Last night I had a wrestling match with regret. I don’t know where it came from, but after a simple conversation with my husband and a few minutes of thinking, regret jumped up out of nowhere and grabbed me by the neck like an intruder set on putting me out for good.
In the space of minutes, I saw in my mind a picture of myself with a loved one: how easily offended and selfishly sensitive I had been around a struggling, God-loving friend for years, when robust love and patience were what I should’ve given.
That led to another one (as the brain often goes). I regretted always letting my easily-upset, childish tendencies show with the person I love most: my husband.
That led to the if-onlys. If only I had started intentionally obeying God like the young facebook friend whose blogs I like to read, who harnesses her heart to praise God while in great pain. When I was her age, I only wanted to build a better life for myself.
If only I’d worked hard and helped save money when Tim and I were younger, maybe Tim wouldn’t have had to work so hard now. If only.
I got myself so upset that I ended up crying, “God, let me make up for it. I’ll be cheerful and encourage Tim every day. I’ll be more patient with the ones I love. I’ll stop whining. I’ll stop being negative.” I had visions of a transformed Scrooge running through the street after his bad night, spilling out money to the poor, sending a turkey to Bob Cratchit’s house, showing up at his nephew’s door a changed man. Not being Scrooge anymore.
But in the space of a minute, I knew it just didn’t work that way. So, after leaving my drama-queen tear-pond, I ended up whinnying, “Lord, just help me,” as I fell asleep.
That was my little trip into regret.
Now, this is my little trip out.
This morning I woke up and the first word that came into my head was, “Abortion.” What?
I sat straight up, and a picture came to mind, that of a strong and godly woman I admire, who never lets her younger friends sit around with otherworldly illusions about her—she has told us more than once, “When I was younger, I had an abortion. Now I wish I hadn’t. I deeply regret it, but I do not stay there. God has a perfect plan, I will see that child one day, and I live in His grace, and I move forward.” She has a job to do, she shows peace, strength, and love on her face, and she does not embody the destruction of regret.
“Okay,” I thought. “Not looking behind, pressing forward. The words of the Apostle Paul.” And although abortion is seen as a controversial topic, terrorism is something we all hate. Paul had been a terrorist. Okay.
But what about the lost time we all live with? How can we have the heart to move on if we can’t make up for it?
What do I tell my older friend who didn’t receive Jesus until he was 65, who left behind a long vacuum of wasted time? What do I say to the mom who alienated her children and who never hears from them now? What do I tell myself, for that matter? All of us get tangles of regrets in our laps that beg to be unknotted. All of us at GreenTree, to different degrees, have memories that spell I-F-O-N-L-Y. I hear many stories of wasted time among the members of our group. Many of us have been too passive; some of us have been in jail, some of us have destroyed another person with our words, used other people for their bodies, let our children grow up with wounds we inflicted, cursed God for years with our destructive behaviors. What about the lost time?
If the lost time could be magically redeemed somehow, maybe then we could have the heart to press forward.
I was talking to my dad on the phone today about this very subject. He pointed out two things that can completely obliterate regret over lost time:
“We don’t have to start well. We just need to finish well.”
He was thinking of the Parable of the Generous Employer in Matthew 20, in which a landowner paid those he’d hired in the morning the same wages as the people he’d hired later in the day. My dad said, “It seems like God doesn’t count how much we do or when we got started. It’s just what we do with the time we have now. So we don’t have to have regrets.”
It’s another example of the backwards math of the kingdom, I guess. Kingdom Math seems weird, unfair, and encouraging all at once. Sometimes it’s our only hope.
“God can do great and mighty things in a short time.”
That’s what someone told my dad once when he was discouraged about lost time. God isn’t bound to time. He binds Himself to forgive and completely forget when we repent, and He can stop time and stretch it if He wants to. He loves doing what we aren’t capable of. Ask people who have walked with God for any length of time, and you’ll begin to hear story after story of growth spurts and sudden opportunities.
