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Transformation: Consider the Lilies, An Invitation from Jesus

Transformation Blog

 

 

Transformation: Consider the Lilies, An Invitation from Jesus

Brandon Cook

I have a friend who was getting coffee in Starbucks.  He was trying to put sugar into his drink at the milk and sugar station when, feeling rushed, he accidentally bumped into the man next to him, who happened to be a hippie.  “Oh, I’m so sorry,” my friend said.  “Hey, bro…” the kindly hippie smiled, “No problem.  Just be here now, man.”  A very kind way of telling my friend to slow down and be in the moment.  My friend turned to the man and said, “You’re right.  Thank you.” 

So yes, the Spirit of God can speak through hippies. 

“Be here now” is not a bad way of describing Jesus’ magnum opus sermon which we read in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7.  ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ is all about being present in the goodness of God and living an abundant life with your feet firmly planted on the grounds of God’s estate, what Jesus calls ‘The Kingdom of Heaven.’  Jesus tells us to slow down when he tells us to consider the birds of the air, or to watch the lilies in the field.  He calls us out of running around.  He calls us to be here now, which is always the only place where you can encounter God. 

The sort of unhurriedness that Jesus describes has to be practiced, just as the abiding which he talks about in John 15 has to be practiced.  Our hearts are inclined to avoidance and hurriedness, but through discipline, we can learn a new way of being.  Henri Nouwen describes what life can become as we practice unhurriedness and learn to live from our spiritual center.  He pointed to wagon wheels—long wooden tires supported by spokes which run into a hub at the center—as a metaphor for unhurried living: 

These wheels help me to understand the importance of a life lived from the center. When I move along the rim, I can reach one spoke after the other, but when I stay at the hub, I am in touch with all the spokes at once…What does the hub represent?  I think of it as my own heart, the heart of God, and the heart of the world. There we find the God of love.[1] 

It’s true.  If we live in unhurried trust, we are able to touch all the things that matter at once, rather than rushing frantically from one to the next.  We remain undizzied andunjostled, and from that place of balance are able to maintain perspective on what matters and what’s most important.  We are in touch with the Father, who is at the center of all things. 

Finding the love of God, which Nouwen says is at the heart of spiritual life, is, unsurprisingly, really what the Sermon on the Mount is all about.  In it, Jesus constantly points us to “the Father”: the Father who sees in secret, the Father who knows what you need, the Father, the One in the heavens.[2]  Living in unhurriedness is about having time and space to connect with this God of all life and love.

Ultimately, our ability to live the unhurried life correlates directly to our view of who God is and how much (or little) He loves us.  If you believe God is angry, absent, or ambivalent, the more compelled you will be to prove yourself and the less free you will be to live in unhurriedness.  You’ll also probably come to resent and perhaps hate Him (even if you are just, in reality, hating a false view of him).  If, on the other hand, you believe that God is good and holy, that He sees and loves you and has provided rest for you, then you will be freed from running around trying to prove yourself.  The pressure is off when you see who God really is. 

No wonder Jesus “often withdrew to solitary places to pray.”[3]  He was practicing unhurriedness and solitude and silence as a means of growing in awareness of his Father’s goodness.  (And we must train ourselves to live in unhurriedness, for it does not happen by default.)  At the same time, his awareness of the Father’s goodness compelled him to slow down and to rest, for his identity did not come from accomplishing things, though great things he did accomplish (and that’s no mere coincidence).  Unhurriedness and a high view of who God is go hand-in-hand.  One leads to the other, whichever one you start with. 

Quite simply, we do not leave hurriedness by trying to stop being hurried.  We leave hurriedness by coming into the knowledge that our Father is good.  It’s the same way we leave worry and anxiety and fear behind, not by will power but by seeing the God who sees and cares and is with us in suffering. In short, all transformation is catalyzed by knowing that our Father is good.

[1] Henri Nouwen.  Here and Now: Living in the Spirit.  Crossroads Publishing, New York, NY, 2006.  pgs 27-28.

[2] See Matthew 6.

[3] Luke 5:16