Friday, March 13, 2015

Why Joy Doesn't Come...

I'm going to make a plug once again for Kelly Minter's study, What Love Is...
One reason I'm mentioning it again is because much of what I'm going to share came from video session 7 in that study and I want you to know where I got this spiritual insight - it didn't come from me.
I listened to the video last night and woke up thinking about it this morning. Kelly is a good story teller but the truths she reveals in those stories are profound, no matter how simple the story may sound on the surface.
In this session she talked about how she had been a practicing Christian - in Christ, Christ in her, into the Word, etc. - and yet...
And yet one day when she was jogging, she asked the Lord why there was no joy in her life and to her shock, this thought passed through her mind: because you have idols in your heart.
She immediately wanted to dismiss that thought but then God showed her that an idol is anything that dominates our thoughts and/or is something we feel we have to have in order to be happy. It is something that, when it doesn't go the way we want it to, we feel despondent or upset.
Well, I know that... Don't I?
But really, does that mean that carrying a grudge can be an idol? Or clinging to a relationship when it's not healthy - can that be an idol?
I began to think about it - what things occupy my thoughts? What things do I feel I have to have in order to be happy? What things cause a visceral gut reaction when I first realize that this or that may be suddenly taking a turn that I don't like and didn't expect?
Then Kelly goes on to talk about Mary of Bethany. And she brought out a progression in Mary's relationship with Jesus that I'd never seen before.
First Mary sat and listened to Jesus. We know that story probably - Martha is running around, busy, distracted, and frustrated. WHile Mary is sitting at the teacher's feet,listening, absorbing, learning. Why? Because she doesn't like to wash dishes or cook? (Um... that would be me, actually...)
No. Because, as Jesus explains to Martha, what Mary is absorbing will never be taken from her. Ever. Not by old age, Alzheimer, or even death. And somehow Mary "got that". So she opted for something that was not an idol, something that couldn't disappoint her.
But then we see her beside the body of her dead brother. Jesus has a plan but she doesn't know that. And she is deeply grieving. And deeply disappointed. Really rocked to the core of her being.
And then Martha comes to her and says what Kelly said may be the most beautiful words in Scripture: "The teacher is here and he's calling for you."
And inspite of her deep disappointment, Mary gets up and goes to Jesus. Only this time she doesn't sit at his feet,smiling, and learning. No. She throws herself at his feet and blurts out her anguish, "Lord, if You had been here then _______________ wouldn't have happened." Scripture doesn't leave a blank there - Mary is specific: if You had been here, my brother wouldn't have died. But I put a blank there because, as Kelly says, we probably all have that cry in our hearts somewhere,harking back to a recent event or even maybe to a long ago event where we just got stuck. Our spiritual heart got mired in the quicksand of, "Lord, if you had been here... " then... my marriage wouldn't have turned to dust, my finances wouldn't have failed, this venture wouldn't have folded before it's time, my kid wouldn't have done this or that, my loved one wouldn't have died, my health wouldn't have gone South, etc.
So, even though all Mary could see was apparent failure as well as  a wall of grief that she could not get around and which couldn't possibly lead to anything good, she still went to the Master, fell at His feet and poured out her grief. "IF only You had been here, then....
Finally, we see her one more time - this time kneeling at the feet of Jesus, breaking a bottle of priceless perfume/oil and pouring out this expensive liquid over Jesus' feet. Spikenard was used to prepare a body for burial and that is what Mary is doing. Once again, she gets it. What Jesus teaches and what He gives, the way He loves and guides - all of that is lasting. It won't be taken away from her.
And she understands. HE is the resurrection and the life. She knows it. She's seen it..
Hence she is thrilled to give everything she has to Him in an extravagant act of love. Because she knows Him and she knows what He is worth.
Sitting at His feet, learning. Throwing ourselves at His feet, when life takes a turn we didn't expect or want. Pouring out our treasure at His feet in joyful surrender.
And no room for false idols along the way.

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