Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Take Nothing

Jesus tells us not to take a bag. When He sends us on our mission, as He's called us, he says not to take anything with us. Most of us read this as an invitation to trust, that we should rely on God to provide for our journey when He's called us to take those steps.

I think it's deeper than that. Jesus tells us not to take anything we have to our name so that wherever we go, it is His name we depend on.

I say this as a woman who's been pretty good at taking my name with me, thinking that whatever new place I go into, I'm going to have to set my own story up before I can tell another one. I'm going to have to arrange the figures of my life to make me comfortable here. I try to make a new place look like me before I even take a second to figure out what it looks like already.

Jesus didn't take anything with Him. He didn't take that time His mother was disappointed in Him, that day she was terrified at not being able to find Him. He didn't take the rejection of the rich young ruler or the praise of the man who's been put in His right mind. He didn't take the questions of the Pharisees or the hatred of the guards. He never says another word about betrayal when Judas is out of sight.

Yet I take every disappointment. I take every fear. I carry every rejection and every praise in my bag, and when I walk into a new place, I have to figure out what to do with all of that. I have to figure out if my old story is compatible with my new story, if I can somehow weave these things together. I talked about this sort of thing a couple of weeks ago when I talked about the way Jesus called His disciples. When He asked them to follow Him, they laid everything down and went, which means when it was time to move, they didn't have to drag their old lives with them.

When He sends us out, it's the same thing - don't take your stuff with you. You don't need it. Whatever you need in your new journey is not coming out of your old journey; it's coming out of your commissioning. It's coming out of your call. It's coming out of the very word I've spoken to you, that very word "go." It's not, as we so often believe, that He's asking us to trust His provision for us, although certainly that is a part of the faith journey.

Rather, He's saying that it does us no good to be weighted down by our own things with this bigger thing at hand. He doesn't want us walking into a new town with an old life. He doesn't want us carrying His name in the same tarnished can in which we carry ours; we shouldn't have to overcome our reputation to make His known. Imagine how Matthew would have been received had He journeyed a few towns over with his tax collector's box. You think people would have looked at him oddly? Or what if the brothers ventured over in their finest fishing clothes? There's no authority in that. That's just a fisherman.

When you carry your stuff with you, it changes the way that people see you. It changes how they perceive you. You walk in, set down your bag, and say, "Here I am in my fullest glory, my dirty socks, and my fraying sandals. Here I am a vagrant in search of a bed for the night, a cup of water to drink, and perhaps a bite of bread. Here I am, and I am who I am, and if you'll have me, I have some good news for you. If you can get past the bad news of all I've ever been."

But when you go without anything, when you refuse to take your story, then you don't come in the fullness of you any more. You come in the fullness of God. You introduce yourself not as James or John or Matthew or Aidan; you introduce yourself as a missionary of the One, Jesus, whom the people have heard so much about and on His name, you notch out a new place. On His name, you find a bed for the night, a cup of water, and perhaps a bite of bread. On His name, they may have you and you share the good news of His name.

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