“We will so order our lives after the example of Christ…”
That’s the beginning of the prayer we offer to newly baptized children or just confirmed young people in our church. This phrase always catches me. It’s that word: order. Not just act like Christ. Not just dress up like Christ. Not just have Christ as a playmate or an imaginary friend. I am promising to order my life after His example. Whoa! Now there is a tall order.
I am pretty sure I have been getting this wrong. Normally, I place my order. I’d like this healing and this protection and this special consideration, and maybe toss in a few of these extras, if it’s not too much bother, Lord. I’m surprised I haven’t heard a resounding, “Would you like fries with that, ma’am?” from heaven.
But God’s not about giving orders, just establishing order. Re-ordering things that have fallen away or gotten out of line.
How about instead of giving orders I “be the order.” That is, take it upon myself to be this very thing, to actually personify the very thing I want to bring. Hey, writers do this all the time. It’s a figurative language technique where non-living or non-human things are given human characteristics.
- The trees clapped their hands
- Amber waves of grain
- The sun smiled
- The earth melted
- My winnings evaporated before my eyes
It’s a very powerful way to make a comparison. Effective. Gets you right there. Simile is such a weakling; metaphorical language lassos you. Gotcha!
So, why not “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” as Gandhi said. I can seek to be order, be healing, be patience, calm, wisdom. Not act like I’m the doctor or pretend that I can wait or put on a veneer of calm or an air of wisdom. Bolder than any of these, I can be them. Not impersonate these qualities, but personify them. Become them in my very person.
Then I will stop asking how can I establish order, stop trying to orchestrate the world around me and turn to the One in me who knows my circumstances and put me here as His emissary. By Be-ing what’s needed I will act differently because the one who’s behaviors I can control, I do: mine. They’re mine to manage and His to guide. I can Be because the Great I Am, is. I feel like He can work with this. Probably all my relationships are heaving a huge sigh of relief right about now.
This all sounds good until you have one of those days. Too little sleep and too many things pinging from too many directions have you scattered and turning in circles. I had to hang up on the guy calling with the quote I wanted because I couldn’t focus on one thing at once. Yes, that bad. The gibberish my brain was feeding me was so disordered, I dared not venture out into the world.
Just then, my handbag glared at me. It was sitting on the seat of my desk chair, snickering. The small compartments to the side had collapsed and were spilling their contents into the black hole of its middle. I could live with this except for one thing: in that black hole was my cell phone. UGHH!
Be the order.
Yes, Wendy, you can return this bag to its ordered self by supplying a few stitches to the side compartment.
Yep, I pulled out that sewing kit, squinted to thread that needle, applied a few running stitches and poof. A few, rare, domestic moments later, I had two functional pockets with cell phone, pens, business cards, and sticky notes all in their customary spots.
God knows I need order. But this isn’t something I need to seek elsewhere. God has made it available to me in Himself. As I complete the row of stitches I marvel at the order. I haven’t just sewn stitches, I’ve sown order. With God’s help, after the example of Christ, it’s a simple fix. Whoa! Who would have thought God with bother with something so terrestrial?
But hey, if a writer can bring life to story by giving human characteristics to non-human things, is it so far-fetched to think that God can bring His story to life by investing human things with Divine characteristics?
… perhaps we can do this …
With God’s help, we will so order our lives after the example of Christ… that all His children, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.
Have you ever had one of those moments? When you got THE news you had been waiting for? THE opportunity you had worked long and hard toward? THE break of a lifetime?
I have recently, and it caught me totally by surprise. It’s the oddest thing. You believed in the promise, but now that you’re holding the confirmation, it doesn’t quite seem real. You look again, just for confirmation. Yep, it’s real.
What do you do? Well, you smile and your heart races and you have the sudden urge to tell your friends. If no one is around, you post it on Facebook. Lotsa friends there. People are happy for you. They congratulate you.
But after the moment of initial elation, things start to settle. You hold the thing just a little bit closer, feel its warmth, it’s life. It looks up at you as if to say, “I’m yours. Now what?”
This moment is especially vivid for me having just been mesmerized by the cover art on this month’s (the January-February 2014 edition) of the Upper Room Magazine. It literally stopped me in my tracks. A bearded man clutching a small, swaddled child to his breast. The two are awash in a map of the world. Beaming from the child’s blanket is a point of light.
The look on the man’s face, is it joy or is it pain? The artist himself calls it “ecstasy.” This is Simeon, the priest in the temple when Mary and Joseph brought their baby boy to “do what was customary under the law.”
What must that moment have looked like? What does it feel like to hold the Son of God in your arms? The second chapter of Luke tells us…
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.” Now, he could be dismissed in peace.
Complete and utter joy. Simeon had waited his whole life for this moment. But, the look on his face, is it joy or pain? Because these moments are just that, moments. You can only stand and revel in your Facebook congratulations so long, then you have to do something.
Simeon told the child’s parents what he knew of what was ahead for this child. That was both good news and bad. And that’s the way with moving ahead into whatever comes. It’s not all good. But you can’t stay in the glory. You’ve got to get to work. This gift is not for holding or hoarding, it’s for using and sharing.
So, you take a step. Perhaps a tiny step. Or maybe in your enthusiasm you take a giant leap, waving your new book contract above your head screaming, “Lookie here! I’m gonna be published!”
Some people dance and sing for you, saying, “Now you made it! Congratulations, I knew you could do it!” They figure that all that’s left is the coasting. Sit back and let the royalties roll on in. Not so fast.
Other people, those more in the know, look you straight in the eye and say, “Now that the miracle has been delivered, what will you do with it?”
Holding a miracle flings open every door in the house. The wind howls in the hallway. The curtains start flapping. Everything that’s not nailed down takes flight. God’s that big. You are that fortunate. The weight of that moment is huge. Good thing, because otherwise you would be swept up in the whirlwind, too.
Instead, you hold it close, feel it nestle against you, it’s heart beating strong and true. It looks up at you in total trust. The eyes look back at you, big and brown and soft and somehow intense. You look down, trying to reassure it, reassure him, even as all around you the ideas and the opportunities spin. Dizzying, if it weren’t for your focus. Hold on!
What do you do when you’ve been given the one thing you’ve always wanted – a crowning achievement, glory itself?
Embrace it. Nurture it. Go for it.
“Use what you have in your hands. It’s mine. It’s me. It’s ours.”