Maybe our tales of regret aren’t so different from those Old Testament stories in which God whittles down His armies to small numbers. He does seem to favor downsizing the human-credential phenomenon we Americans tend to like so much. Maybe mistakes, sins, and lost years are only opportunities for God to show off. Maybe if it’s not about us, we’re free.
It’s a new day, GreenTree friends. No regrets.
This guest blog is written by Laura Goodman. Laura is a teacher at Community Bible Study, which meets at Pinedale Christian Church on Thursday mornings. Leaders at Community Bible study yearly write a personal devotional piece to share with the group; this is part of Laura’s devotional writing, about her personal experience with the desire to grow in relational closeness with Jesus. If you wonder what it means to “grow closer to God,” and want to know how that’s done, take this refreshing blog post as an inspiration and encouragement to begin with God right where you are.
As I look back, I realize that I was stuck in a spiritual rut for years without knowing it. I was stagnant. I would give God whatever time I had at the end of the day, right before bed, sometimes ending up falling asleep within a few minutes of opening my Bible. Worship at church on Sunday mornings was great, but only if we sang the songs I liked. The pastor’s message was moving, but I mostly thought it was just what everyone else needed to hear.
I was a fairly new youth pastor’s wife at the time and I wanted people to know that I had it together. That worked until I volunteered to teach a High School girls’ Sunday School class. What a challenge that was. Did I mention that my co-teacher was the most godly woman and the most gifted teacher I knew? I was put in my place, and I quickly figured out that I could do NOTHING without Jesus. It was a huge lesson learned as I realized I didn’t know quite as much as I thought I did and not nearly as much as I wanted to. God was so gracious to me, and through much humility, He gave me such a hunger and thirst for the Word that I had never experienced. It proved to be a pivotal moment in my walk with Christ.
But something was still missing. During a sermon our pastor asked the question, “If Jesus was all you had in heaven (no mansion, streets of gold, no reuniting with loved ones, etc.), would you still want to go? Would Jesus be enough?” Fear gripped me as I sat there, and I knew the answer was, “No, Jesus was not enough.” I had what I thought was a strong faith and a hunger for God’s Word, I loved Jesus for what He did on the cross for me, but I did not have a deep intimate love for Jesus that, in my human mind, would last for eternity. I think we can have great faith but still miss our True Love, and that is where I was. As I wrestled with that, I was determined that I would love him more, seek him more.
In the book Pilgrim’s Progress, the character Christian and his friend and fellow sojourner, Hopeful, go through numerous depressing and hindering trials, almost costing them their lives at times on their way to the Celestial City. When they finally get near the City, this is what they experience:
“. . . The beauty of the City and the radiance of the sunbeams coming from it were such a glorious sight that Christian became sick with intense longing. Hopeful also was stricken with the same affliction, and because of their pangs they lay there for some time crying out, ‘If you find my beloved one, tell Him that I am sick with love.'”
That is the intimacy I desired, and I immediately knew that my quiet time was the first thing that was going to have to change. The core to any relationship is quality time. In my previous quiet times I was not being silent before the Lord to listen, confess sin, to worship Him, and meditate on what I was learning and what He was teaching me. But where was I going to find the time when I wouldn’t be distracted by kids or fall asleep? I decided I would have to get up, exercise to get myself awake and then do a quiet time.
The first week was so hard. I would start off feeling great, but by midday I was tired, which made me cranky and tired for the rest of the day. But I stuck with it and now I don’t function well without it. It is a habit; it is a part of me. I enjoy that part of my day the most.
But not every day do I feel like worshiping Him early in the morning. On those tough days, my quiet time starts like, “God, I will praise you today even though I don’t feel like it because you alone are Worthy and if I won’t, the stones will cry out.” That very statement helps bring me into a worshipful state, and I am blessed even more those times because it puts me in my place. It helps me to see how much I need Him and how I really can’t do anything successfully without Him.
