As 2016 draws to an end I have been revisiting this past year in relationship to my word God gave me for the year. In January of 2016 He whispered the word “willing” to my heart as I was reading John 6:21 “then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.”
So often when you see the word willingly in the Bible it is followed by an immediately. I was so taken with that revelation – how God is a God of immediacy when we surrender and willingly bend to His will.
Why is it so hard to bend to His will?
I am reminded of Paul in Galatians 5:17 “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” We are at constant war with ourselves, the flesh and the spirit. The spirit desiring to lay it all down, to surrender, to invite and willingly receive Jesus into the boat but the flesh is at the helm fighting to stay in control, go its own way. Immediately is delayed as we wrestle with the things of God, the invisible, the unknown and unseen. The flesh wants evidence and assurance and vision to see before stepping into this “willingly” that the spirit abandons to.
The struggle is real!
I never really understand my word and what God’s up to on the front end. Not really! Willing seemed harmless enough – sure I am willing, I want all of the good things of God, I want to invite Him in and let Him move and control my sailing ship…but I had some invisible expectations, I wanted things to go a certain way, I still wanted to hold onto the rudder and steer into the choppier waters. Sure, Jesus was invited but I wanted to maintain control.
Yea, that’s the part I didn’t see coming.
In John 5 we are introduced to a certain man that had an infirmity for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” (Are you willing?) The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.
He had been sick for 38 years, he’s lying by the pool for healing, seems obvious he wants to be well…so why did Jesus ask? Because truth be told, we like to hold onto our stuff. There’s a familiarity, a sense of control, a comfort, if we are honest. We have been in this place a long time and it doesn’t shake off too easily. It holds us as we hold onto it.
So I embraced my new word and God got to work.
Are you willing?
Do you want to be made well?
Will you let me into the boat and take you to the other side?
My spirit delighted with an excited, YES!”
My flesh fought with a resounding, “NO!”
And the battle revved up!
The flesh is strong you know? It can hold out for a long time. It will take the beating and suffer longer than it needs to. It will hold its breath and like a two year old having a temper tantrum will lie on the ground, right there at the feet of a holy, patient God, and kick its feet hoping to have its way.
I can see that picture so clearly, my adult self laying down at His feet wailing and carrying on in an effort to sway His resolve and wear Him down so that He will give in and let me have my way. But He is a good, good Father and He does not relent, He stands strong in the face of opposition, holding out for His children to give them the best of what He has to offer them. He is not moved by my momentary angst and violent outbursts. He steps over me and goes about His business, waiting for me to regain my composure, to get up and willingly follow after Him. He has quite the patience and endurance, because sometimes He waits a llllloooooonnnnngggggg time for me! I can be quite stubborn!
This has been a year of a lot of kicking and screaming, flailing and failing. I have sat in the bottom of the pit far longer than I needed to because I was unwilling to take His hand and let Him help me out. Are you willing? Nope! As I shake my fist, mad at the world, discontent, disappointed, disapproving.
When we are led by the flesh we are fleshy! We move into the space of judgment, comparison, control, blame, insecurity, shame…we are diminished. And we dwindle as we lay beside the pool pitiful. Jesus comes and stands beside us, with compassion in His eyes, and asks this seemingly obvious yet deeply profound question,
“Do you want to be made well?”
“Are you willing? Are you ready YET? Have you had enough?”
I wasn’t ready the first several times He asked me that question. I stayed fleshy for awhile, mad at Him, mad at the world. He would step over me, going about His business. But like a good parent, He never went too far, just far enough to let me know that my tantrum was of no consequence to Him. He didn’t deem it as good or bad, He had no opinion about it, I got no reaction from Him as a result of it. Near yet unbothered by my display. Personally, I think He chuckles at the sight of it. I mean it is quite a sight to behold…a 45 year old having an all-out temper tantrum is a quite a show!
It’s exhausting too. I wore myself out, which, I am pretty sure was His plan all along. Exhausted, spent, at the end of myself – yep, that’s where He wants us to finally to come to – at the end of ourselves – that is when we look around, reach a hand up and ask for help. And He doesn’t hesitate! He pulls us up from the muck and mire and draws us into His embrace. He seats us on a bench in the boat, takes the helm and immediately we are on the other side.
Lessons I learned in 2016:
Are you willing to let me be your focus? Yes!
Are you willing to rest and stop striving? Yes!
Are you willing to do what I ask and not measure your worth in outcomes? Yes!
Are you willing to forgive, stop blaming, and lay down all expectations of others? Yes!
Are you willing to do the little, seemingly insignificant? Yes!
Are you willing to show up where I ask you to? Yes!
Are you willing to let go of relationships not meant for you? Yes!
Are you willing to trust me with the desires of your heart? Yes!
Are you willing to be the you I created you to be? Yes!
So in the end all that kicking and screaming along the way was so worth it! With every kick something was violently shaken off, with every scream something was fiercely released out. The flesh growing weaker and weaker.
A friend recently asked me this question that I have been pondering for a couple of weeks now, “What would it look like if you were not disappointed?”
It would look like Willing-
Willing to live without expectation, judgment, or earthly reward. Willing to be present and real. Willing to keep my heart open no matter what. Willing to be me with others no matter the cost. Willing to live on purpose, finding the treasure hidden in the grime and gore of other’s souls helping them to unearth it and see it in themselves.