I bring you my latest journey on the first Monday of the New Year 2023. Strap yourself in, grab a cup of tea, or some other beverage, and come with me in search of something you didn’t know you needed to hear, but trust me…you do. Join me on my last adventure of 2022, as I lose a phone and find the sufficiency of Jesus, all over again. Spoiler: It’s a happy ending. But not how you might think.
How does one find meaning in a world full of meaninglessness?
My iPhone died on December 29th, 2022.
I am contemplating how this may be the best thing that has happened to me in the past 20 years, possibly longer. If you think I am a phone addict, think again. I often set my phone down and forget it for hours at a time. I rarely respond to phone calls- something which causes my husband to often comment, “I could be lying in a ditch on the side of the road!” My notifications are off (except for texts).
However, I also often pop on to answer a text and find myself on a treadmill of endless cat videos, which I then share with my favorite cat-loving friends. Sometimes if I must wait somewhere, I will check Instagram, and have the urge to buy no less than twenty things in the space of ten minutes. I will fend off that urge, only to discover that I have spent 20-30 minutes scrolling Instagram while talking myself out of purchasing thus mentioned items- from friends who are strangers, half of which, regrettably, now have my e-mail address, and phone number…and are already texting me discount codes laced with gild the lily promises to entice me to BUY, buy, Buy!
Phew…how can it be that life is more exhausting now while we barely lift a finger than when we took to the fields to plow, washed clothes by hand, and walked anywhere out of necessity? Something might just be rotten in the state of Denmark, after all.
During December I have been reading through the Gospel of John. During this last week, I had been watching two film versions of John’s Gospel using scripture exclusively as the script. Each has its unique strengths visually and even in the dramatic representation, but I had not seen either version before. The narration, using scripture, was both clarifying and calming, a perfect end to one year and segway into the new. Following the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior in scripture repeatedly in different expressions offers a proper pause before the yet-to-be and possibility following Christmas into the New Year. I hadn’t planned to do this but somehow, found myself in the quietness and oblivion of the week looking for a place to land, like the dove set out from the Ark seeking dry land. The strange, growing unknown surrounding the final week of one year before the next leads us to a weird limbo, doesn’t it? We are full of anticipation, excitement, and, for some perhaps, a silent dread.
It was during the last day of my second viewing of Jesus’ crucifixion that my phone died- not sure if there is a connection there, but I am just mulling over the details in retrospect. I don’t suggest you watch what Jesus suffered on the cross twice in one day. Yet, I do recommend periodically watching a crucifixion enactment, to keep what is crucial at the forefront of the mind…to remember this pivotal piece of history that changed everything and continues to change everything as we acknowledge, yield, and avail ourselves to it.
So, within this bit of time, among this sequence of events, I begin to ponder significance. Or insignificance…and the meaning of everything, and I mean seriously, did I mention it’s the last week of the year? And I have no phone? And Jesus, whom I do have, but more importantly who has me, has died on the cross twice in twenty-four hours thanks to cinematography and internet access.
The words from the scripture that were ringing out most in my ears, especially towards the time approaching the Passover and Crucifixion of Jesus were the number of times Jesus gave the command to love one another. Love. One. Another. Love one another. To love. And I am stymied by the simplicity and audacity. The straightforward way he puts it out there. My mind jumps to Cain. Did we ever get it? Ever? Even once? Not, it seems, from where I am standing looking back. Certainly not when I look around. And no doubt about it, not when I look within. Jesus’ words level me. Every time. The Pharisees didn’t get it, and the disciples didn’t get it, not really. And here we stand still not getting it on the verge of 2023. Can I get a witness?
