I almost didn’t go to Cross Training last night. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve missed it this year – heck, not even this month. But my reasoning last night as to why I didn’t want to go was different than every other week. It was much more personal.
Every year around Valentine’s Day, Tony takes a week or two to discuss sex and relationships. Last week he brought in a guest speaker, Clint, to speak about sex and I imagine it was a good message (like I said, attendance has been minimal). But this week it was his turn and he decided to talk about relationships. And that’s why I didn’t want to go: I don’t like to talk about relationships.
Why then talk about them now? Because I had a good heart-to-heart with God a few hours before Cross Training last night and it ultimately influenced me to go. You see it all starts with this deep, oftentimes uncontrollable, desire to marry. I want a wife. I want kids. I want to be someone I didn’t often see growing up: A loving husband and father. Part of the struggle with this desire is that I’m very impatient. Like the Bad Lip Reading of Jim Harbaugh, I’m oftentimes this frustrated, whiny little kid complaining about how he hasn’t had a girlfriend ever and that he’s waited so long and blah, blah, blah.
Usually every time someone asks about if I’m seeing anyone or why I might not be interested in a particular girl, this issue of mine comes to the surface. In those conversations, I quickly clam up and either give short answers or don’t answer at all. And no matter what might happen throughout the rest of the day, all I’m thinking about is how I wish I had someone to get all cuddly with for movies or get excited and giggly when someone asks me about her. And every time I feel that desire, I’m brought to the reality that I don’t have it. It upsets me.
So when the time came to go to Cross Training and hear about how relationships are supposed to work and relive all the frustrations of being single, I sat down with God to explain to Him why I didn’t want to go. I started with the shame and guilt that I feel for having hurt girls in the past. And then I talked about all the times I had been hurt when opening my heart to someone and hearing them tell me how they don’t feel the same. And before I could get to my persuasive conclusion as to why I was justified in not attending last night’s Cross Training, I could hear God whisper to me: “It’s not about you.”
Yes, this sounds insensitive, but you have no idea how much freer I feel having heard that. Why? Because what God pointed me to last night wasn’t something that makes me feel worthless; He pointed me to something that gives me every bit of confidence in the world. He pointed me to the Gospel.
In the past couple of weeks, a group of us from Emmaus Life have been going through this book called the Tangible Kingdom Primer. Its focus is obviously God’s kingdom and what has – not surprisingly – come up time and time again is the definition of the Gospel. What is it? Is it a ticket to heaven because of some prayer we pray or statement of faith we sign off on? Is it a checklist of various things God wants us to believe and do in order for us to earn His favor? Or is it a self-help phrase that we should use in order to get over our depression and insecurities? Well, yes, it’s partially those things, but definitely not limited to them. It is believing in the redemptive actions of Jesus on the cross as a model to follow in our every day lives.
What were those redemptive actions? Yes, He was flogged and then crucified, but that’s not what I’m talking about. What happened before that? He healed, He taught, He fed people, and He washed His disciples’ feet. In His time, that was a job reserved for the slaves of slaves – the lowest of the low – not for kings. And yet here Jesus was in John 13 stooping down to clean the feet that followed Him.
His sacrifice on the cross must never be minimized from what it was and is: Our atonement. But a king’s intentional death is meant to wake people up and consider the life the king lived – after all, how else could you truly understand what the king died for the in first place?
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” – Matthew 20:26-28
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” – Matthew 16:24
Jesus’ Gospel is about nothing else but service and sacrifice. And no, He does not mean serving yourself or sacrificing for yourself; He means to imply that it is not about you, but rather the people who need you.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,’” – Matthew 9:36-38
And this is a message that applies to everyone – even the single hopeful-romantics like me. Being a good coworker, friend, or spouse doesn’t begin when you realize what you want; it begins when you realize what you must give.