Why did I write the previous post?  Because I needed to hear it.

And because this evening, as I was reading, meditating on and discussing the Christmas story with friends, trying to find a spark again, I realised the God who came to earth as a child has placed the principle of growth and movement at the heart of His way of working.  And growth usually starts amongst the manure.  Or in a feeding trough in a cowshed, in apparently hopeless circumstances.

But let’s start at the beginning, the previous beginning.  Our first task was to tend a garden, and we messed everything up.  Not just the garden, but our lives and priorities.  Then we repeatedly refused to grow into our best.

God didn’t give up on us.  The power of the Christmas story is the power of the unexpected (or it would be if we didn’t know it so well…) because God the all-powerful humbled himself to be born into the world he created, as a vulnerable baby, then to walk with us, the ones he loves and always did love, through the growing pains of human life.

Then, having proven his commitment by coming alongside us in this way, he unfolded a message of hope, the gospel: both a way out from our small, broken lives, and a way in – to a new adventure, our own walk with Him.

As I reviewed the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus coming, I returned to the one I’ve always found the most compelling (and the hardest to explain away as possibly referring to anything else).  Isaiah 9.  It speaks of the coming of a child, but also the coming of His kingdom – a kingdom not of this world; not of control or tyranny, but freedom – ruled by the only worthy ruler, the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Mighty God.  A kingdom in which the increase of peace will be unending.

Did you catch that? The increase of peace there is unending – it grows.  Like yeast.  Like a tree from a small seed.  It goes from strength to strength.  His kingdom and the peace it brings is here now in part, and also not yet, not in all it’s fullness, because it is always growing.  I don’t think that’s just saying there are many people who are yet to embrace it, though this is true.  I think it means that for those who have already embraced it, it continues to unfold.  It is about a journey with Him.  An adventure.

Perhaps the reason my faith and life has become so jaded is because instead of embracing the adventure I have condensed it into a start and an end.  I don’t think I’m the only Christian who has done this:
1: Once I was lost/out.
2: By believing in Jesus now I am found/in.

Ok so now I’m in.  I’m getting kind of bored.  Actually a bit trapped.

No!  It has not ended, it’s only just begun!  Jesus showed us a whole way of life to walk in.  The walk of faith is not just the static, fixed set of principles or church practices I have learned and become over-familiar with.  It is a walk with the living God, the God who wants above all to be with us, and to walk with us as He first longed to back in the garden.  And I know this deep down, because there are times when I have walked with him, but somehow I’ve drifted off the path and sat down.  I’ve made myself look pretty busy there, but really I think I’ve been sat for too long.

Let me just expand on how my eyes have been opened again to the idea of a path, an exciting journey with God – and the paradox of ‘now and not yet’ that brings with it the fulfilling unfulfillment of an adventure to be had.

So, Jesus comes to earth and does a lot of healings – or signs as I think they are called in the gospel of John: indications of what the kingdom is like.  And the start of His miraculous ministry was heralded by John the Baptist.  Yet amidst all the subsequent breaking in of Kingdom blessings, John finds himself languishing in prison.  He, of all people, is now tempted to doubt so he sends his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”.  In other words am I suffering in prison for nothing or are you really the one?

And in response Jesus reminds John what is happening: the blind see, the deaf hear the lame walk etc.  And in doing so he knowingly affirms the prophecies of his coming – which takes us to Isaiah 35.

And as I read back over that chapter, first there is this encouraging passage to which Jesus refers:
‘Your God will come… he will come to save you.. then will the eye of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped…water will gush forth in the wilderness etc’

But then I noticed with fresh eyes this passage:
‘And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness…only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return…gladness and joy will overtake them’

So God did not send Jesus simply to convert a wilderness into a safe enclosure for us to sit in and twiddle our thumbs.  He sent him to open up a highway, a place for those he redeems and brings in to begin a new journey, an adventure so full of possibility and good things that ‘gladness and joy will overtake them!’

I know what this way is, Jesus said it Himself: ‘I am the way‘.

And now the spirit of adventure that I’d lost is being stirred in me again.  I really do want to follow Him.  Not just to call myself a member of his club, not just recite his lines, but actually to walk with him, to take his challenging words to heart, and to listen for his living word in my life, with all the risk, challenge and adventure that holds.

Like with all my blog posts, this is a marker in the sand, a record of a realization, and a way of holding myself accountable.   Too likely I will compromise and retreat again in future, but at least I have taken a real step into walking closer to Him by laying down my business and the hold it has had on me and my family.  Already I feel a new freedom, like I really am stepping back onto the path of faith and adventure.  I have a new willingness to let go of the disappointments and disillusionment, knowing they are part of the ‘not yet’, the unfulfilled aspect of the kingdom, and a new-found desire to embrace the ‘now.’

Of course, really going Jesus’ way can mean suffering.  It did for John.  It certainly did for Jesus himself.  But His way is different for all of us, and this is true joy – something deeper than happiness – to live for something worth living for, worth fighting for, a way of life that is deep not shallow, unpredictable, perhaps even unsafe, but that holds the promise of eternity and puts all passing sorrow, even death into perspective.

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