Archive for May, 2014

Embracing Thorns

The end of the day was fast approaching, but living in the Yukon for the first time we are getting used to the sky that continually lies to us about the actual time.  After dinner, bath time, and play time it was still crazy light outside and closing in on 9:30 pm. Megan and I were tired and ready to sit and watch a show, but Kezzy (my 4 year old daughter) was nowhere near ready for bed.  In an effort to exhaust her remaining fuel in the tank I decided to take a walk with her to watch the rapid flow of ice moving up the Yukon River.  Kezzy and I are both a bit adventurous and standing on the boardwalk beside the flowing river wasn’t quite enough for either of us,  we decided to plunge a little deeper down the shore line for a closer look at the rolling ice flow and maybe search for some treasures.

Image

Carmacks has this beautiful wide smooth boardwalk that parallels the Yukon River through the middle of the village.  It makes for an easy walk, bike ride, or stroller push but when Kezzy is in her rubber boots she has no intentions of staying on the board walk.  She wants to explore, get dirty, see things she has never seen, lifts rocks, throw sticks, look for bugs, stomp on ice, and search  for treasures.  This is of course fine with me and most of the time I’m just as interested in exploration as she is.  Kezzy’s sight is however limited.  Her limited height and her thoughtless speed in life don’t give her the best judgement or perspective on routes and paths that get to her destination.  Most often, like any child, she just barrels through the first opening in any bush she sees only to find herself face down with a scraped kneed and a bruised ego.  I on the other hand have a few advantages I can offer her.  My height, around 6’4” gives me an advantageous bird’s eye view of the lower landscape and my experience allows me to quickly assess the ground and decide on the best path to get to our destination. Sometimes she’ll listen but sometimes she won’t

Image

Often times I’ll try desperately to instill some of my wonderful wisdom to my kids, and most of the time they don’t listen. I’m likely the only parent with this problem (insert sarcastic face here).  I love Kezzy more than anything in the world. Kezzy and Zoey are my little girls, my babies. They are my gift from God and I would do anything for them.  That being said, clearly I want to use my advantages and experiences in life to give my girls the best plan for their life adventures.  This walk in particular was no exception.  Wild roses line the boardwalk almost the entire length of the path. While I’m sure they are beautiful to look at when they bloom, they are a painful and annoying hazard to try and get through when we are exploring the banks of the river.  Kezzy suddenly spotted something red and yelled “Dad look, it’s red; it could be a real treasure!!!” She screams it with all the enthusiasm of winning a million dollar lottery.  Happy to see her elated and excited for her, I jumped in with the same emotion and made a plan on how to get to our distant treasure.  Kezzy’s attention faded fast and instead of listening she barreled head-first off the boardwalk and down the slope towards the river.  I quickly grabbed her, realizing the thicket of thorns she was about to blast through in her shorts and knew that she was about to experience the definition of regret in a painful way.  Kezzy wasn’t happy with me.  Her treasure awaited her and I was her roadblock.  I wanted to be part of that experience with her but I also knew that she was about to go through a wildly unpleasant experience trying to get there.

I was only wearing shorts myself and to get to where we wanted to go, to Kezzy’s treasure, meant we would have to go through the thick thorns.  I told Kezzy I was going to pick her up and she immediately, with hands on hips, tilted her head and said “No Dad, I can do it myself!”  She turned to run ahead of me and about two feet later she instantly felt her first attack by the wild roses.  She turned around and with a big smile put her arms up for me to carry her. She thought I wanted to take away her fun and her freedom but I was actually just doing the opposite. I was keeping the adventure alive and the moment fun and exciting by removing from my little girl the direct path of the painful thorns.

On I went. In my sandals and shorts through the thorn bushes holding my little girl above it all so we could get to her treasure.  I looked down to see my legs bleeding and felt the pain of the rose thorns cutting into my leg and it made me smile.  I loved my little girl so much that I had no problem sacrificing so I could see her enjoy this moment, this treasure.