So now my daily prayer is that I would fall more and more in love with Him every day. I still am processing what that looks like by asking the question: “What is your part, God, and what is mine? You have to do the revealing and fill me with your Love if I do the seeking, right?” For I have figured out that surprise, surprise, I can’t do it on my own!! Although it has been a steady and somewhat slow process, I feel so much closer to my Lord and Savior than I have before, I have a growing love for Jesus that I have not experienced before. The greatest part about it is that I am never satisfied; I just continue to want more.
Maybe you have struggled with this too. Maybe I am the only one, and that’s okay. I am so thankful that God did not leave me where I was. May we be constantly humbled to have the experience of being drawn close to and loved by a sovereign and intentional God. May we all love Jesus as deeply as we see in Song of Solomon:
“For your love is better than wine.” Song of Solomon 1:2
“My Beloved is mine and I am His…” Song of Solomon 2:16
“…If you find my Beloved tell Him I am lovesick.” Song of Solomon 5:8
Last week I was sitting with my beloved group at GreenTree, listening to prayer requests and jotting them down, and I began to smile when I looked at all the faces. Some I haven’t known very long; some are as familiar as relatives. Something startled me. A question, flashing in color, as I saw everyone in that moment. Do we—whether we’re fresh young spirits, steadily growing lives, or seasoned believers—really know, or remember, the pulsating power we have when we get together and pray?
Do we have any idea?
My cat offered me some thoughts a few days later.
(For the better parable, read the story of the persistent widow and the grumpy judge in Luke 18, told by the Master Storyteller. God just happened to use this one for me because it (or she) was in the house, in my face.) And if you like cats, you’ll appreciate my plight. If you don’t like cats, that’ll work too; you’ll feel my predicament even more.
Andrea isn’t a perfectly well-behaved cat. Really, she probably isn’t even an average-behaved cat. When she gets aggravated from too much handling, or simply feels grumpy, she does this ninja move and scratches my leg, leaving a long, red zipper-line. Then there’s the regular cat stuff: asking to go outside, then pawing at the door two minutes later because she’s changed her mind and wants to come inside; nose-bumping our elbows at the dinner table; stepping right in front of our feet when we walk through the house so that we’re in danger of crashing face-first onto the floor at any moment.
Yet, her most annoying cat trait of all might be worse than the scratching. It starts every day around 3:30pm and does not end until 4:45.
I’m sweeping the floor in the middle of the afternoon and I hear a familiar ring—whiny like an alarm clock, confident as a veteran salesperson. I hardly notice at first, for its very ordinariness. Minutes later, I’m putting the books in the shelf, and again it rings. Down the hall I go, sit at the computer, and the sound follows me, slicing the air with that round, tinny wail.
I swivel my chair around, look down at the ball of black fur with those large and glowing green eyes and reply, as I do every day around 3:30, “Andrea, it’s not time.”
I’d rather feed her at 6:00, when the family eats—or maybe 5:00 if that won’t do, since that’s at least a nice round marking-off-the-hour time. But long ago, through kitten-hood up to now, after long days of persistent begging, failed cat-diets, and behavioral training, the little thing wore me down to 4:45pm. And we’ve been there for quite some time.
Ten minutes later, I wince.
Really, I think cat meows are cute. I like little kitten yelps, I like to imitate cat-growls, and I get a kick out of the way our neighbor’s Tabby mutters to himself when he walks around in our yard. But like the story of those water-torture methods where the victim starts to feel each drop as a hammer on his skull, my cat’s meow turns, with each repetition, from cute to exasperating.
I love animals, I do. I’m not exactly an animal rights activist, but I have a compassion for the feelings of my Furry Americans. Even the deepest motherly love, though, can wear thin if stretched far enough. And so, my commitment to keep Andrea on schedule, despite her begging, changes from a quiet tolerance to a jaw-clenching resolve to hold on until 4:45.
