Thursday, July 12, 2012

Trying to learn the rhythms of grace (Matthew 11:28, 29) in the midst of the storm with a story of the cross-maker's shop and a quote from E. Stanley Jones.

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 11:28, 29 (TM)
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me … Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.

Into a cross-maker’s shop one day came a man who wearily took down his cross from his shoulder and set it on the floor. “And what can I do for you?” asked the cross-maker. “I want to exchange my burden,” said the man. “This one is too heavy for me to carry. I stagger under the load.” “Very well,” replied the cross-maker. “Take your pick of all these crosses and see which suits you best.” So the man gladly set about trying them on. The first was very light – for a moment or two – but as he walked about, testing it, he concluded that it wouldn’t do, for soon it became heavier than his old one. So he tried another, and another, and another, until at last he found one lighter than all the rest. “I can bear this one,” he told the cross-maker. “May I have it?” “Very well,” the cross-maker answered, “but that is the one you brought in with you.”

No one likes burdens. No one longs for trouble. No one wishes ill for himself or herself. Burdens get in the way. We stumble over them. They wear us down. We long for them to be lifted, taken away, eliminated, destroyed, thrown on the trash heap of life … but nevertheless they remain. We cannot ignore them nor forget them. And, we continually ask: Why? … and, How long, Lord, how long?

Could it be that these burdens have been “placed” in our life so that we can learn the “unforced rhythms of grace”? “Placed” is a hard concept to understand because God is not mean or vindictive (Lamentations 3:33 - for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone (RSV) –  He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way (TM)).

God doesn’t choose to weigh us down with undue troubles or problems. Life is pretty good at doing that all on its own. Therein lies the mystery of living in that the troubles and problems that life brings out way can be used by God as a teaching tool so that we can learn the meaning of grace and the joy of God’s presence. It is hard to enjoy the boat ride when the sea is tossing us about and we feel that we are about to sink, but God is always present and calmer waters are just ahead.

“Real rest” is hard to find, but it is there … even while carrying the burden … our “cross” … it is just how we choose to look at it. Is our life half-full or half-empty? If we concentrate on what we don’t have and only on the burdens they will seem to be huge. But if we choose to concentrate on what is good in our life then the burdens will begin to diminish to the point that we hardly know that they exist … that is the “rhythm of grace”.

We are in the middle of a storm and at times it seems that we have more than we can handle. Our plate is full. So, grace-giving God, help us to see that our life is grace-filled. Help us learn the “rhythm of grace” and that our “burdens are lifted at Calvary”.

QUOTE by E. Stanley Jones:
All my life I have borne a cross. Recently that cross was lifted. Now I find myself praying for another cross, because my cross has made me what I am today.

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