Over the course of my three and a half decades of being a pastor, I plethora of books have appeared that proclaimed to have found a new and secret way to get closer to God. In every case, the author and book have disappeared as fast as they came. Yet, I remain surprised at how many people, including very active Christians, seem to jump on the bandwagon in hopes that this time they will find the quick and simple way to the Jesus life.
But they are always left disappointed. Here is the reason why: THERE IS NO QUICK OR SIMPLE WAY TO LIVE OUT THE JESUS LIFE. The way of Jesus is long, sometimes arduous journey where we have to constantly endeavor to get our pride, ego’s and selfish desires out of the way, so there will be room in our hearts for Jesus, and his call.
There are no secrets on how to live out our call to the Christian life, and when people tell you there is, they are lying to you. Jesus showed us the way to live and he did it in a very open fashion. So, throw away the quick fix books, open your Bibles, read about Jesus and then through prayer and contemplation, let the life of Jesus grow in your heart. In time you will find like Nouwen certainly did in his life, that the way of Jesus and downward mobility is the greatest way to live life. Greatest way, but not the easiest way. Nouwen is the first to say that to live the life of “downward mobility” is to be counter-cultural, and counter-cultural is always the hard way as we find ourselves swimming against the current of social norms and expectations.
I think deep down we all know that living for others and living for something bigger than ourselves is the way Jesus calls us to live. That calls needs to be awaken at times in our lives. May God bless us with this awakening!
To show you how we do know deep down that the selfless way of life is the holy and true way to live life, let me share with you a children’s story (how’s that for ending a deep discussion on Jesus and downward mobility!). This is a well-known book and millions of parents have shared the story with their children because deep down they know this is the way they want their children (and themselves) to live.
The book is The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
Once there was a tree . . . and she loved a little boy.
And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb up her trunk, and swing from her branches, and eat apples. And they would play hide and go seek. And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade.
And the boy loved the tree ... very much ... And the tree was happy.
But time went by. and the boy grew older. And the tree was often alone.
Then one day the boy came to the tree and the tree said: “Come, Boy, come and climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and eat apples and play in my shade and be happy.”
“I am too big to climb and play,” said the boy. “I want to buy things and have fun. I want some money. Can you give me some money?”
“I’m sorry,” said the tree, “but I have no money. I have only leaves and apples. Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in the city. Then you will have money and you will be happy.”
And so the boy climbed up the tree and gathered her apples and carried them away. And the tree was happy . . .
But the boy stayed away for long time ... and the tree was sad.
And then one day the boy came back and the tree shock with joy and she said, “Come, Boy, climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and be happy.”
“I am too busy to climb trees,” said the boy. “I want a house to keep me warm,” he said. “I want a wife and I want children, and so I need a house. Can you give me a house?”
“I have no house,” said the tree. “The forest is my house, but you may cut off my branches and build a house. Then you will be happy.”
And so the boy cut off her branches and carried them away to build his house.
And the tree was happy ... But the boy stayed away for a long time.
When he came back, the tree was so happy she could hardly speak. “Come, Boy,” she whispered, “come and play.”
“I am too old and sad to play,” said the boy. “I want a boat that will Take me far away from here. Can you give me a boat?”
“Cut down my trunk and make a boat,” said the tree. “Then you can sail away ... and be happy.”
And so the boy cut down her trunk and made a boat and sailed away.
And the tree was happy ... but not really.
After a long time the boy came back again. “I am sorry, Boy,” said the tree, “but I have nothing left to give you, my apples are gone.”
“My teeth are too weak for apples,” said the boy.
“My branches are gone,” said the tree. “You cannot swing on them”
“I am too old to swing on branches,” said the boy.
“My trunk is gone,” said the tree. “You cannot climb”
“I am too tired to climb,” said the boy.
“I am sorry,” sighed the tree. “I wish that I could give you something ... But have nothing left. I am just an old stump. I am sorry ...”
“I don’t need very much now,” said the boy, “just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.”
“Well,” said the tree, straightening herself up as she could, “well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. sit down and rest.”
And the boy did.
And the tree was happy ...
This tree represents a perfect example of “downward mobility” and at the end of the story, when it says “And the tree was happy...” we know it to be a very true statement, because all of us have had those moments when we knew that in our giving and being a servant, we were doing the right thing, the deeper thing, the holy thing.
Nouwen calls us to take those “moments” and turn them into a way of life – day by day, year by year, lifetime by lifetime.
Nouwen concludes his book by saying, “We will never be without struggle [when living the life of Christ]. But when we persevere with hope, courage, and confidence, we will come to fully realize in our innermost being that through the downward road of Christ we will enter with him into his glory. So, let us be grateful for our vocation, resist our temptation, and be ever committed to a life of ongoing formation.”
Yes! Let us be on this journey – the way of Christ – the selfless way. Amen and Amen.
Are you ready to take the dive into living more fully in the way of Jesus?
If so, what steps do you need to take today?
If not, what is holding you back?