Honestly!—Sometimes it reminds me of labor pains. At first there’s a good bit of time between contractions; then, they get closer and closer until you wonder when the full-blown symphony orchestra is going to just get on with it. This cat starts off small and ends up sounding just about like one of those big loud beeping hospital machines. And there it goes again—
Jesus uses an unjust (and cranky) judge in His parable, a man who is continually pestered by a widow who pleads with him for justice against her enemy. He doesn’t even have the tolerance and kind intentions toward the woman that I have toward my cat. Yet his resolve is growing thin too, with each knock, with each determined question. And, though he’s not the nicest guy on the planet, he finally gives in and helps her.
The One we pray to, in our circle at Growth Group, hears each knock, each repetition, the same ones, every week, the silent pleas, said in every prayer session:
Please heal my friend who has cancer.
Please help me to see hope in this. I feel like I want to give up.
Please keep my granddaughter safe as she leaves China.
Please help the families of the students who were killed.
Ra-eeeooooooowr . . . .
That rhythmic calling-out, and learning to be daring enough to continue, are as important as a baby’s growing awareness that his needs get met when he cries. It shows us our dependence. It reminds us that the very fact that our hearts are beating and our lungs are breathing is caught up in God. Through crying out, and practicing the faith not to give up, we learn who we are, and who God is. With a need as continual as a knock, metallic as a cat’s meowing, steady as an exhale—we are the abused widow, the impatient cat, the weak humans with our human days and cravings.
Yet there’s one very important difference: God is no cranky judge. God is no over-busy cat owner. God is no tired parent. God is Love. God is Wisdom. Jesus says, in His superior story, “to always pray and not give up.” To always pray and not give up—that is the nourishing breath we can take in, before we exhale our plea, our prayer, our cry that we have cried every day until now.
And so, when I get tired of working on my computer, and I glance over at the cat with the big moon eyes, and try to imagine what it must feel like to be a small creature, I finally forget my urge to whack her on the behind and I smile a little bit.
I look at the clock; it’s 4:41. I turn toward her; she jerks her body up in a burst of hope. When I stand up, she flies off the bed and skurries down the hall toward her bowl, delirious with joy that relief is finally coming. “Mreep! Mreep!” she sings in little joy-screeches; and I say, laughing at her silliness, “I guess four minutes early doesn’t matter.”
To always pray,
is the echo of Jesus throughout the world,
and not give up.
“Look,” John says, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Christ is the Lion of Judah, but the Lamb-ness of Jesus resonates with us this time of year. The rich symbolism throughout the old stories of the Law, the heart-tugging sense of injustice we feel when we see pictures of white, sweet lambs being killed as sacrifices for the wrongdoing of people—this is, perhaps, why the symbol of the Lamb so grabs our attention when we look ahead to Easter.
The picture of the Lamb teaches us of the unthinkable act of love. We see images of a soft, white creature slashed with a knife, blood blazing against the cloud background of wool. Our hearts hurt when we look at the sweet little animal. And we wince when we see, beside it, a blood-smeared leftover of a man we recognize as our Lover, our Friend. Such images feel appropriate to the ashen, cloudy face of a Good Friday.
Then on Sunday, the sun explodes in gold. The burst of sweet candy in our mouths instead of eggs for breakfast. Lilac and yellow, blue and pink, splatter in crazy happiness all around us as we celebrate in our churches, practically yell out worship melodies….He is risen! From Good Friday to Easter Sunday, from complete dark to dazzling light, we’ve vicariously felt the manic-depressive roller-coaster that Jesus’ poor followers must have ridden. Utter black bleakness one day, confusion the next, then blinding delirious happiness the third day. Lamb on Friday. Lion of Judah on Sunday.
But wasn’t the Lion always there?
Maybe there’s a lesson for us in the disciples’ (and our) inability to see any spark of Lion before Sunday, whether it’s in the Easter season, or during a time of loss, confusion, or stress, where no windows show themselves. In those intervals, we might feel the lamb-like softness of God’s love pillowing our heads, and we’re glad. But what we also want, for some sense of hope, is a hint of Lion. We want to see, in the hollow pit, a divine wink.
