I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember, which has saved me from much trouble in life, and for that I’m immensely thankful. I don’t need to have an incredible conversion story in which I left the biker gang to feel that my faith is real. But there are times where this kind of longevity can create difficulties, and I need old truths to become fresh again. When you’ve been hearing the same things since you were a child, it can be easy to take them for granted as abstract truths with no bearing on day to day life.
Take the teaching that Jesus left the sweet, perfect communion with the Trinity in heaven and came to earth. Phillipians 2:6 talking about Jesus says, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!” Having heard this a million times, it is easy for me to take it all for granted, that Jesus left his home and gave up everything, making the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. I’m more than a little embarrassed to admit that this reality usually elicits very little of a response from me. I gloss over it, thinking there must be deeper truths about God to be explored. After all, everyone knows what Christmas is all about, just like they know why we celebrate Easter. But through my recent life experience, God was gracious enough to remind me of His love in coming to earth. I want to draw your attention to the incredible ways that God uses our life experiences to teach us and relate to us.
A Big Move
We just moved across the country to Washington from Maryland. I’m very excited to be here, and it’s been something I’ve wanted for a long time. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. A long move like that is loaded with stressors, and since we’ve been here I have faced the inevitable homesickness that comes with such a change. Everything is new and strange, there are no familiar places from which to draw comfort, and the family and friends I often relied on are thousands of miles away. I was feeling the pang of this sharply the other night. As the Spirit often does, I heard a gentle voice reminding me that this is a tiny fraction of how Jesus must have felt on earth. He is more intimately acquainted with homesickness, loneliness, and all other types of suffering than I ever will be. As it is written, “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”(Matthew 8:20) I miss imperfect places and people, and I have moved to what I consider a desirable place. Jesus left God’s side for the broken mess of earth and was surrounded by people who didn’t understand him at best and murdered him at worst.
Spurgeon puts it this way: “He solemnly determined that to offer a sufficient atoning sacrifice He must go the whole way, from the highest to the lowest, from the throne of highest glory to the cross of deepest woe. He would not stop short of all He had undertaken to suffer for His people." I was feeling sorry for myself, thinking of all I’d given up and in a flash, the teaching of the Incarnation became more than a children’s story. This chastised, comforted, and led me to worship. But it also taught me something about getting to know Jesus better.
We are relational creatures and so we need truths we can relate to. Have you thought about this? Part of the reason we are urged so often to imitate Christ and to share in His sufferings is because it helps us to draw closer to Him. When you meet someone and discover that they have experienced the same things, even if they happened to visit the same restaurant we’ve been to once, we immediately feel closer to them, we get excited, and we have something to talk about. If they went to the same school as us or lived in a town we lived in, we have even more to discuss. If we knew some of the same people then we’re really jiving and beginning to think we could become friends. We connect by sharing experiences. I’m sure we all can connect with this feeling of being outside our comfort zone and the terror and loneliness that comes with it. The God of the Universe made a bit of a cross country move himself, and He did it to save me. I hope that now whenever I feel that ache, I will be reminded of what Jesus gave up for me and that I will long for heaven the same way that He did. If we are unwilling to follow in the suffering of Christ, or be out on a limb, we are robbing ourselves of the chance to get to know Him more intimately.
The Incarnation is a call to follow His example in leaving comfort behind in order to accomplish something for the kingdom. This is a unique way that I can imitate Christ. Not all of us are called to make big moves, but we can make this truth fresh in our lives whenever we push aside our comforts and give something up in an effort to follow God’s purposes for our lives. It is only a temporary leaving and homesickness anyway. Jesus’ little trip made it possible for all of us to follow Him back to heaven in a little while. Oh the things we will have to talk about.