As 2013 slips farther behind us and 2014 is bursting out all over our madcap lives, I find myself overcome by and beside myself with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Not just thankfulness: I feel that thankfulness is what we feel when we’re given a really good movie or a cutting edge gadget. Gratefulness is what we feel when we wouldn’t have made the house payment this month without that person’s help. Gratefulness is when our child (or we ourselves) steps in front of a moving vehicle and some unknown hero shoves her (or us) out of harm’s way. These are certainly extreme examples, but I think they illustrate my point: thankfulness comes more from the lips. Gratefulness comes more from the gut.
Why have I felt this gratefulness so intensely? I believe part of it is because I have been dealing with health issues these past few months (part of the reason that I have been so terrible about updating this site.) For some reason these health issues have snapped me not into a whining and “woe-is-me” state, but just the opposite: everything has a fresh significance to it. A new importance and vitality. I find my emotions towards things that are beautiful, wondrous and sacrificial to have been heightened exponentially. And perhaps that has led me to my other thoughts.
I’ve been thinking about the king of the world who was born an illegitimate child to an unmarried mother. Even though he was embraced by his mother’s fiancé, there was never really a question as to whether he was his or not. During a time when adultery (as this would have been seen) was punishable by stoning, he had been ruled unwanted and unworthy of life. If the voices of society had their way, he would have been conveniently disposed of. He was born not in a hospital or even a house, but in a cave surrounded by animal dung and wet straw. He was ushered into a family not of privilege, but of poverty and enslavement. He was hunted. He was oppressed. He was not the sort of person that people wrote limitless volumes of literature about like the Greek heroes: in the world’s eyes he was destined to be forgotten. But he was and is the King of the world.
I’ve been thinking about a man, solitary and alone, who was abandoned by every friend he had and executed cruelly — not because he had to be, but because he knew that there was no one else in the entire world who could stand in his place. I’ve been thinking about a man who saw his brothers drowning in the mire, and dove in with them — not just to be able to commiserate with their suffering, but to pull them up out of it and show them a better way.
I’ve been thinking about Perfect Love dying for his friends.
Every day we are looking for a super hero. Someone who will be bigger than us, stronger than us, and do the things that we cannot. The super hero is not a myth. He is real. He is a champion for all people: for the unborn and unwanted, because he himself was unborn and unwanted. For the poor and oppressed, because he was as well. For the broken, sick and lost, because he was the healer and the light in the darkness. For the low in spirit, because he could lift them up. For the thirsty and hungry, because he offered food and drink that were worth far more than a meal. For the distressed and the dying, because he would go to the ends of the earth and beyond to save them. He would even conquer death to give the dying new life. The super hero exists. Believe it. He is called Messiah, Christ, Hero. He is called Jesus of Nazareth.
I am broken. I am empty and I am sick. But in that desperate state, I find myself saved by a super hero who is willing to cross Heaven and earth to find me, to sacrifice his life for mine, and to rise again, brilliant and regal, as the King of Creation. And beyond all of that, He is willing to lift me up out of the mire and make me a joint heir of His Kingdom. I tremble in wonder, awe and incredible gratefulness before Him. And I know He will do the same for you. In fact, he already has. All you have to do is believe it.
I find myself weeping uncontrollably quite often recently. It overtakes me at strange times and in inconvenient places. But I weep because greater love has no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friend. The God of the universe considered me worth enough to be considered a friend, and to die for me. And for this I am uncontrollably grateful.