What’s a lot like swinging on a rope? Life, I think. I mean, at least my life. There are many times in life that confirm you; but, no doubt, there are those rare times in life that define you. The times that define you are few and far between. They occur at those crossroads when you are about to prove to everyone who you are. But, truth be told, they are actually when YOU find out who you are!
Today was another Sunday of my son and me running around after church taking care of stuff. Not big stuff, just stuff that gave us a valid reason to ride around in the old truck and see some friends here and there. So, we ended up at a friend’s house and that friend just happened to have a rope swing hanging from a tree in his back yard. And there, through that swing, was The Holy Spirit clearing up a question I’ve pondered for some time. To get a perspective on the answer (and we will get to the question too), let’s contrast two verses of scripture that I’ve looked at for a while:
Matthew 11:29-30New King James Version (NKJV)
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Luke 9:23 [Full Chapter]
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
So, does that mean: Take up your cross daily and rest? No, I don’t think so. These are two different contexts, but both are taught by the same Perfect Teacher. So, how does this look in our lives?
Ok, back to the rope swing. Bobby asked me to put him up on the swing where his feet were about four feet off the ground and give him a little push. Bobby and I are buddies. Buddies pick at each other, and so after a couple minutes of comfortable swinging, and making sure his grip was good, I gave him a push. Like I was trying to push a car up a hill. He went from a leisurely swing, to a terrorized feeling of going too high, and too fast! Of course this was in fun, and he knew it. It scared him a little, but a friendly little scare from a mischievous dad. But what if I had have gone further? I could have given him one more push and he would have been scarred for life! But—I didn’t. I let him find his limit, and then helped him back up to a level of movement that made him a little uncomfortable, but not beyond his limits. And so it is with the Christian life!
The Gospel has a way of comforting the wrecked and wrecking the comfortable. Let me tell you how far you will go in this life. You will move forward until you just barely pass your ability. That’s how you find it. At work, you will get promoted until you move just beyond your capability, then you’ll steep there until your capability grows, then move just past it again. Same with finances, physical fitness, abilities in hobbies or side ventures. There are a lot of pull-offs in the road where you have to re-condition, prep, and learn, but you don’t ever have to stop. How do you know you never have to stop? I’ll show you:
Luke 2 (NKJV)
39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the Child[Jesus] grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Do you see in verse 39 that Jesus was “filled” with wisdom? Filled means completely full, right? But look at verse 52. He INCREASED in wisdom. How? Because He kept seeking God and His wisdom, so God stretched Him, conditioned Him and even when He was full, God increased the vessel! How awesome is that?
See, if you are a dad, then, to the best of your ability, you are to be an example of our Heavenly Father to your children. When Bobby couldn’t take anymore, I reached my hand out and stopped the motion. When his cross (and I do realize this is a very mild example of a cross) got to be too much to bear, I stopped the motion, slowed things down for him and let him rest. It’s not just one thing going on here. Bobby learned how far he could go before he couldn’t take anymore. He learned his limit. He also built confidence to go a little further next time. He also learned that when it went too far, when he was going too fast and too high to jump, that dad will reach out and slow it down. That’s what God promises to us.
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it
You can sit around, be complacent, and harden your heart toward the lost, and The Holy Spirit will WRECK you. Or, you can jump out there, do the work God has given you, get dirty, get in too deep and when you can’t take anymore, God will reach out and slow it down! In that second scenario, though, you get to find your own limits and allow God to stretch and build them and in the process, you will build a trust in Him and see Him show up in your life.
I thank God for the following passage of scripture. One of the most profound promises of God:
Hebrews 4:14-16 New King James Version (NKJV)
14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
If I never recklessly pursue Jesus, I may never see the mercy that God promises through Jesus Christ! He wants to show up in your life. Once you know He will reach out and stop that swing, you’ll be able to swing a little more recklessly the next time, knowing that He will give you the mercy that you need when you need it!