When I was just 15 years old, I had the privilege of going on a mission trip to Kenya. I had never once been in an airplane even once before, let alone experienced so many layovers.
Twenty years later, there are still things I remember vividly about that trip--
Bumpy van rides
Dancing with the village church children
Oohing and ahhing over the Sahara desert out my airplane window
Eating goat. Or should I say, chewing it.
When we first arrived at our host house, it was completely dark. After drinking customary tea and a small meal, we settled in for the night. I awoke early the next morning to the sounds of roosters crowing. I climbed onto my knees to peer out the window. The radiant sunrise was breathtaking.
Down below, the yard was surrounded by a large stone wall. It contained a small garden, and also a goat. I was enamored by what I deemed the “house pet.” That is, until a couple days into our trip.
That was when I realized my goat friend was gone. Later that evening we ate mystery meat.
Well, not so much a mystery. They explained what it was in Swahili. When I bravely asked, “What’s that?” they answered in plain English: “Goat!”
From what I remember, the meal actually tasted great (forgive me Mr. Goat). The problem was the texture was more like bubblegum and less like, well, meat.
Chew, chew, chew, chew, chew, chew, chew.
I’m a talkative gal, but I think I hardly got in a couple dozen words that evening. I knew the meal was a generous gift for us guests. So I chewed, and I smiled, and I complemented the chef.
I was reminded of this distant memory as I read through the Gospels this week. That’s because, at times, Jesus’ words are just as hard to swallow as that not-so-mystery meat.
When I was a child, growing up in church, I innocently accepted them as normal. Now, as an adult, I understand why Jesus was— and is— so controversial.
“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
What Jesus is saying here is that true, fulfilling, and eternal life can only be found in Him. If that statement wasn’t clear enough, later on He declares, “I am the Way and the truth and the Life.”
Chew, chew, chew, chew, chew.
Let’s be completely honest: this idea goes against our very human nature. More is more. Protecting what I have is good. The more I keep to myself, the more I have. Right?
Every earthly advertisement and self-help blog, and convey--
You can do it!
You are enough.
Believe in yourself.
Meanwhile Jesus says, in John 15:5, “...apart from me you can do nothing.”
As harsh as these words may sound, and as hard as they may be to swallow, Jesus doesn’t mince words because He knows only the whole truth sets us free.
The truth is we weren’t designed to live our lives independent from God. It has been His desire since the beginning of time that we would be rooted in an intimate relationship with Him.
I love what David Guzik says about Matthew 16:25-27, in his Enduring Word commentary: “You don’t lose a seed when you plant it, though it seems dead and buried. Instead, you set the seed free to be what it was always intended to be.”
Contrary to what the world says, we will never “find ourselves” outside of Christ. True, eternal, abundant life can only be found in Him. He wants all of us— our identity, our dreams, our purpose— to be buried in Him. This is why He told His disciples to “make disciples and baptize them,” as a sign that new believers were “all in.”
I know, for me, I’ve come a long way from where my journey started. But if I’m honest, there are still areas of my life that I hold behind my back. Jesus isn’t asking for anything He didn’t already give— He gave His whole self for us, and now He wants us to be completely surrendered to Him.
Friend, what part of your life are you still holding back from God? Do you find yourself struggling to stay rooted? Do you find yourself running to other sources for joy, purpose, peace, and fulfillment?
Jesus’ words can sometimes be hard to swallow but, like my goat, they are served out of love and compassion. He wants to free us from striving, and teach us how to lean on Him.
Acknowledge today that His way is the only way to life and freedom. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be wholeheartedly all in.
WE’RE READING THROUGH THE GOSPEL IN SEVEN WEEKS!