This somehow got me thinking about the number of pseudo-communities available to us and why they exist. And I keep hearing Jesus saying…love one another. I haven’t heard him command us to say, find our niche. Is loving one another the same as peacefully coexisting? Is loving one another enabling each other with hobbies, and habits. Does loving one another mean loving a political party or a particular preference? Is it giving preference to those who are only like-minded clones of our own desires? Does loving one another look like avoiding the people we don’t like or prefer to be around? Or those who challenge our sense of security? Is loving one another highlighting our best moments with a focused lens and sharing them indiscriminately with the world?
What in heaven’s name does it look like to do as Jesus repeatedly commands? Can we recognize the ways we all have moved away from this command, and towards an autonomous, less than peaceful, contentious co-existence. How we got here is less concerning than how we find our way back to what could have been…but will never be this side of eternity. Could it be by embracing our own insignificance? Could it be in following a God who changed the world by submitting His glory to a short-lived, service-oriented, selfless existence among humanity, only to be publicly humiliated, rejected, and murdered at the hands of the very beings he created? Thirty-three years is all we have recorded of his visitation, yet his very existence is expressed in every artistic endeavor, it continues to inspire both good and evil by those who claim God or blame God.
Is it not the search for significance that drives us toward doing the very things we sometimes despise? The need for attention, for more, for something…just beyond our reach? The job, the car, the latest thing that promises…everything. The wife, the girlfriend, the guy, the person we desire or think we desire. The neighborhood, school system, retirement plan…the happy ending. Is it not these same things that cause us to do things we regret, or are ashamed to admit? What are we looking for? What are any of us looking for on this good earth?
But about embracing our insignificance…what if the very significance we long for is already within our grasp? Like that one thing, we cannot reach. That one thing we believe will make us happy. And how is this related to loving one another? Well, both things are possible by the power of a Living God who provides, has always provided, and continues to provide for the living.
What if all we long for is longing for us and IS LOVE…is the power to love, and has paved a clear path for receiving love, so that we might learn love and at last be able to give it? Not in the way that is limited like a love song, but more like the breath that fills the lungs. What if, the love that is possible for us here and now is only a foreshadowing of the love that will come. A taste, not the whole bite.
This love I speak of was modeled by the One sent to show us a way, through example by submission to God’s will…preferring not the less painful road, which is often my preferred path. The suffering, scourging, and death, the humility, nakedness, and vulnerability of that death on a cross. Why?
So, we, who receive mercy might not cower before death, seeking our own significance on this side of eternity. So, we would stop running from our own ultimate demise…chasing the fountain of youth-however it is packaged. Or our own salvation by good works. So, we would be empowered to live and love, by His empowerment. His power, through a supernatural helper, the indwelling Spirit of God himself allows us to be The New Jerusalem on earth, the beginning of the Kingdom of Love. So, that love would bring freedom from the endless pursuit of seeking one’s own significance and instead allow us to embrace the beauty of insignificance willing to serve a Sovereign God recognizing all we need has already been given. Because this God who created all of us in His image, both male and female, knows what He is doing from beginning to end. This God who set eternity in the hearts of men provided the means and the how for eternity here and now through a Savior. His name is Jesus. And though you may know His name, He invites you to the table of His love…and there you will be well nourished by His grace and truth. You will not hunger or thirst, for He will provide for you all your days. And you will say with me, this is my Savior, this is my King. We will not settle for anything less than the goodness He offers and is faithful to bring. Do not settle for the love of neighbors, and friends. Of family and comforts. He satisfies in a superior way. He will keep you and you will be satisfied in His provision. Though you may have all you need now, embrace your insignificance- trade it for the true significance and knowledge: the love of a savior is the greatest love of all. This IS my story and my song. Amen.
Meanwhile, I started writing this little piece of prose on December 30, 2022. Today it is January 2, 2023. It feels like I haven’t had a phone for a very long time. The Lord seems to be multiplying my moments. Not having a phone, and embracing my insignificance, may just be the best resolutions I never planned or wished for! May you seek and find the One who faithfully seeks and knows you this new year.
Happy New Year!
The two films I mentioned :
The Gospel of John (link)
The Gospel of St.John (link)