March 29

“Consider the lilies, how they grow.” Matthew 6:28

I need oil,” said an ancient monk; so he planted an olive sapling. “Lord,” he prayed, “it needs rain that its tender roots may drink and swell. Send gentle showers.” And the Lord sent gentle showers. “Lord,” prayed the monk, “my tree needs sun. Send sun, I pray Thee.” And the sun shone, gilding the dripping clouds. “Now frost, my Lord, to brace its tissues,” cried the monk. And behold, the little tree stood sparkling with frost, but at evening it died.

Then the monk sought the cell of a brother monk, and told his strange experience. “I, too, planted a little tree,” he said, “and see! it thrives well. But I entrust my tree to its God. He who made it knows better what it needs than a man like me. I laid no condition. I fixed not ways or means. ‘Lord, send what it needs,’ I prayed, ‘storm or sunshine, wind, rain, or frost. Thou hast made it and Thou dost know.'” (Streams in the Desert)

Our daughter had friends from California staying with them for a few days, and one of them was a yoga instructor. She graciously offered to put us through the paces if interested, and four of us agreed. We lowered the living room lights, spread bath towels on the ceramic tile, and did our best to bend our bodies on command. At one point I looked down and couldn’t determine how my leg had made its way in front of my hand while the other leg bent at an odd angle in the opposite direction. I felt like a pretzel, ready to take up Twister again after all these years. We completed thirty minutes of synchronized suffering and agreed to do it all over again the next day. Anxiety mounted when it became apparent early in the second session that our daughter’s friend had taken it easy on us during the first. Convinced that we could handle it, she pushed past the dimension of discomfort and into the arena of pain. I kept asking myself why I had agreed to this torture, and decided that yoga is a four-letter word in more ways than one. When I lightheartedly commented on the misery of the exercise, the instructor smiled and pleasantly stated that expanded flexibility could add years to my life or, at the very least, would enhance the quality of whatever quantity I end up with. In the aftermath, I discovered that my back felt better than it had in a very long time. Momentary misery is evidently worth the long-term benefit.

Left to myself, I choose comfort over commitment every time, precisely the reason I cannot trust the decision to myself—I must live the crucified life so that the choice is always up to him. Dying today translates into life I never fathomed possible. Death to self does not mean emptiness; instead, crucifixion means spiritual altitude—life on a higher plane than I would have chosen for myself otherwise. In order to soar, we must first advance to abandonment. Rather than passive inactivity, the crucified life insists that we take action, cutting erroneous ties and re-lashing our moorings to Christ. Along with the Prodigal, “I will arise and go to my father.” I will wake up, get up, grow up, and climb up. I choose to discard the garbage piling up in heart and mind. Ruthlessly, I inventory motive and attitude and address each in desperate fashion. I recalibrate my attention to Christ with savage intentionality. “Reckon yourselves dead to sin.” This is no valley of ease; this is a summit to scale under harrowing and hellish conditions. Crucifixion places me precariously on a rocky crag with no safety net below, and bids me ever higher. (From Ordinary Glory: Finding Grace in the Commonplace by Dane Fowlkes)

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