Follow Jesus (Holy Week Monday)
Today's devotional comes from "Falling Into Goodness," a book of Lenten reflections by Chuck DeGroat. You can purchase the entire book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.
Monday in Holy Week
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
He is coming to bring justice. Don’t let that word scare you. It’s not the apocalyptic horror story people make it out to be. No, God’s justice is about setting everything aright, restoring the world’s brokenness, making all things new, including you.
But the old imagery is helpful, at times. You know – the imagery of fire and brimstone, the imagery of wars and floods. You see, justice isn’t always pretty. God’s setting-things-right comes not with flowers laid down on the path before us but on a trail of tears. Cosmic and personal transformation doesn’t look like paying for a spray tan in order to change your image. It’s a dying and rising. It’s bloody.
“Cut out your eye if it causes you to sin,” Jesus says. That’s bloody. Of course, we don’t go around cutting people’s eyes out to make a point. But maybe you get the spirit behind it. Jesus is saying – Do the hard work. Do the heart surgery. Transformation isn’t easy. It’s a bloody mess.
Like Jill. That’s not her real name, but she’s a real person. She was terrorized by a physical, emotional, and spiritual abuser for decades. When I met her, she was soulless. She had no desires, no passions, no needs of her own. She was practically mute save for the parroting of her husband’s opinions. She was radically out of touch with her self – that beautiful image-bearing self in Jesus. The self she was wearing was a tattered and beaten one, a persona built over the course of many years through much childhood neglect and trauma. This was the only garment she wore.
Jill’s dying-to-rising journey might not make the annals of the saints. She didn’t journey to a foreign country and save thousands of souls. No, she had no life to give for another, no self to offer. We had to find her lost self first. This took many, many months. She feared having her own opinions, expressing her own needs. But as she did, something grew within her. I saw her smile. She asked for a cup of coffee. She decided to start exercising. And her tyrant husband became enraged.
Jill endured brutal abuse during those months to the point of leaving her husband. She stuck around longer than I wanted her to. But when she left, it was her leaving. She’d grown weary of those old garments. She longed to be dressed in the new clothes of Jesus. She claimed Ezekiel 16 as her story:
I clothed you with embroidered cloth and with sandals of fine leather; I bound you in fine linen and covered you with rich fabric. I adorned you with ornaments: I put bracelets on your arms, a chain on your neck, a ring on your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown upon your head. Ezekiel 16:10-12
Despite apocalyptic drama and profound abuse, she longed to bear the beauty of her divine image, and desired to become a blessing to others.
His lawyer was a warrior. He threatened her. He threatened me. For months she stepped in and out of her new identity, sometimes falling back into the fearful doormat-of-a-wife burdened by guilt and shame. Justice for Jill was not easy. Her desire to follow Jesus meant walking the gauntlet of crucifixion, to her old self, to her destructive marriage, to a church community that wouldn’t support her, to his financial security. She kept walking though.
Christ is coming to bring justice. And if we follow, we may find ourselves walking the bloody path, too. Transformation always involves a dying. In Jill’s case, the death to her old self came at a high cost but became an extraordinary metamorphosis.
During our last session together, we celebrated the emergence of the butterfly from the transformative chrysalis. Jill would go on to become an extraordinary champion of other women like her longing to follow Jesus to freedom. This is the kind of justice Jesus is bringing in concrete ways, not necessarily for the annals of the saints, but extraordinary nonetheless.
Just King, we long for justice in the big crises and in our smaller stories, in the lives of broken people and in a groaning creation. We long to become our new selves in Christ, transformed in order to be a blessing to others. May it be so. Amen