We already know that Jesus wasn’t total Lamb during His ministry. He’s the one who sat kindly on a donkey on the way to Jerusalem, then slammed the money-tables in the temple with a furious roar.
The same gentle Rabbi, who softly prepped His learners about his upcoming death, growled, “Get behind me, Satan!” when Peter protested the idea.
In that beloved Lion story by C. S. Lewis, Aslan quietly makes an arrangement with the gleeful White Witch: with a lamb-like quietness, he plans the sacrifice which will save Edmund at Aslan’s own expense. Yet when the witch asks, “But how do I know this promise will be kept?” Aslan roars with such thunderous authority that “the witch, after staring for a moment with her lips wide apart, picked up her skirts and fairly ran for her life.”
The same Jesus who kept meek and mute at His trial muscled his Lion-strength to take on both body-torture and spiritual abandonment. C. H. Spurgeon remarks, “To us, sensations such as our Lord endured would have been insupportable, and kind unconsciousness would have come to our rescue.”
His Lamb-like love gives us comfort. His Lion-strength gives us hope.
If I’d lived back in time when He was here in the flesh, and watched Him die, I think I’d have suffocated in the ink-black despair that comes when a small faith lets itself be deafened out by silence. Maybe there were some who had that spark of faith in the corner of their eyes, even in the confusion of unfathomable tragedy.
It’s a lesson they all had to learn. It’s a lesson we still have to learn, in our own witching hours. The lesson of the Lion in the cave.
It’s not faith in nothing. It’s not faith in faith itself. It’s faith in Someone who promised something, faith that strains itself, trains itself to see in the gloom that tiny pin-light that hints, It’s not over.
Like the end of a morose movie where we’re struck dumb by the tragedy we just witnessed on screen…the Hero is dead. But just before the credits start rolling—what is that?—one eye opens. Then whoosh—the picture blacks out, and we’re in our seats, waiting in hope, knowing there’s going to be a sequel. One tiny glimpse and we’re given the hint—in an almost playful, teasing way—that this is not the end.
Then our agonizing question is answered, after the silence is so long that we don’t think we can last through it any longer. The Lion breaks out of the cave with a Roar-Call that catches us up and out of the water with a huge gulp of oxygen and a burst of relief that makes it all seem as if it were only a bad dream—
And we cheer, as loudly as we can, “HE IS RISEN!!”
This is our Lion, and our Lamb.
As Mr. Beaver says to Edmund and the other children,
Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.
From Friday to Sunday and every day, may we be fed by His Love. May we be allured by His Power. May we remember, when we’re happy and singing in the radiance of light, that the Fire never really went out.
When we think of that fancy word Discipleship, let’s not picture learned men in crisp suits, or bored hours spent bowed over a table with a checklist. Let’s think of Pooh and his friends. Do you remember the story of Pooh eating too much and getting jammed in Rabbit’s front hole? It’s the one with that quaint picture of a grassy hill and the top half of a yellow bear, who joins paws with a blond-haired boy who’s pulled elastic-tight by a long line of rabbits, squirrels, and mice.
Wait. That’s the way things are?
That picture doesn’t seem to match up with the time I lent someone an ear and got gossiped about a week later. I’ve taken on jobs I didn’t really have time to keep up with, I’ve acted stupidly, nursed bitter memories; I’ve been misunderstood, used; and frankly, I don’t know if I have the energy, nerve, or desire to try again. I see no lovely forest and cute animal friends.
But upon closer inspection, we’ll find something else in the tender Pooh stories. If we look, we can see ourselves in their Forest, and perhaps we’ll discover here what’s holding us back from the freedom and joy of giving Love.
If we walk with Pooh through the forest, the first thing we’ll see is a large hole in a grassy bank. Pooh bends over and calls, “Is anybody home?”
Do you hear the “sudden scuffling noise?” Then all is quiet. Sudden scuffling plus quiet equals—inconvenienced.
