Take The Humble Path (Wednesday)
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.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6
When I was a kid, our house was Grand Central Station for my neighborhood friends. This meant that lots of snacks and drinks were necessary. After a couple of hours of pickup basketball or football, we’d bring our massive hunger and thirst into my kitchen in a frenzied rush. Perhaps you can imagine the ravenous hunger of a bunch of middle school boys.
Now, can you imagine how hungry and thirsty the Jewish people were for a Rescuer after hundreds of years of exile? Can you imagine the excitement as the gossip spread – “He’s here, he’s really here. The Messiah has come! We’re free!” And can you grasp the shock of the young followers assembled on that hillside when Jesus announced that the kingdom come was not the end of their hunger and thirst, but an invitation to it?
Blessed are the broken. Blessed are the mourners. Blessed are the meek. And now this? Perhaps, you can relate. Maybe you’re one of those folks who’ve been following Jesus for years, and yet the marriage hasn’t gotten better, the depression hasn’t diminished, the economic issues haven’t subsided. Or maybe you’re a new follower of Jesus, and you hoped that faith would bring sweeping changes in every area of your life. But, your heart still aches.
We are a people in search of fulfillment. If the Garden of Eden story teaches us anything, it teaches us that we’re not even content with paradise. There is always something more. We now know that each year millions of dollars are spent on psychological research to determine what you and I hunger for, and that marketers use this research to custom-tailor ads that will stir longing in us. The General Motors research division once called this “the organized creation of dissatisfaction.”[i]
Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t satisfy every hunger and thirst when he comes. But he doesn’t mock them either. He ennobles them. Hunger and thirst define the kingdom-dweller, the Jesus-follower. Holy desire animates us. And for what? Righteousness – the world set right again, hearts re-tuned, painful relationships restored, the self-righteous redeemed, racism razed. Jesus invites us into a deeper hunger and thirst, beyond better wifi signals and a better coffee shop in our neighborhood.
The first four beatitudes chip away at our cheap versions of happiness, exposing our Garden-grown propensity for self-fulfillment, and inviting us downward, back to the ground of our being. But notice – they don’t invite us into a prude and squeamish guilt-and-shame based existence. No, this downward journey is the way of life, and life to the full.
Lent, as I said in the Acknowledgments, is from the old English word Lencten, the “springtime” of the soul. Out of death, life. Out of a thawing soil, green. Days lengthening. Sun warming. Hope growing. But for this life-giving process to happen, each season must be embraced and honored for its redeeming work. Yes, even the winter’s dying.
And so, in this Lenten season as we straddle death and life, enter in. Let the broken-mourning-meek-hungering vision of the kingdom do its deep, soul-transforming work on you. Fall into the goodness of God’s beatitude vision.
Risen Christ, we hunger for the same righteousness you long for, but if we’re honest we’re often satisfied by smaller things. We thirst for justice in our broken world, but sometimes settle for quick fixes. Stir a deeper hunger and thirst for your kingdom and your righteousness. Amen
[i] This phrase is quoted in William Cavanaugh’s important short work called Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008). These insights are also elaborated upon in my book Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016), pp. 16-20.