Grotesque

“…‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods.”  Luke‬ ‭12:18‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Jesus speaks of the foolishness of it all.  ““But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’” Luke‬ ‭12:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬.  FOOLISH.  That’s part of you that’s foolish, the part that’s ugly, the part that’s afraid,  mostly because you’re afraid there’s never going to be enough.  Because you live in a world where there is not a God of infinite provision.  You live out of your false self, and Jesus knows you’ve been formed by that and it’s made life intolerable for you.  It’s made life already a kind of interior hell.  Jesus says I want to save you from all of that.  


But you’re going to have to learn the way.  It’s going to be the way of death.  It’s going to be the way of cosuffering love.  It’s going to be the way of letting go.  It’s going to be my way.  You may as well take up a cross, because we’re going to be using that down the road.  Get yourself one of those crosses, because we’re going to use that, not on ourselves.  Jesus says that if you submit to the dominant script of chasing success, it will cost you your soul.  It will cost you the real you.  You’ll become a false self.  Jesus says Even if you win it all, you win the game, but you lose you, the real you, you’re true self is erased, what have you won at all?  It’s not worth it.

It’s not worth it to become someone you’re not.  We want so desperately to succeed.   We are so focused on what’s in it for me?   We even come to realize this is not who I am…but we find ourselves in a place where we simply adopt the wider cultural values of the American dream, of success in life, and if Jesus has any place in that at all it’s just so we can know how he’s going to help us win the game.  But make no mistake, we are playing the game, the same game as the wider culture in which we live.  We want so much to get so much that we have to build bigger barns to hold it all.  

As we follow Jesus more fully, there will be changes coming in our lives.  We may resist, we may try to contain them, but they are coming.  If we are going to follow Him, we will be leaving something else.  You won’t be able to stay where you are, you will find yourself moving somewhere new.  You may not understand it all, may not be able to fully see the trail, but you’ll be on the journey.  Things will begin to change within you.  You may know it, you may feel it.  You may keep it quiet for a while.  But eventually, you will begin to go public with it.

That’s where I’m getting to.  I’m on the path, following Jesus, but I can’t see where it’s taking me.  I’m not sure where I’m going.  I’ve shared this with a few people recently – I really am living one day at a time right now.  As a guy “in recovery”, living one day at a time is highly encouraged, but rarely achieved.  But right now, at this moment in my life, I’m about as close as I’ve ever been.  People come to me on Friday and ask what I’m doing this weekend…I can barely answer.  I’m not thinking that far ahead.   Come to me on Monday, ask about the weekend, I’ll have to stop and think.  It’s in the past, and I’ve let that go.  Ask me what I’ll be doing a month from now, I’ll shrug my shoulders.  But I do know when my beach vacation is.  Just saying…

The point is, don’t come asking me for a five year plan.  Or a three year plan, or even a plan for 2019.  Right now, I don’t have one.  I’m living one moment at a time, leaning into Jesus and his body around me.  Changes are coming, but I don’t know what they are yet.  What does it look like when Jesus has saved your soul?  What’s it like to fully become yourself?   

We have a choice in life.  We can be authentic.  Or we can be grotesque.  But understand what the word grotesque means.  It does not mean just “monstrous” or “hideous”, it also means “grotto-esque”.  “Grotto” as in a cave.  “Cave”-esque.  What does this mean?  To be a stick figure facsimile, a parody of yourself.  To be like a cave drawing.  Either you are authentic or you become a cartoon.  Either you are authentic or you become a joke.  Either you are authentic or you become a facsimile of yourself.  Either you are authentic or you become grotesque…

To follow Jesus is to lose your false self and find your full formed authenticity, but that necessitates dying to the false self.  To die to the false self is not really dying, but it sure feels like it.  To die to the false self is a kind of death, but it’s not the real you that’s dying.  It’s the real you that’s being born.  But the false self, who’s been in control almost your entire life, screams out “I’m dying here!”   To which you need to just say “Hurry up and just die, will you??!!

We fight this, we lash out, we don’t want it to happen.  But it needs to happen.  Dying to the false self is very hard to do because you’ve got so much of your life invested in it.  You’ve spent so much of your life making your false self comfortable, successful, popular, secure, but we know that image has to die.

The real you is calm, peaceful, wise and unafraid, if you can ever find it.  It’s there now.  It’s buried under the rubble that false self that is always agitated, always grasping, tending towards foolish, and always, most of all, afraid.  Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?   

What if a church was doing this together?  Not as an individual project, but what if what if a church together was doing this?   What if your church, together, got more committed to Jesus style authenticity than American style success in life?  What if??  What if we saw Christianity as the saving alternative to the Hunger Games of the world?   You know the Hunger Games, dog eat dog, kill or be killed.  What if we saw the Kingdom of Jesus as the saving alternative to the Hunger Games of the world?

What if we saw the gospel not as a way to give the false self what it wants, but instead the way to discover the full and true way to be human that Jesus leads us into?  What would a church formed like that be in the 21st century? Here’s what Jesus says.   ““Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth….You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives…” Matthew‬ ‭5:13-16‬ ‭MSG‬‬.  There is an alternative to the American way of soul destroying consumerism.  The alternative is the Jesus Way.  It’s the God-revealed way in Christ of authentic human living.  What if a church were to go public with it??   Not claiming perfection but being very honest about our failures and shortcomings sins and failings, but saying Self-help is no help at all.  It’s the way of self sacrifice.  It’s the way of suffering.  It’s the way of giving.  It’s the way of laying down your life.  It’s the way of the cross, it’s the way of Jesus, it’s the way of life.  Come with Jesus and you won’t get cheated.


John Lewis

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