Not too far from my house there is a patch of woods that runs along a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. It’s in a place that is quite special to me. To get there you have to enter a cemetery. I grew up not far from this cemetery, so going there is like revisiting my childhood. My siblings and I used to ride our bikes through it as kids. Once in a while, intrigued by the antiquity of them, we would stop to look at the graves.
Once inside the cemetery, the entry point to the patch of woods we like to explore is right behind the statue of Jesus held by his mother. I think of her mother fears as I too join her in letting my children go. We head toward the very edge of the bluff overlooking the train tracks and Missouri river. Sometimes I fear their safety in moments like this, but we head on toward beauty and adventure.
My kids walk past old trees that stood even when I was their age. Trees that have stood the test of time, peeking through and over each other, watching all those buried and weeping. Rooted well I guess.
That is how I want to be. Rooted well.
Still able to stand as I watch death come and go. Able to stand in Christ and for Christ in the good times as well as the bad. Able to say no to the world, yes to Christ. Willing to look like a crazy Jesus freak, when I want to look so normal and acceptable. I want to be rooted in His love, solidly living out trust in His love and acceptance of me.
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” -Colossians 2:6-7
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” -Ephesians 3:14-19
We come upon a cluster of trees still rooted but beaten and bending over the bluff toward the river. Roots still clinging to the ground for life and trunks still bending toward the living water but oh so weathered and beaten. That’s how I want to be.
There are, of course, other trees that didn’t stay rooted. We climb those and sit on them. Amazed at how they can still exist in this world after so many years of being uprooted. We throw rocks over the bluff, visit our secret garden and come out at a friend’s house. We marvel at nature with him and then head back toward our car…through the cememtery.
A woman we know is visiting her deceased husband’s grave. We talk about the hardness of death. She trembles. We fumble for words. We try to struggle with this death talk right smack in the middle of the most beautiful day on earth. I was somewhat relieved when we left and headed toward the car, released from helping someone carry the burden of death. But I couldn’t get in the car. I felt a gentle but firm nudge…a feeling that I just couldn’t get back in the car without going back to pray for that woman. Why didn’t we do it before? And was I crazy to feel this urge?
My deepest desire was to do it. But my flesh…it didn’t want to. I’d look so funny running back to her down that long driveway through the cemetery. What would she be thinking as she sees me on that long jaunt back toward her, all the while probably wanting privacy as she grieves. I stood for several minutes contemplating. My family looking at me strangely, begging me to get in. But no…I couldn’t. I couldn’t get in until I did this thing that was most unexpected. It felt as if my getting back in the car would be the tone I was setting for the rest of my walk with Christ. Really?
This little thing…sensing a heavy burden to pray. That may just be my own thought….or maybe not. This…this is really going to make or break my walk?
I don’t believe if I would’ve walked away the Lord would’ve been angry with me or abandoned me. But I do believe there comes a time when we need to follow what we feel God is calling us to. For the sake of the Lord and all He’s done for us. For our own sakes too. To live a life congruent with what we say we believe. To put Him above our worldly concerns. And the thought of getting in the car just didn’t seem possible. As much as I couldn’t imagine really walking back there to pray for that woman, I couldn’t imagine not doing it.
That there, my friends, is the pattern I normally see when I think the Lord wants me to do something. As much as I can’t imagine doing what I believe He wants, I can’t imagine not doing it. It is when the flesh and the spirit collide and I feel the spiritual world and the physical world at odds. That is usually when I know.
So I said, “I’ll be right back…I have to go back and do something.”
Without taking time to explain, I left my family and walked back…briskly. As awkward as it was, I told her that I felt a burden that, perhaps, the Lord wanted me to come back to pray. She was thankful and accepted the invitation toward awkwardness with a smile and tears.
I must admit, I move in my heart away from death. I want nothing to do with it. As a Christian, I’m not afraid of what will happen after death. But I don’t want to leave my family. I want to keep living out my days here. But this…this rare experience reminded me of the death I do want.
“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” – Paul, Galations 6:13
My ESV study bible says this:
“Paul is saying that the entire world system in all its glory, but in opposition to God, is dead or destroyed in its power to attract him; it has no influence or power over Paul, no appeal to him. Paul is similarly dead to the desires and attractions of the world, for he serves Christ as his new master.”
May this world hold no sway over me. When it doesn’t have sway over me, Holy Spirit stuff happens. This is the kind of death I long for. Death to the world and any caring about what others think that would hinder me from following Christ or from anything He calls me to as I follow Him.
As His Spirit holds more and more sway over us, may we, then, hold more sway in the world.
Linking up this week with the following inspiring and encouraging blogs. I highly recommend visiting any and all of them!