Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Dreaded #3

"Seek out, write down, and then pay careful daily attention to the advice of whoever will 'risk himself' to truly love you, though you might not like the information at present." -- English Proverb

"The journey toward becoming more conscious is often more attractive in theory than it is in practice." -- Carolyn Myss
"I was not ready for the manner in which that man could have changed my life." -- Graham Greene, on why he cancelled an appointment with Christian Mystic Padre Pio, even after waiting over 2 years to have it
"You can even find lots of people to applaud you, to exalt you, to make you feel better about yourself in the midst of your slow suicide." -- Jim Spivey
"Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." -- Proverbs 27:6

For the people I run around with, the idea of constantly transforming more and more into the image of Christ is a romantic one. Many that I talk to about it feel like they have struck gold, so happy and fulfilled with an idea that both suggests 1) that they are okay and acceptable where they are at with no strings attached and 2) that there is the possibility of a promised land ahead where any and all ailments or suffering they are having may magically disappear as they "transform" out of it.
But there is a number 3 to this...and number 3 is not escapable for the soul that really wants the Abundant Life available to them. Number 3 is not optional (meaning you can NOT have the Life unless you do it), it is not avoidable (meaning there is NOT another way of going about it), and it is not transferable (meaning you can NOT have someone else do it). But many, many do opt out of, avoid, or transfer it, and then PRETEND that they have the Abundant Life.
You can tell the souls that really want the Abundant Life from the ones who just  like the idea of the Abundant Life by looking at who does and who doesn't do number 3.
What is number 3? Death. It takes death. It takes suffering, submitting, risking everything, and death.
One of the many ways Jesus said it was, "You can not follow me unless you take up your cross." He was talking about our ego's death.
One of the many ways Paul described it was, "You must be a living sacrifice." He was talking about our Self's death.
Life comes from Death. It's the paradox of the Universe. And even when we have intellectual agreement with this theory, we still can not see what there is in ourselves that needs to die.
Enter stage left: transforming friends. Friends who are committed to the Life. Friends who are committed to you having the Life. Friends who see helping you find and live the Life as part of the abundance of the Life they live. 
One of the most amazing things these friends get to experience with you is when you begin agreeing with the idea that there is "more to life in Christ" (which is ALWAYS true) and you begin talking about idea with excitement. 
One of the most daunting things these friends get to experience with you is when you decide that "the Life" you so want is not worth the "the Death" you must experience to get it. It is at this point that you find out just how much these transforming friends love you, as they fight for you, against you.
You'll know these friends. They are the ones who seem to have an untouchable joy even when you do your best to deter them from pointing you into the "practice" of the "theory" of Abundant Life in Christ. Even when your flesh fights tooth and nail against the discomfort and suffering that is a natural and necessary part of the path to Abundant Life, they just stay there, willing to suffer for you and because of you, just for the chance that you will walk into the riskiness mandatory for your Spirit to feel Alive. They will stay and suffer for you, sometimes fighting against you, risking themselves and their own comfort for you, submitting even unto death so that you can have life.
Just like Jesus did for humanity on the cross.
Something else Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend."
If you have one of these friends...uncomfortable, loving, confronting, grace-filled friends who seem to get find fulfillment in loving others into their own Abundant Life...consider carefully the cost of "breaking your appointment" with them.
Some people don't go to church because they are not ready for the manner in which church might change their lives. Other people have mastered the art of going to church faithfully, still managing to avoid the life change that those who aren't going are afraid of.
Neither one of them are avoiding "church attendance". They are avoiding the people who really are the Church that is actually of Christ...because they are like Christ in how they ruin people's lives for their good and God's glory.