What did five-year-old you want to be, when they grew up?
Five year old Heather wanted to be a nurse, or a ballerina, or a fairy. Clearly, Fairy was the ideal situation; I really only wanted to be a ballerina because of the funky pink skirt, and when I was given one for my birthday age six, I really felt that I had achieved that particular goal. I loved the idea of being a nurse, until Big Brother burst my bubble and let me know that it might involve looking at blood. After that, I knew that I needed to seriously reconsider my career goals. So, Fairy was clearly the best option: all of the best bits of being a ballerina, with the nice dresses and hairstyles, plus it involved flying and hanging out with Peter Pan. Sorted!
Unfortunately, as you might be aware by this point, being a grown up isn’t necessarily as fun as we imagine when we’re kids. Until I get to be the Tooth Fairy, I’m not able to pursue that particular career choice, and day-to-day life looks a lot less like flying around with Peter Pan, and, sometimes, a lot more like just putting one foot in front of the other. Our society says that Grown Up life has a routine and a rhythm: waking up comfortable, going to the 9-5 job, having dinner with friends, going home, going to bed, waking up. Repeat until pension. Our culture says that to win at Grown Up life, we need to have a plan: a ten year goal, a five year plan, two year targets. It says that if we don’t know where we’re going, then we’re not going to get anywhere: that we must dress for the job we want, keep strategic relationships that will push us up on the career ladder, make sure that every day keeps you moving forward towards that Goal.
If you’re feeling that you’re missing something somewhere along the line, that you’re #badatlife, here’s an encouragement to you, friend: no-one else has any idea what they’re doing either – even (especially) the people that look like they do. We’re all just putting one foot in front of the other.
The difference between our walks, though, is who is ordering our steps. We can be controlled by what the world says we should be doing, what our boss says we should be doing, what the Career Ladder says we should be doing, and live in a way that tries to live up to the expectations that are put on us. It’s not wrong; but there’s something in the daily grind that doesn’t feel quite enough, like there’s a beat missing.
I love these verses from John 10, in the MSG version:
“Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” John 10:6-10 MSG
He’s waiting for us: standing there, with the gate open, waiting for us to go through and find fresh pasture. Life with Jesus is good: in another translation, he says I have come to give you life, and life to the full. This is living: keeping Him as our shepherd, as our guide and our heartbeat: having a vision for our lives that is just set on loving Jesus, and seeing what He does with that. He can work with a heart that looks at Him and says, “I’m yours; use me”. He can work with a heart that says I need your life, come and fill me with Your life and peace and joy. When He is our vision, we are visionaries, and life becomes a crazy adventure with Him.
He gives us so many good promises, even in these verses:
Anyone who goes through will be cared for.
He is a good, good Father. He’s a shepherd. He’s a friend. Life with Him as our vision and our heartbeat is not just one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, religious, boring obligation. And it’s not scary new things and expectations that we need to handle on our own. It’s an adventure, and it’s a life that is full – but it’s a life that is so full of his presence, that we know that we are never on our own.
We all have bad days. Life throws all kinds of stuff at us, and this life to the full is not without it’s trials. But we have a promise, that He will never leave us on our own: ”
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
He doesn’t release His sheep into the wild and then leave them to fend for themselves – that would be an awful shepherd. He opens the gate because He knows there’s better pastures on the other side, and He gives us the opportunity to walk through by our own choice.
They will go freely in and out, and find pasture.
I love the freedom that comes with His grace. Just as we are free to walk through the gate – we’re not dragged – we are free within this life that we have chosen. We’re free from fear of God looking away from us if we don’t stay in the grass that He has led us into, or if we get things wrong or wander away: there’s a promise that He leaves the rest to go looking for one. There’s no way that we can run away so far that His love can’t find us, there’s no way that we can screw up so badly that His grace doesn’t cover us:
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:8
This love that He has for us, and the grace that covers us is so rich and is lavished on us – not just given to us as we deserve it, not taken away, but lavished with all wisdom and understanding – He knew what He was doing, and He’s not going to take it back.
Eternal life: More and Better than they could dream of.
Oh, man, that broke me – if there’s words to describe life with Christ, that’s it: so, so much more than we could ever imagine and better than we could ever dream of. Eternal life is not just referring to the time that we will spend with God after this world: it’s speaking of quality as much as quantity: life that is more and better, to the full, with God. And it starts as soon as you ask for it.
Or you could just put one foot in front of the other.