Sunday, July 26, 2009

Loneliness vs. More than Enough

“My children I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’” John 13:33-34

How heartbroken must the disciples have been upon hearing this? How lonely must they have felt as they encountered the departure of their friend and teacher? These men had given up everything to follow him. Where in the world was he going that they wouldn’t be willing to follow? Peter responds, “Lord, why can’t I follow you? I will lay down my life for you.”

Peter has made it clear that he doesn’t want Jesus to go anywhere without him. Peter will not be left behind, and the thought of life without Jesus is unthinkable. Peter is the same disciple who, when asked if he would join others who were bailing out on Jesus, uttered the words, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” John 6:68

Peter doesn’t want to be alone.

I don’t think anybody wants to be alone, at least not for long. We’d like some alone time, but we don’t want to be lonely. I watched my mom deal with loneliness as a Navy wife. She, like thousands of others, endured months of being alone with the three of us while Dad was at sea. And all this before cell phones and the internet. I have watched friends experience the tragic loss of a spouse, a parent or a child. We have grieved together, but I can only imagine the loneliness that steals in behind closed doors. And I have spoken with others who, though surrounded by people and experience, have shared that they still feel very much alone .

I experience loneliness often as Brian travels. When he is away I feel like a part of me is missing. I feel incomplete. Most days I deal with our separation in an acceptable fashion, but other days are really depressing. On those days I don’t know if I want noise or silence. Sometimes I want noise to drown out the other noise in my head. Noise to drown out the ache I experience when he is gone and life is overwhelming.

And my heart aches as I hear Jesus say, “Where I am going you cannot come.” Like Peter I wonder Why? My heart longs to be where he is – for his peace and his presence. But Jesus is preparing us just as he did his disciples for our most difficult and rewarding challenge yet.

Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled...I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3),but meanwhile, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35.

Jesus is leaving, and he knows that his friends will grieve. He understands they will be lonely and persecuted because of their belief in him. So he says:
Take care of each other.
Meet each other’s needs.
Cry with one another.
Laugh together.
Don’t ignore one another.
Love with intent.
Love with purpose.
Love without your own agenda.
This is how Jesus loved them.
They cannot be separate from him if they are acting and responding to one another in love.

In all this Jesus knows the love that they attempt to give one another will not be enough. Have you ever tried to love someone with everything that you have in the best way that you can? It’s hard – really hard! I, for one, always screw up! I know I’m not alone in this.

Peter, when confronted with his association with Jesus, denies him three times before the rooster crows on the very day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Each denial creates distance between he and Jesus causing him to feel more and more alone. Only days earlier Peter had claimed he would follow Jesus and die for him. Why did he deny him? Because he is human, and like me, he is weak, selfish and often afraid. Thank God for the grace that Jesus’ bought when he died for Peter on the cross.

This same Peter, weeks later, filled with the Holy Spirit of God, preached the Good news of Jesus' death and resurrection with boldness to a crowd of thousands in Jerusalem - inviting them to receive the same grace that he had been given. What changed? Peter did! He was no longer alone. He was now armed with supernatural power, radical conviction and sacrificial love.

Sacrificial love which really became a sacrifice, as Peter went on to lay down his life in the name of Jesus.

Have I encountered Jesus in such a way? Have I relied on his supernatural presence that I might love selflessly, enough to lay down my own life? Can I do that without surrendering all that I am?

Today, while singing at church, I wondered, "Do I really believe what I'm singing about?"
Is it true Jesus?
Is...........All of you
Really......More than enough for all of me?
For (my) every thirst and (my) every need?
Do you really......Satisfy me with your love?
Is...........All I have in you more than enough?

Have I allowed you to be more than enough? Have I slowed down enough to listen and understand your voice? Oh God, empty me of the substitutes that I've filled my life with both physical and emotional, and fill me with more than enough.

1 comment:

Pam De Corah said...

Thanks JP. As a pastor's wife, lonliness is part of the job discription. It's difficult to have close friendships in the church. I sit without my husband in church services, at weddings and funerals. Sometimes it can become overwhelming being so lonley in the midst of God's children. Yes - Jesus is more than enough. He is that friend that sticketh closer than a brother.