Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Danger of Grasping -- Hope Chronicles 45

"I want . . . !" Go through any retail store and you will hear this cry from a toddler and subtler versions from older children and teens. If we are honest, we recognize the same cry in our heart. It can be about things. I want what so and so has -- house, husband, kids, car . . . . Maybe it is that I want to look like _________ (fill in the most beautiful person you know). Maybe it is the intangible things like respect and honor or position.

When we get down to it and are truly honest with ourselves, there thousands of "I want . . ." statements fueling our hearts and minds. Sometimes, those "I want" statements turn into "I deserve" statements. We are mortally offended that God or someone else hasn't provided what is so deserved.

I couldn't quite figure it out. But a couple I know at church has an unusual arrangement. They are very happily married but she kept her own name when they married. No, it's not even hyphenated. When both of their children were born, they took her name. Other things in their home are off from what one would typically anticipate. He does most of the cooking and grocery shopping. After knowing them for a few months I was really curious. I started asking questions.

The last is the easiest to explain. He enjoys cooking. His schedule also allows him to get home before she does.

Why didn't she take his last name? She is Latina. If she had taken his last name, her name would not have reflected that piece of her identity at all.

But what about the kids? My friend told me that it was his idea that the kids take her name. Most fathers would want their kids to have their last name. It's not that he didn't want that. However, he looked at the greater scheme. If the kids took his last name, they might be removed from a big piece of their cultural heritage on their mother's side. He opted out of any desire to have the kids have his name so that their last name could reflect their mother's Latina heritage. Given that both children are very blond, light eyed, and fair skinned, without knowing their name and their fluency in Spanish, one would never guess their heritage.

This couple amazes me.

As I've thought about it, I've been reminded of Jesus. In Isaiah 53:2-4 says:

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

I find that passage hard to wrap my Sunday school soaked picture soaked brain around. The pictures I always see portray an attractive man in his thirties with people thronging to him. He'll carry a lamb or have a smiling child balanced on a knee. But it says, "nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." We considered him stricken by God.

If I had my choice as God as what form in which to come, I think it would have been with beauty. Perhaps it is good that I'm not God. Even having that thought might mean that my reason for coming was bent toward worship at that moment rather than rescue of lost souls.

In those times even the death he died was considered cursed by God. Deuteronomy 21:23 says this: "you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse." I know the theology that Jesus had to suffer and die for our sins. But I am struck that the death he died was actually considered a cursed by God death.

Philippians 2 encourages us that our attitude should be the same of Jesus.

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Grasping. Children are always grasping and reaching for something. Part of it is about growing and learning. I know that. But when the other toddler has a toy you've been ignoring and you suddenly want it -- bang them on the head and take it! As we grow, we learn to temper or hide that, but I think that I often have a grasping heart. I'm always grasping for what I do not have. I want to be just like so and so and have what they have. Not so with Jesus. Even though he was rightfully and fully God, He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped . . . . Because He did not have a grasping heart, He looked to our interests and died on the cross.

What a blessed hope there is in a God who would make himself nothing to rescue the lost. I pray that I would understand what it means to have a humble, hopeful heart rather than a grasping one.

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