Mark 12:41-44 (New Living Translation)
Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”
Worship music: turn once to the right.
Bible open: turn twice to the left.
Praying the way I’m taught: turn back to the right.
Frustration. Questions. Running through the How to enter His presence checklist. But no click. The combination did not work.
In my frustration I am pushed to honesty. I am approaching God in formula fashion. Well, it worked before! The music, the scripture and prayer! Isn’t this supposed to work? I’m doing it right and listening for the click, the sound that sings admission, but it seems as though I am denied.
Jesus knows when I’m in combination-lock mode. He knows when my music, Bible reading and prayer are efforts to gain admission. He’s not angry with my efforts, but He doesn’t want relationship and time spent with my efforts and well-meaning formulas.
Jesus wants me. The real me. The frustrated, trying to read my Bible and talk to Him while stopping every two minutes to see what Leighton is getting into me. The me that wants to draw near but stops and starts with seven a.m. times-tables, school lunches, hair drama and carpool lane drop-off. The me that pours out my heart in slippers and yesterday’s mascara.
This morning I tell Him, once again, that I’m sorry for the hard time I have moving forward. My mind seems to always find its way back to a season when drawing close, experiencing His nearness, was almost effortless. Filled up and spilling over. Quiet strength. A sense of wonder in the most mundane.
And this is how I developed my own formula.
The everyday nearness of Jesus is ridiculous in the best of ways. Crazy-good. And when I stumbled into His real-life grace it was at the end of another formula rope. I tried to pray the way I was taught, in the order I was taught and for as long as I was taught. I tried to do the things, be the person, that I believed was required to gain admission into the supernatural. To finally be a club member. The Spiritually Arrived club.
Now there was a place I could never gain admission.
Because access seemed to be denied I gave up and just settled for rocking chair talks. Kitchen table worship. Neighborhood pool joy and random relationship with a lifeguard who then joined us at church until she moved. I wasn’t banking my progress. Wasn’t measuring because all I could do was not try to contain myself. Jesus in me. Spilling out. All Jesus in the real me. The click did not cross my mind.
Time passes. Life changes. Seasons come and go.
Instead of others setting the how-to’s I find I’m sometimes strapped to my own formula. This is what worked back then kind of living. Maybe I need to…
Wait. I hear His whisper. He stops me. I sense in my heart the bump in the road was that phrase…I need to.
No, I don’t need to do anything more or different or better. He’s better than that. He loves me more than that. God makes it super-simple; I make it complicated. Sometimes in my need to be near I treat Him like a riddle I must solve. The truth is it’s easier to press the buttons and pull the levers than strip away the works and come soul-naked.
But He’s my God. My Father. My Creator. My Savior. My Shepherd. My best and truest friend. My Comforter. My Rock. My Safest Place.
With an errant tear I sigh in acceptance. And then it’s the sweetest thing: His whisper to my heart.
I see you. I see your desire for Me. I see that even though you have to get up and down with Leighton you still want to be with Me. I see that your season is different today than it was back then. I see what you are giving, I know what you have to give, and it means a lot to me. It’s precious to me because I know what you have to give and you are giving it to me.
Love washes over my heart. Soothes my click-listening soul. I remember the widow’s offering and how Jesus knew what each person had to give. He wasn’t measuring them against one another. He knew what was in their hearts, He knew their capacity for giving on that day. Jesus knew what she had to give and what she had was precious and meaningful.
And it was enough.
It’s hard sometimes because I don’t feel as though I’m giving Him as much as I used to, but He’s so kind…so loving and true…and He shows me what only He can…Exactly what I need for this day. Because I give Him what I have, the real me, on this day.
Tomorrow…next week…a season or two down the road and my capacity for giving will change again. Perhaps then I will have more to give. Jesus will still be sitting close by, like He was that day in the Temple, not judging me or appraising me but looking at my heart. Seeing what only He sees. What I have to give and what I’m willing to give. The real me. In real time. In real life.
No formulas. No clicks.
Now the song that plays in my kitchen brings sweet joy and tears of His nearness and grace instead of frustration.
I wanna know You
Let Your Spirit overwhelm me
Let Your presence overtake my heart
Could we be so truly and thoroughly loved? Would we dare to believe Jesus wants us to set aside combination-lock living and be willing to give what we have today? Who we are today?
Imagine the way scripture comes alive…the way our hearts fill with joy..the whispers we will hear as we cease listening for the click and instead listen for footsteps.
The coming near of an unbelievably kind Savior who longs to just be with us.