Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Uphill Both Ways

This week, I was thinking about what it was like to walk to school in the wintertime--wind cutting sharp edges into my cheeks, fingers and toes numb, layers of jackets and snow pants humid from effort, the scratchy red scarf across my mouth--I walked. Not ten miles uphill both ways, but a mile and a half. Every day. Rain, snow, or shine. We had no school bus. Mom didn't drive.

And it occurred to me that I will never be able to explain to my children or grandchildren what that felt like. Never. No words could describe it. Only the experience would explain, and then I would no longer need an explanation. They will never know this. They get in the car not with gratitude, but with entitlement.

They don't mean to--they just never knew anything else. They don't understand. Privilege has hardened their hearts.

Then [Jesus] climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.--Mark 6: 51-52

The apostles knew the same hardening. They watched Jesus day after day, miracle by miracle. Amazing events became their daily bread. And their hearts were hardened by them. They took them for granted. Right after He'd multiplied the loaves and fishes, fed more than 5000 people from nearly nothing, they went fishing and encountered not only a storm strong enough to threaten their safety, but see Jesus walking across the water toward them in the midst of it and they are terrified--they don't know who He is.

The miracle on the hillside did not translate for them into a miracle on water. Jesus relieving a relatively minor problem, giving a bunch of people lunch, did not teach them that He could rescue them from a major one. Why? Because their hearts were hardened. 

He could not explain His power. He had to show them.
So He brought the storm.
He used it to show them: This is what it feels like to be terrified. And this is what I can do for you when terror comes.

We are the same. God's faithfulness in hardship cannot be explained. It has to be experienced.
I will never leave you, God tells us. I will never forsake you.
But privilege has hardened our hearts. It doesn't sink in until after the storm has calmed and Jesus is standing in the boat saying, "See--I told you." Then we know.

It helps to have heard the promise--it helps us to recognize the rescue when it comes, but the promise alone will not convince us. We have been hardened by God's lifelong faithfulness and mercy. We expect it. Only when He seems to have failed do we understand the extent of His rescue.
Then we hear His gentle voice, "Remember this feeling. Believe me."


  1. Yes, privilege does harden us. I believe that's why He takes us out into what He knows is going to be a storm. Good things to think about.

    1. Why He takes us out into what He knows is going to be a storm. Like that image. Thanks.

  2. It's not hard to feel 'entitled' with many things in this life. Your post lets us know that we should never take God for granted. He is always working, not always the way we want!

    1. No kidding. Not always the way we want is right. Guess that's how we know it's God...

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Lorretta. Appreciate your comment.