Sometimes we need to remember the basics. When things get hard or messy or ugly or complicated, let’s remember what actually matters.
We often get tied up and distracted by the complex questions of life, or we create theological mazes that we can get lost in. We try to outsmart and outperform and prove ourselves worthy of something, something we cannot even really define.
The devil is a distractor. It’s one of his best tricks. He whispers lies and takes our eyes off of what we should be focused on. He snaps his finger at the side of our head so we turn off course. He shines pretty things that catch the corner of our eye and makes us unsatisfied. He’s a sneaky piece of crap.
So back to the basics. Because we all can’t agree on much, but I think we potentially could agree on this: we as a world are deep, deep down a hole of unhappiness and questioning and ultimately, weariness. And we need to shake off all the excess, the fights that aren’t worth it, the striving that is unnecessary, the words and the yelling and the arguing and the proving and the more, more, more. The never-enough that we create for ourselves and project onto others – let’s just lay it all down, shall we? We carry burdens that are not meant for us. Silly us.
Now that we have set down our heavy burdens and rested for a moment, let’s return to the beginning. Ah yes, the basics. Remember Jesus? Yeah, that guy. That really delightful, fiery, radical person. He came into this world and from the first moment didn’t really care what anyone thought of him. Born of a teen virgin, teaching adults as a youth, flipping tables, rebuking the “righteous” and hanging out with the outcasts of society. He gave a middle finger to societal expectations, really. He said, the old way of doing things? Yeah, it was exactly that: old. Here I am, and I am making all things new. Don’t be chained to your old ways. Experience transformation! Freedom! Truth!
When all else in this world frustrates or disappoints me, I always come back to Jesus. When the Bible is confusing or overwhelming, Jesus. When the church is disappointing or anger-inducing, Jesus. When community inevitably lets me down, Jesus. When authority figures take too much power, Jesus. When an agenda is thrust upon me, Jesus. You get the idea. He is so fully lovely, I can hardly handle it. I actually can’t handle it. It’s more than I can bear, in the best way. I sit with Him and I feel whole for the first time. I feel known, loved, cherished. I am rejoiced over. All the lies that the world and the devil have whispered or yelled, He rebukes in one tender look. “He is love itself, Grace embodied, holding the fullness of who we are – strong, weak, good, bad, wild, fearful, brace, silly – in his hands.” (Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect)
I could go on forever about Him. He’s pure goodness. And when I doubt literally everything else about the world and my faith, I never, ever doubt Jesus. WHAT A WONDERFUL NAME IT IS.
Jesus, yes, he is the one in front of whom we lay down our heavy burdens. He is the one who says, “take my yoke upon you – it is easy, and my burden is light,” the burden of following Jesus is the lightest burden; it’s really no burden at all. It reminds me of my most recent favorite song lyric: “Love at any cost is a bargain.” Whatever we have to give up in order to follow Jesus – is the lightest burden to bear. To follow Him we lay down our selfishness – gosh, that was heavy. We lay down our desire to be right – woah, I’ve been carrying that? We give up the pressure of being perfect, He says, I just call you to be MINE. We lay down unmet expectations, we lay down past hurts, we throw down our past mistakes because when we try to hide behind them He just points at the Cross. “It is finished,” He says, “no need to keep carrying those around.” We lay down even our dreams and hopes for the future – even though some heavy burdens seem worth carrying, His are lighter and His dreams are better.
Now that He is resurrected, since He conquered death, we can stand with Him and look at the Cross – we can remember together that He was victorious and therefore so are we; He won the battle, and therefore so did we.
He looks to the two pieces of wood and the nails, and says, I did that for you. Not so that you would spend the rest of your life proving yourself worthy, I already said you are. Not so you would try to fix people in My Name, because I already did. I definitely didn’t do this so that you could tell the rest of the world they are outsiders and not included. This was for each and every one of you.
The basics. The basics of our faith is this: there was a God who created us, who sent His Son to save us from our own brokenness, and who is capable of transforming and redeeming us into the people He designed us to be all along.
There are a whole lot of things in this world that get piled on top, things that make us doubt and question (which is not always a bad thing!), things that confuse us and take our attention away from the One who deserves it all.
When life is messy and hard, when it seems like our world is headed full speed towards destruction, when fear is ever present, I think of the One who I follow. I remember the beautiful way He loved people, the remarkable way He included everyone, the counter-culture life that He introduced to His followers. I want to be like that. Nothing else matters.