Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Fair-Weather Friend of Jesus

“Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6: 60)

I decided almost two years ago that I would lose weight, but I couldn’t do those juice-only diets or take pills and supplements. I decided to cut one bad habit from my diet at a time. Then after realizing some success, I cut something else. Over time, I’ve lost over 30 pounds. For me, that resulted in a complete elimination of back pain, the ability to fit into clothes I never thought I’d wear comfortably again, and being able to walk up stairs without feeling like I would pass out before I reached the top. But none of that feels as good as the positive comments from family, friends, and colleagues!

The flesh loves a compliment. The flesh loves to be satisfied. And inevitably, there comes a time when things get tough or we believe we deserve a reward or the affirming, validating remarks dry up, and we have to make a choice: eat the cheesecake or eat the fruit.

I feel like I’m in a season of growing up in the Lord. I have decided that I’m going to be a better Christian. At first, things were coasting along just fine. My devotions were solid and God’s blessings were apparent and plentiful. I felt the overflow. I felt the increase. Listen, the prosperity gospels and theologies of self were both pumping me up and making me feel good day in and day out. I knew that God was telling me that all of my desires and dreams and hopes would come true. Then, I messed it all up with these little words: “Lord, stretch my faith.”

Let me tell you, a stretch on tight muscles hurts! The worst part, though, was that I didn’t even know my muscles were tight. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I was being a good Christian. I thought I was living a life devoted to Christ, so when I asked Him to stretch me, I thought it would be easier. I thought it would result in my cup running over. If I’m going to be completely honest here, I assumed that that meant earthly satisfaction.

I must have prayed this prayer with an open heart or God must really love me because He is delivering! Friend, my faith is being contorted like a Cirque Du Soleil performer on opening night. I am uneasy. I am hurting. I am confused. The things I used to rely on for comfort no longer satisfy. The friends I could turn to in the past no longer get me over life’s humps. I am failing at things I used to excel in. I am dropping balls I used to juggle with ease. Some days, the world is saying, “Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.” IT DOES NOT FEEL GOOD!

I’m so tired, Friend. Most days, I want to bow out. I want to pack it all up and just run away. I’m sick of wearing the brave face. I’m over acting like it’s all good. It isn’t “all good.” I don’t like the way this feels!

But I’ve also been praying, “Lord, come into my heart. Make your self at home. Kick off your shoes, and stay.” And apparently, He’s heard that, too, because here I am sitting on the couch moments ago reading John 6, seeing myself in ancient times.

What kind of Christian am I going to be? Am I the one who is fed with the five thousand, hanging with Jesus just as long as I feel good? Am I the one who wants more signs and wonders but refuses to believe solely in Him? Am I the one who decides that after I don’t get what I want that I will turn my back on all He is trying to teach me?

“Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou has the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6: 67-70)

Lord, I’ve asked that you stretch my faith, but I am finding it hard to stay the course because my flesh is not satisfied in the process. Let me not just know your word, but let me also believe. It’s hard, Lord, to live faithfully, but I know that it is the way you have prescribed for all who follow you. Let me not defect from you. Let me stay the course, no matter how uncomfortable I may be. Let me be like Paul who proclaimed, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4: 12-14).

Amen

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