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“You feel like you are swaddled, right?” I was talking with a friend about some of my frustrations during this stage of life. I am a factory of projects and ministry ideas. But entering the world of those I am called to serve and becoming like them has meant saying no to pursuing many of those dreams. It seems like “The Season of Unfinished Things.” I know I am not alone.
Saying yes to:
- learning language;
- supporting your spouse in his current role;
- homeschooling your kids because it is the only way you can stay in country with your family;
- taking up that position on your team;
- or, working on that tentmaking job to keep a visa
has meant limiting yourself in some form: time, sleep, energy, personal preferences, home, relationships. You may truly feel like you haven’t found your niche—the place that makes you fully come alive.
Swaddled – constricted, wrapped around like a baby so tight we can’t move – is a great word for how we may feel. And when we feel so constricted, it is so easy to resent how limiting it is to enter the world of those God has given us to nurture and serve.
Meditating on the Incarnation of Jesus has been a wonderful gift the past many months. Turning my gaze from my life to the life of Christ has strengthened me and given me joy for this apparently unprosperous season. Jesus is the blessed Man of Psalm 1 who was fruitful and prospered in everything He did. Yet, Isaiah’s description of the prosperity of Jesus Christ is shockingly counterintuitive:
“Behold, my Servant shall prosper; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind. He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 52, 53 ESV).
How is it that for Him to act wisely meant so much suffering? What a paradigm shift to my self-seeking heart! To the earthly mind, the incarnation seems so inefficient. It meant limitation for Christ; dealing with one person at a time, one place at a time. He didn’t seek the most influential or powerful but the weak and needy. People just like me, people just like those I live with and near to. The Incarnation seems like a strange way to be productive, but when Jesus chose limitation, weakness, servanthood and death, much fruit was born (John 12: 23-24).
Sometimes I am bitter by how limiting it is to care for others but I repent of my pride and selfishness as I see the Son of Man to whom belongs all dominion, choosing to be homeless, dusty, exhausted so that we could live forever to the glory of His Father. Jesus joyfully chose all that because He was full of resurrection hope (Acts 2: 26-28). By faith he saw the joy set before him and knew that his children could only be born through his death and resurrection.
He knew the paths of life went through death yet His Father wouldn’t abandon Him there. Fullness of gladness was certainly coming – He would be raised up and out of the anguish of his soul, His offspring would be born (Isa. 53: 10-11).
The Path to Life
The Spirit loves to give us eyes to adore Jesus’ beauty. His grace trains us to treasure the pattern of his life because it is also ours. I am so encouraged by what my friend Kim wrote: “The fight of faith is to believe that the Gospel, the good news, is true in every little death you face. When you deny yourself that self-seeking life that is so familiar to you and me, and we take up our cross to die to what we could do, say and feel, and follow Jesus into that grave, do it by telling yourself the Gospel truth: life will come from this death. Joy will rise in the morning.”
So maybe I would feel more alive and be more efficient if I could write full time, meet with women every day, or if I didn’t have to spend as much time learning another language. Yet I both find life and give life when I give up my “rights” to efficiency and feeling alive. I find His life, because it is Jesus’ resurrection power enabling me to choose others. Left to my power, I would always choose me. I give life to those around me when I count them as more significant than myself and their welfare becomes my chief interest.
So yes, we are swaddled. But not in the way we think. We are swaddled into the life of Christ. We exist inside him, hidden in Him, constrained by his love. He is our niche because he is our life. It may not always feel comfortable. It may sometimes feel like death. But when His servanthood becomes ours, we have His resurrection power enabling us to give it all away.
One day we will be physically raised up. We will see that everything we are giving up now is not only for the sake of another’s joy in Jesus. It is for the sake of our own joy – our undiluted, pure joy in Him.
Yes, friend– the pattern of His fruitful, prosperous life is ours – suffering, death, then glory. His Story is our story and his fullness of gladness is our very own – forever.
Do you feel like you are in a season of unfinished things or things not yet started? How are you currently finding joy?