Then for good measure, Rabbit calls out, “No!” and tries to disguise his voice. Pooh prods, Rabbit pretends. Pooh prods, Rabbit hems and haws. Finally, Rabbit has to invite Pooh in, or else he’ll look rude. Pooh stays until he’s emptied Rabbit’s honey and milk. And Rabbit is polite. Rabbit is very polite. Rabbit is so polite that we can almost feel the pressure of his breath while he’s holding it in. But Rabbit tries his best.
Sometimes I do try my best. Or at least I try to try my best. Sort of. Then my daughter spills paint all over her favorite book and yells, “MOMMY!” Or my husband’s car breaks down and I have to go and get him. Just like Pooh gets himself jammed in Rabbit’s hole on his way out. And there’s a funny little picture in the book that shows Pooh’s round backside bulbing out of the hole from the inside, while Rabbit is still holding up his empty can of condensed milk with a very round-eyed and disbelieving look on his face.
Then we have the stuck-scene. Pooh fumes that it’s because Rabbit’s door isn’t big enough. My daughter laments that I should have reminded her to put the cap on the paint jar. A person I’m befriending asks why, why can’t I pick her up in ten minutes?
Then Rabbit hops away to get help. That wonderful word that feels like a sigh and a yell at the same time. Help.
We often slap that label onto our foreheads: We think we are the Help. The Savior. Is it any wonder that we expect so much of ourselves?
But Rabbit hops away and gets Christopher Robin, who makes everyone feel better, who croons to Pooh that he’ll slim up soon, who reads to Pooh from a Sustaining Book. And Rabbit? Rabbit is inside, hanging his laundry on Pooh’s dangling legs. He is making use of the situation. Is Rabbit really being a friend?
That question can be answered with another question: What about the guy in Jesus’ Story of the Talents, the one the master only gave one talent to? The others got more stock to invest than he did. He only had one unit of currency. And that was okay. But then he crept away from the others who had more to give, because he was scared to death of his master’s expectations, and he didn’t do anything with it at all.
And Rabbit? Rabbit was given the one small talent of Creativity. He doesn’t hide: he trades it in and gains Patience and Energy. His heart relaxes from his satisfied need to be industrious in his housework. And thus we see a bunny grow from a hesitant friend to a cheerful helper who calls his “friends and relations” to join Christopher Robin, in that well-remembered picture of the tug-of-war rescue effort which swells to a high and glorious POP! and a very happy, freed bear.
Maybe we only have one unit of currency. Maybe we don’t have much maturity yet. Maybe we have a selfish streak. Maybe we don’t have much time or energy. Maybe more than a half hour of picking through a Bible study booklet with an argumentative new friend would send us to the bathroom cabinet for a sedative. Maybe taking that younger guy for a ride every time he wants one would make us lose our already short tempers.
Grace and Truth says it is better to listen to a person for ten minutes than to not listen for three hours.
Jesus delights in reading to our Pooh, untiring, while we hang our laundry on those fur legs and accomplish little more than keeping our mouths closed. And that’s okay. Like Rabbit. Rabbit won. Rabbit passed the test. Rabbit, as well as our other dear friends in the Wood, got the blessing of participating in the most important gift in the world: Love. Without it we have nothing. With it, we have everything.
You can do it. Your Teacher is delighted with your ten minutes, your three-inch temper. Leap into the air, Rabbit. Your Christ will make you fly, and your friends will be many.
Discipleship is the passion of GreenTree and our goal for the New Year. Are we even sure what it means? It’s a word that sometimes sounds boring, always sounds theological, and is in danger of making us wince.
When Jesus tells us that His commands are not burdensome, we humans strain over weighty church-words that don’t seem to have anything to do with us, and we scratch our heads. We do feel burdened, and we sometimes wonder what Jesus meant with the yoke-is-easy thing and the abundant-life stuff.