It was at that moment that I was able to view Jesus in a little bit of a different light.  I had always known and embraced the idea that Christ died and took on pain and death for my sin and my inadequacies.  For my failures and my stupidity, Jesus came and completely sacrificed himself for me.   That’s the Jesus and the message I’ve always loved and embraced. It’s a beautiful story of sacrifice. But today was different.  Today was less of a desperate rescue of a broken human, but rather this was embracing the zeal of life of Kezzy through sacrifice.  The Bible says that Jesus came to give us life and sometimes we tend to rest on that statement.  It’s a beautiful one, but that’s not the end of the story, there is a much more amazing ending to it.  In John 10:10 (NASB) Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly…” another translation (NLT) says “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

I went through some bleeding and some pain not just so Kezzy can survive on our walk; I did it so she can find the treasure in her life that excited her.  I was excited with her; I wanted to be part of it, the joy, the excitement, the adventure of it all.  I wanted Kezzy and I to have and live in that moment together. I loved seeing the joy in her eyes.  Jesus in the same way has picked up the burden of the pain for us.  He has sacrificed more than some scratches on his legs and some thorns in the flesh, but His entire life so we don’t just have to survive through this life, but so we can experience an amazingly abundant wild adventure that He has set out ahead of us.  So we can find joy, and love. So we can sing and dance, and run to the river banks to find life’s little treasures.

Megan and I find true joy when we watch our kids enjoy life.  Whether it’s a birthday party or a treat on a hot day, a swim in a pool on some wild vacation, or finding a red leaf on the shoreline of the Yukon River, we feel completely blessed and satisfied when our little girls are laughing and smiling and fully elated with life.  We too often get the view of God that He places all these rules and regulations to stifle and limit life and cut us off at the knees so we don’t have fun or experience life to the fullest.  The truth is unquestionably the polar opposite of that.  Just like I design a plan and a path for Kezzy so she can find maximum fun and enjoyment and pleasure on her evening walks with me, God has defined ways of living and practices that (when followed) enhance our lives and brings maximum fulfillment  in our walk with Him.

God created us to enjoy life and for us to enjoy it through and with Him.  The sad part is we, not God, are the ones to blame for how we exist in brokenness.  We have created false religions, false gods, false traditions, and rules that don’t follow along with our Creator’s plan for us.  Our foresight is blind to the thorns as we stare with tunnel vision at our treasure. We ignore the directions, the path, the plan written out and all of a sudden in our quest to find life’s treasures we are covered, head to toe in thorns and bruises, scraps and wounds.  We lift our eyes to our Father, we cry, blame, curse and question His design and guidance for our life but we fail to question our decision not to implement His plan. 

We’ve made our own plans with our limited scope of view and we’ve failed to listen to our Father’s birds-eye view.  We’ve created our own goals without realizing our purpose, so when the inevitable happens and we find ourselves nothing more than lost broken failures we blame the wrong source of our troubles. ‘OH MY GOD’ we cry and rant to our world, “how can He…? Why can’t I…? How did this….? Who am I…? What should I….?”  We turn our anger toward our Father and turn it into disbelief and false prophecy, false religions and self-worship; yet all the while our Father, my Dad, continues to stand there with arms wide open. 

With all the plans and guidelines in place on how to get to our glorious treasure, God stands there waiting for us to return to Him for direction.  My pride finally broken, lost and bruised by this world of selfishness and sin, in humility I came back a mess.  Weeping and begging for my Dad to pick me up and carry me through the thorns, He swoops down to my level and embraces me with a fury of unexplainable love and picks me up above the mess.  I can see it finally.  From His angle I can see why He gave me those plans, those directions that path to follow.  From His graces I can see that, like the Israelites, He knows the best plans for my life. “’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord.  ‘Plans to prosper you, plans not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a future’…“ The book of Jeremiah tells us of a story of a broken lost generation of people and God is calling out to them “You will seek Me, and you will find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart. I will be found by you!” (Jer. 29:11-13).  This promise that He made so many years ago to so many lost and broken people applies to me right now.  It applies to you right now.

Kezzy and I continued our journey. She was unscarred by any thorns as she squealed and ran with delight up to her new found treasure.  Hand in hand we continued our journey down the shore line, so much more to go, so much more to explore and loving every minute of it.

 Marshal Burnham  –  Raise Your Gloves