From a journal entry March 9, 2011
It’s funny how moments of significant enlightenment can be marked by equally insignificant surroundings or events. This one for example: I was driving home from somewhere, who knows where. It doesn’t really matter. Anyway, I was heading south on Orem Main Street from University Parkway toward Provo, just beginning the descent toward the four-way stop before the Welcome to Provo sign near the orchards. [This is in Utah.] You’ll know the place if you’re local.
I had been thinking about my Sunday school class: fifteen-years-olds, and lessons from the New Testament. Wondering about Jesus–about who he was to those who lived with him during his ministry, about who he was as a man, sitting on the Mount of Olives. The question had just begun to form in my mind when the reality of his life on earth came into clear focus for me.
Here is how it went:
- From Handel and Isaiah: A man of sorrow, acquainted with grief.
- People in his home town: Is this not the carpenter’s son? (of low esteem, nothing special)
- No particular beauty or charisma to draw folks toward him.
- He does not look like the paintings.
- He did not “glow.”
- Probably very plain-looking.
- He was born in a stable with animals, poop, smells – the humblest and among the least desirable of circumstances even for that time. The ghetto.
- He worked quietly, in a tiny part of the globe for a very brief time.
- Had no titles, lands, riches, acclaim, fame or any such thing.
- Three years. Three short years of ministry. Then Gethsemane and crucifixion.
Then a question came to my mind: Do I really want to be like Jesus– like that?
And the answer: Well, yes, I do. . . okay then. What does that mean for me?
The thoughts that followed left me quite stunned and, frankly, in a state of awe. And, although the idea may not be new to many people, it was new to me–new in the way I felt it and understood it.
Here’s how it went:
The world is overrun with messages that we must be important, noticed, heralded, rich, famous, well-educated. We must possess many and beautiful things. We must have many and beautiful friends and must be known for having many and beautiful things, talents, friends, degrees, titles. From youth to old age, these messages are everywhere. Remember high school? Remember the Academy Awards? Remember yesterday in the news or on facebook or in blogland?
I have always felt I could be popular if I wanted to be. I was popular in my growing up years. I genuinely enjoy people, enjoy good company and was blessed with an understanding of how to win friends and influence people long before I read the book of that title. And I needed to win friends and influence people. I was bereft inside because of the circumstances of my childhood. I desperately needed fame, acclamation, attention, approval, acquisition of stuff, recognition from public sources. Now, I’m learning not to need it.
I wish I had better words to describe what I felt at that moment in my car. I don’t really. But, I can tell you that this “waking vision” ended with a feeling that if I could let go of all desire for fame, acclamation, attention, approval, acquisition of stuff, need for recognition from the public, the world, blog readers, facebook friends, neighbors, co-workers, family. . . and simply do a quiet work in the space of my immediate sphere of influence–the work Jesus wants me to do (whatever that may be)–I would come to know Him better. I would learn to be more like Him. The impact of this kind of work would be far-reaching and unknowable to most of the world, but God would see it. Mother God, Father God and most importantly, Brother God would see it. Nothing else would matter.
And right there at that four-way stop, before the patchy old asphalt of the Orem road becomes the newer-paved asphalt Welcome to Provo road, I began to understand what it would be like to be truly free from the tethering effects of all that need of worldly stuff. For a brief moment.
It felt like breathing utterly clean air, like flying, like singing with my true voice.
It felt like being like Jesus.
There were other thoughts that followed about Jesus’s life. About lies, betrayal, suffering and taking up a cross. That’s the harder part of coming to know Him. But today I want to share this part with you, dear reader.
The flying, singing part.