The winter here in Minnesota was pretty mild, and the transition into spring was different from the other thirteen years we have been at our current house. I was reminded of how the seasons in nature mirror the seasons of our lives. The natural, predictable changes and rhythms of nature are emulated in our lives. Even though the changes of those seasons can be seen in advance, there are still storms and surprises that are present in every season. Fall brings the cool, dry weather, while winter brings the snow and cold. Spring, the wind and rains. And when a storm hits, it inevitably ushers in change with it. It forces you to adapt and adjust to the new situation, and while the storm is raging, you must shore up the foundations of your life and exercise your faith to get through.
I thought of the season of life I am currently in, and how I have to adjust to changing realities. Here are a few of those changes. My wife, Julie, and I are expecting our first grandchild. I lost a couple of close friends at work, and I am starting over with a new team. My wife is going back to school, and now because of that, we have changing responsibilities at home. Our youngest child could be moving out at any time, and we would become “empty nesters”. My aging father is 86 and living alone. Spending more time with him is a priority.
Then, there are the changes in world situations, and the rising conflict and polarization of people over just about every conceivable subject. One day you’re on the right side of popular sentiment, and the next, you are on the wrong side. Sometimes perceived dangers are more dangerous than real ones.
As we get closer to Easter, I have been thinking about how Jesus navigated the world in which He lived. I think about the monumental change that was about to happen, and as it approached, what did He do?
The momentary discomfort I feel in the storms and seasons of my life pales in comparison to what Jesus went through for us. I, too often, feel that the callous of life has bypassed America and this generation. We have become softened up by comfort and hypersensitive to any perceived pain. It is this reality that I need to guard against. No sacrifices, no looking out for your neighbor, no setting aside a little of me for a little of you.
Isaiah 53: 2-8
He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people.
Jesus was preparing to set aside all of Himself for all of you. He wasn’t wrestling with the government of His day. He wasn’t out protesting. He was meeting needs of those who were right in front of Him.
His sacrifice for me and all of my selfish ways is that much more remarkable the more I think about it. Because of that, I want to live and act out the love He gave me to others. But at times, I feel stuck, like I should be doing something on a grand scale. But then I am brought back to Jesus' words:
Okay, I can do that. Let’s start there. Maybe that’s the key anyway. How can I have more influence on those around me? If we all did that, maybe things would change on a large scale anyway.
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
As I think of my seasons and storms, in light of what the Lord went through, it is like comparing the soft summer rain to the hurricane. This gives me strength in knowing my perceived discomforts are light and momentary, and it fills me with gratitude for what has been done for me. For when I feel grateful, I also am humbled, and I am less apt to be offended or hurt.
When I reflect on the times in my life when people have done something for me, with no strings attached, it draws me closer to them in friendship. Because really, why would they do that for me? But this is just a glimpse of what the Lord did for all of us.
This Easter, I will bow my head in awe of the simple and powerful message that tells us of God, who came in the flesh, lived a sinless life, and died for all of my sins so I may have eternal life. He paid the penalty and took the punishment for what I deserve. A simple grace that is quite remarkable.
In the meantime, I think I will go visit my dad.
May God bless you richly this Easter season as you put into remembrance all He endured for you.