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Returning to the Boats

It is my joy to play with Annika, my two year-old daughter. She will bring me a small figure of ‘Peppa Pig’ and say, “Play daddy.” When we play or paint and color, we learn new things. She is learning to hold the brush and markers in her hand. She began by holding them in her fist moving her arm along the paper. Then, I showed her how to properly hold the brush in her fingers, like a pen. The movement is awkward to her. It’s uncomfortable. I know in the long term it will benefit her abilities. However, she knows it’s easier to hold it in her fist; right now, she wants to put color to paper.

So, we practice the awkward placement of her fingers. She struggles and tries, then quickly returns it to her fist. Occasionally, I notice her make the effort on her own, when I’m not looking. It’s difficult and she struggles with the form. Her little face scrunches up in concentration and then she shakes her head returning it to her fist and continues humming as she paints.

Learning is difficult and uncomfortable. Change compounds the issue, no one likes change, not even a baby likes to be changed. It’s hard now, but the designs required for letters will make it easier later.

Growing up, we learn to rely on ourselves. Our instincts tell us to put our needs above others. “Get while the gett’n is good.” As they say. Forgiveness is not a natural impulse. “Do unto others, before they do unto me.” In our little universe of me, I’m all that matters. Laws and governments are built around punishing the individual, because that’s our motivation. “If it’s not hurting me, what’s it matter to me?”

“I’m not my brother’s keeper.”

However, the natural order of creation rewards those who help others. Hear me out, we hail them as heroes. History has shown, the legendary acts, the acts that are remembered, are the selfless ones. Would you rather work under a selfless manager, or a self-centered tyrant? Employees work harder and better under a leader who puts their employees first. A team thrives under selfless leadership. A leader who utilizes the strengths of the team’s members.

A poor leader must fire everyone, or lose their position. If anyone is able to stay for an extended period of time, the manager’s incompetence will be obvious. So, employees are forced out or fired. Meanwhile executives wonder why their business is struggling. Look where the turnover rate is high, there you will find a terrible, selfish, self-serving manager.

In marriage, I have noticed ‘tit for tat’ ends in disaster. When both spouses strive to put the other first, there is success. When one makes a mistake, the response cannot be in kind, it must by in love and selfless grace. If one side refuses, it becomes impossible. Forgiveness must be the first response in a marriage. The marriage is no longer ‘I’, but ‘We’. Two halves of one. A Holy union and commitment to ‘One’. It’s not a tally of wrongs or mistakes. It’s bigger than that. It’s an effort to reach unity and become one.

If you’re not ready to cast aside ‘I’ and pick up the mantle of ‘We’, you have no business getting married.

It’s bigger than an identity, it’s a legacy, a world you are creating for yourself, your children, and their children. Traditions, experiences, lessons, an entire galaxy of emotions and relationships two people create out of nothing together.

Selfless doesn’t register in the ‘fight or flight’ scenario of evolution. That ‘fight or flight’ reaction is the adversary who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. That’s the roaming lion looking for its next disaster. The adversary or Satan, as the Bible calls it, crouching at our door. The desire to force our will at all cost. Looking for the end to justify the means. Means so terrible and sly, they sneak into our thoughts while we are not looking; taking our hope, joy, and life. That ‘evolutionary’ reaction, ‘fight or flight’ brings death. It waits in the dark corners of our minds, waiting to catch us not thinking straight. Waiting to destroy, if you’ll allow it.

Our thinking must change. Jesus has broken the destroyer’s power over our thoughts and actions. Let me speak plainly, ‘fight or flight’ to react, that instinct is Satan. Reactions without thinking, putting others first, and acting selflessly destroys us, and the world around us. That’s the battle. It’s the battle, ‘not against flesh and blood’, Paul talks about in Ephesians.

This is the life Jesus has saved us into. An eternal life with an eye on the long game. It’s not the instant gratification or short sighted win, that instinctive ‘fight or flight’ reaction. It’s legendary life and legacy filled with joy and hope. It’s loving others above one’s self. It’s sacrificing for the greater good. It’s life filled with purpose. It’s holding our tongue, eliminating gossip.

This way of living is uncomfortable and awkward when we have grown accustomed to the primitive drive of ‘me’. It’s easier to hold the brush in our fist putting color to page. But, when we learn to hold the brush and practice our designs, we are able to communicate our truth. We are able to share in the story of life. We can make our additions engraved and sustained in the legendary saga.

It’s choosing life, for others.

It’s valuing people as image bearers of God.

This is the life Jesus has saved us into.

The challenge is avoiding that ancient desire engrained in us, waiting to destroy all we love. It’s avoiding our fishing boats when we have been called to more. A fishing boat supplies an immediate need for a false sense of security. It calls to us like a siren in the waves. A moment’s pleasure that ends in death.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples were lost. They were uncertain how to continue. They wandered back to their boats, until Jesus called to them from the shore (John 21). “Come, eat with me. Let’s talk.” Jesus calls. May you be like Peter who immediately jumped into the water to swim to shore.

May you cast off all that hinders you and swim for hope.

May you find salvation

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