Why We Skip Saturday

girl-with-her-head-downFor Christians, this is a very special week. By tradition, this week follows the last week of Jesus’ life. We often begin by observing Palm Sunday, which is the triumphal (and misunderstood) entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We commemorate Good Friday which is the crucification of Jesus. Finally, we celebrate Easter Sunday which is the resurrection of Jesus.

However, we seem to skip over Saturday. The day in-between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It’s the day after Jesus had died and the day before he lives. For the followers of Jesus during these actual events, this day is marked with doubt, disappointment, and confusion. On Saturday, there is still a body in the tomb. The miracles have ended, and the movement destroyed. Life as they imagined it, has been buried. Their hope in a conquering king has been murdered like a common criminal. It’s over. Saturday rests between doubt and faith.

Have you been there?

Have you been disappointed with God?
Disillusioned by religion?
Has doubt sunk in and your faith died?
Have you come to the end of yourself?

No wonder why we skip Saturday.

We skip from Friday to Sunday so we don’t have to feel the the tomb. We’d rather ask for forgiveness and skip right to a praise song than allow the reason behind that mistake to sink in. We’d prefer to jump right to the resurrection than face our own inner decay. We’d rather suppress our own doubt for a day so we can act like a Christian on Sunday. Sometimes I wonder if Christians are too good at feeling forgiven. We never pause to feel the pain we caused. I wonder if our faith seems shallow to others because we never went deep into our doubt.

For me, this is what makes this Jesus story so profound. He could have gotten up the very next day but he didn’t. Jesus experienced the tomb. He took on the darkness inside. He didn’t run from doubt, but laid inside it.

On Saturday, he invites us to follow him there.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

On Saturday, we go to the tomb. We go right into our doubt, disappointment, and disillusionment. We look inside our questions, habits, and hurts. We sit with our ghosts.

When you go there today, do not go alone. Only Jesus went to the tomb alone. Face your fears with a trusted friend. Discuss your doubt with your spouse. Take time to listen to another’s pain and confusion. Listen well. True Christian community is not standing together on Sunday. It’s holding each other on Saturday.

For a day, don’t try to fix it. Don’t try to ignore it. Don’t rush past it to Sunday. No, Saturday is meant to be experienced. Let it sink in just as the first followers of Jesus did many years ago. The great beauty of faith is not the absence of doubt but the courage to sit in it.

Sunday will bring life.
Saturday invites you to let something die.

 

Eye Conversations, Body Spray, & Why There Are No Shortcuts To Transformation

how-to-talk-about-couples-counseling(1)This morning, Sawyer was rounding the couch and tripped. He spun awkwardly and hit his head on the corner of the wood coffee table. Laura was standing by the back door and I was in the kitchen. We both saw it and heard him cry out. As parents, you get really good at knowing which falls you shouldn’t make a bigger deal and others where you need to spring into action. This was the spring into action kind of fall.

I got there first and he started to run into my arms. I glanced up at Laura and she had her arms open as well. We made eye contact and seemed to have the briefest of conversations without saying a word. I remembered how Linc got in trouble earlier that morning and I got to play good cop by comforting him and talking it out. I remembered how Laura is starting a new job soon and how we’ll be sharing responsibilities more than ever. I could see she felt left out of this moment. I could tell Laura wanted to hold Sawyer, so I shifted him to her.

Conversation over.
We both felt understood.
There was no more to be said.
And we never said a word.

These eye conversations are reserved for only the closest people in our lives. They are the ability to understand how another feels in a split second. They usually come and go in a moment. They show up in our reactions and responses. They are the result of deep intimacy. They come from thousands of shared experiences, lots of listening, conflict, forgiveness, trust, hurt, healing, tears, laughter, inside jokes, and an understanding of love more true in the mundane than the highlights.

Eye conversations don’t happen over night.

AXE_Scent Changes Sight_Hi-ResBody Spray
Sometimes I catch myself in a response or reaction to life and it seems ugly. It’s a flash of anger or cynicism or self-centeredness. I’m never proud of these moments but I’m haunted by the idea I missed something.  It’s those unrehearsed, uncensored, surprising moments of life where our spirituality reveals itself.
And sometimes, rears its ugly head.

Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

I have a friend, Alex, who’s a lot smarter than I am and he told me long ago about an aroma we give off without even trying. It’s what’s inside us revealed unconsciously. If you wanted to extend the metaphor, we could spray on the right Christian actions or morality or service or occasional giving all we want but these are just temporary fixes. Eventually, our true fragrance will come out and it will be either pleasant or putrid.

Therefore, there’s no sense in trying to be a Christian just like there’s no sense in trying to have an intimate relationship with someone. Either we do or we don’t. However, when it comes to Jesus, if I do have an intimate relationship with him, then something starts to smell better. It shows itself in all the unpracticed moments. I catch his eye and instantly know how he feels. We can have a profound conversation without saying a word. Isn’t it true, the real worth of our spirituality is revealed in our reactions rather than our actions?

The response you give to the angry text?
The comeback you give to the sharp comment at the work meeting?
The reaction you give to the person who just cut you off?
The wisecrack you give to the stranger who think differently than you?
The reply you give to a guy who needs to share your coffee table? (this just happened)

These reactions do not change over night.
There are no shortcuts for changing this aroma.

I am the branch and he is the vine. I will not bear sweet smelling fruit until I begin to truly connect with him. Spiritual transformation is a result of deep intimacy. It comes from thousands of shared experiences, lots of listening, conflict, forgiveness, trust, hurt, healing, tears, laughter, inside jokes, and an understanding of love more true in the mundane than the highlights.

May we begin there.
May we put away the christian body spray we’ve settled for.
May our responses be the result of a deep and meaningful relationship with Jesus.
In reaction to those in pain, may we learn to catch his eyes and know exactly how he feels.

How I Stopped Assuming When People Change

truck-enteringI used to think access to heaven meant I had to recall all of my sins and make sure to ask forgiveness for each and every one of them. To me, God was this cosmic recording device in the sky who kept track of each and every one of my mistakes. The problem with this is, it’s hard to imagine unconditional love when my forgiveness is conditional upon my ability to remember things. God became bookends on my day, where I went to sleep saying sorry for all the bad I did that day and wake up reminding myself not to do it again. Church became the weigh station on the side of the freeway every few miles. I even began to resent him a bit. It was a spiritual dead end.

To make matters worse, I’ve had new convictions spring up lately. For instance, just a few years ago, God started pointing out the vulnerable in our city. I’ve been following Jesus for nearly 20 years and I swear to you, he hasn’t brought up the homeless, or trafficked, or orphans at all. It’s really embarrassing to even admit that.

Now, I see God’s commands to care for these people all over the Bible. It’s like I can’t get through a single chapter in the Bible without somehow connecting it to justice. I used to walk by a homeless person and not give it a second thought. Today, I’m compelled to engage, care, pray, and give. Probably sixteen years have gone by without the slightest nudge from God in this area. Currently, this conviction has changed the path of my career, our budget, and even the spare bedroom upstairs.

Funny how that can happen.
Almost makes me wonder what’s next.
I’m less concerned about what mistakes I’ve made in the past and more concerned with where God will move next.

But here’s the clincher.
Please lean in closely, because this is important.

If I believe God took 16 years to challenge me in a certain area…
Am I willing to believe this for another?

For the greedy or addicted or abusive or legalistic or rude or selfish or lazy?
For my LGBT brothers and sisters?

Because if I don’t, I’m ranking their need to change as more urgent than mine. I turn church into that weigh station on the side of the road for others. I find ways to minimize my sin while maximizing other’s. I dictate the order in which God will transform another. As my pastor puts it, I become a hall monitor rather than a gardener.

Will I offer the same grace to another, that I’ve assumed in my own life?
Could I believe God would wait 16 years to confront someone on something unhealthy in their life? How about 17 years? 30? A lifetime?

God help us all, if access to heaven is determined by weather we remember all of our sin or not. If that’s the case, we’re all screwed. If there’s anything I’m certain about, it’s that we will die unfinished.

However, if I let go of my spiritual agenda for others as I have began to do for myself, I can offer a gift. My posture changes from confrontation to walking side by side. I get hopeful and filled with faith. I start seeing saints in sinners and myself in another and Jesus in both of us.