A few days ago I was looking at cute Winnie the Pooh pictures in my daughter’s collection by A. A. Milne, and I chuckled at myself, and my grown-up plans and adult stresses. Here are a bunch of little talking animals in the Forest that have more sense than I do. They even do discipleship, but they aren’t bogged down with check-lists and guilt trips. This lovely story, told by a father to his son, gives me a picture of the D-word that changes everything.
All the animals in the forest are simple, with a child’s crude understanding of how things are supposed to work in their world. Rabbit manages to keep an image of having his wits together but can’t always feel completely generous; Owl, sitting high up in his tree house and offering wisdom to the animals who pass by, doesn’t know how to spell; and Pooh himself, ever-ready for adventure and ever-hungry for honey, lives under the identity that makes him perhaps the lowliest of them all: “Bear of Very Little Brain.”
But this little bear, for all his slowness of brain, has a Friend who lifts him up to the highest stair of his love and esteem. That Friend is a human boy named Christopher Robin. He’s the son in the beginning of the book who listens to his father tell the story of all the animals, and he’s also the boy inside the story, sharing in each part.
The presence of Christopher Robin is felt in a quiet way everywhere. He’s the sort of Big Brother of the forest. The door signs and notices among the homes in the woods show his handwriting. It’s Christopher Robin who comes to the Six Pine Trees and helps in the search for the lost Pooh, Piglet, and Rabbit. And in the very first chapter of the book, it’s Christopher Robin whom Pooh goes to for help when his lust for honey lands him in the gorse-bush. That honey-hunger always makes Pooh’s tummy too pudgy and gets him into all sorts of messes. From the very first, Pooh sees a bunch of bees in a tree, climbs straight up, cracks a branch, and crashes more than sixty feet into a prickly bush.
Pooh says, “It all comes of liking honey so much. Oh, help!” And naturally he goes to Christopher Robin’s house.
Pooh’s Friend and Guide throws no accusing stones, gives him no outline to follow for fixing his silly behavior. When Pooh asks Christopher Robin for a blue balloon with which to disguise himself and float up to the honey-laden tree, Christopher Robin asks Pooh, “Wouldn’t they notice you underneath the balloon?” but gives Pooh the balloon anyway.
The boy watches, and smiles, and encourages, while Pooh reasons and figures with his little mind and then rolls himself in the black mud so that he can pretend to be a dark cloud under the sky-colored balloon. Of course, the bees start stinging poor Pooh and he needs help getting down. Christopher Robin laughs in his heart, muttering, “Silly old Bear!”
But he loves Pooh, through all Pooh’s proud songs and falls and scratches and honey-searches and his crashes into holes. Pooh is cute and lovable and important, for one reason: he glows from the light reflected in the boy’s loving eyes.
Those of us who have accepted the gift of God’s Son are being discipled at this very moment, by One much greater than any Christopher Robin. He sits outside our little world, there with his Father who wrote our history, talking together about us, chuckling over us, holding us. He lives, too, inside our stories, always ready to help, letting us try and fail and picking us up when we land into a thorn-bush. Sometimes he waits for us to run to the other end of the forest to find him; and he is there. Many times he shows up alongside us as we are hurling pine cones at each other or trying to figure out what to do about our problems. Always he teaches us. Never does he leave us. Forever he is patient with us.
So, while we’re trying to figure out whether to camp on Jesus’ command to “Go into all the world and make disciples” and take on this elusive Discipleship Project, we might not realize that we’re part of it, already. The Teacher is here, with us, in our own Hundred Acre Wood. In the end, it’s not some project. It’s just life. The life he shares with us, and the love he teaches us to give as we share with each other, learn together, and bumble through the forest on each new adventure. The D-word is as important as life itself. The call from Jesus is real. The practice is hard work, but simple, as natural as breathing and having children. The reward is life, and love. The Example is the One who wrote history and lives within it. We can just ask Pooh, and Rabbit, and Piglet. They’ll get Christopher Robin and help us go and catch a Heffalump, and we’ll receive much, much more.