? Of course not. But it is a most helpful reminder to not take Jesus’s choice for granted, but rather to walk in grateful wonder before Him.
Friday, March 30, 2018
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Monday, March 5, 2018
Sunday, March 4, 2018
My husband and I recently spent a weekend in Adams, Massachusetts, helping our son and his wife move into their newly-purchased home in Adams, Massachusetts. Along with a cozy, multi-story home, the property includes 70 acres of pristine Berkshire wildnerness and… a sheep. Our son had told me about Minnie, and as an animal lover, I was looking forward to meeting her. And though I thought I knew what to expect, I found my weekend with Minnie to contain more lessons than I had anticipated.
We arrived just after dark on Friday evening, and as we were unloading our car, Minnie came out of the shadows to investigate the action. I was excited to make friends, and I happily took one of the “sheep biscuits” (aka peanut-butter flavored dog biscuits) from the tin on the back porch and approached Minnie cautiously and slowly. She was clearly not sure about me, but she most certainly recognized the biscuit in my outstretched hand. She overcame her fear long enough to take the biscuit and then immediately backed away. As I held my ground and talked quietly to her, she proceeded to engage in a dance: a few steps toward me, followed by a few steps back. She repeated this routine several times, friendly, but as our son would say, “sheepish.” Minnie wanted to be friends, too, but she couldn’t quite get herself to come close enough to touch me, and eventually she walked away.
The next morning was much the same: Minnie happily took the biscuit from my hand, proceeded to do her back-and-forth dance, and then walked away, much to my disappointment. It bothered me more than a little that I wanted to be friends more than she did.
Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning were more encouraging. When Minnie saw me coming out of the house and walking toward her area, she came trotting to me and greeted me with a knowing “Baa.” After taking the biscuit she did her dance, but this time, her steps toward me included a soft touch of her muzzle on my hand. She remained wary, though, and those steps were always followed by steps backward. Still, I was thrilled at our progress, and I was sorry to leave before a relationship was firmly in place.
As I’ve pondered my weekend with Minnie, I have come to realize how apt the Biblical comparison of people to sheep under God the Good Shepherd is. The truth of the matter is that Minnie is not particularly attractive: her round wooly body sits atop spindly legs, her eyes are set too far apart to gaze into, and her coat is full of brush, leaves, and dirt. And yet, I was completely captivated by her and wanted nothing more than to get to know her and have her get to know me. Her desire to keep safely to herself was maddening.
And so I have been blessed with a brief glimpse into how God sees me. I am far dirtier with sin than Minnie will ever get living on our son’s property. I like my safe places and am tempted to come to my Shepherd only when I really need or want something. But God delights in my presence and wants to enjoy a growing, deepening, abiding relationship with me. As much as I can’t wait to see Minnie again, I can direct my sheepish thoughts toward my Shepherd and enjoy His company.