Funny how that can happen.
Almost makes me wonder what’s next.
I’m less concerned about what mistakes you’ve made and more concerned with where God will move next.

God gets off the shelf as the bookend we forced him to be, and becomes alive, active, and surprising. Conviction ceases to harbor resent and now holds adventure. After all, it’s the voice of the God of the universe speaking something new into our lives. Who wouldn’t want to hear that? Who knows what we’ll discover next about what it means to really live?

Lets go find out.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;… 

But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction. It’s the child he loves that God corrects; a father’s delight is behind all this. (Prov. 3:5-12)

Unfriended, 3:00am Arguments, and The Gift Of Curiosity

unnamedA friend of mine recently unfriended me on Facebook.
Well, I guess, I thought we were friends.
We’re pretty opposite and have differing views on gun control, God, and much more. It hurt me because I like to be liked and really learned from his opinions. I know it sounds funny but whenever a relationship ends because of a disagreement I feel like I’ve missed out on an opportunity. It makes me feel incomplete somehow.
I didn’t use to see things this way.

I used to get annoyed with anyone who had a different opinion than mine. I would enter the conversation assuming I was right and they were wrong. I would instinctively look for weaknesses in their argument. I’d stand tall as the defender of truth of which I owned the corner market.  I would get threatened easily. I assumed a question about my opinion was an attack on me personally.  I was arrogant, self centered, and proud. I think that all started to change about seven years ago in the middle of one fateful night.

Childish Methods For Our Adult Problems

Our first child, Lincoln, was five months old. He was caulacky and we had no idea what we were doing. There was a few months he would get up every hour during the night. We were sleep deprived and scared. Laura and I started to turn on each other and I was yelling a lot. I wanted her to let him cry it out and she thought it was too early. We both set our feet in and the argument escalated.

There we were, at three in the morning, yelling at each other in the hallway outside of his room. However, I was louder and able to form my argument faster. I had gotten good at winning our arguments that way and I could tell I was going to win this one soon as well. That was until, she stopped fighting, looked me dead in the eye, and with a calm voice stated, “If you want to win every argument, we both know you can. But what do you want Kyle? Do you want to win every argument or do you want a good marriage?”

Standing in the hallway, her words froze me. For once, I was at a lost for words. I was confronted with the reality, my childish methods in conflict would not solve my adult problems. I was a child throwing a fit until I got my way. I would either grow or I would lose her.

Triggers Are Teachers

So, we got counseling. I started getting better tools for conflict. But more than anything, a true curiosity began to awaken inside me. I stopped seeing other’s opinions as threats and started seeing them as opportunities for growth. My friend Seth has taught me, what triggers me can be my teacher. I think he’s right. If I let my guard down, and let in another’s view, there’s a chance I can allow them to teach me. God can use them to bring out the deep wounds and insecurities inside I would have never discovered by surrounding myself with only those who I agree with. If I choose curiosity in conflict, then I start to peer inward and uncover why I’m so threatened, or angry, or offended. And what I’ve found is those “why” questions are not virtuous endeavors to defend the truth at all. They come from fear.
And friend, please hear me on this…
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. (1)

Beyond Curiosity

Now, when it gets really interesting is when I start allowing those curiosities to become characteristics I appreciate. So, it’s no longer how I disagree with my ex-Facebook friend about gun control. But through curiosity, I started to sincerely appreciate how much he wants to defend the vulnerable. While I disagree with those who oppose gun control, I can now affirm their value for justice. I can take a step back and respect or even admire those who I have disagreements with. Issues become less black and white as I slowly gain the wisdom to navigate the grey.

That’s what I meant at the beginning about feeling incomplete when being unfriended. God places people in each of our lives to grow us and growth happens best where there is tension, not comfort. We can choose to run from this tension or embrace it.
Even better…
Run into it.
Allow it to shape you.
Force yourself to ask the question, “Why is this triggering me?”
Give up your childish methods and let down your guard.
God is trying to grow you, and he uses the differences in others to do so.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. -1 Cor. 13:11

 

  1. 1 John 4:18