At The Bottom

Matthew 5:1-2 (the message)
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.

As I read Matthew five yesterday I found myself thinking about those who didn’t climb.

I think when you read about those who climbed the hillside with Jesus, you might admire their resolve. Their commitment.  Their passion.  And if you are passionate and have a voracious appetite for God then you might feel a certain kinship with the climbers.

But what if you don’t?

What if you read the verses above and feel the weight of condemnation instead? What if you feel inferior and less than because you might want to hear Jesus but wish he would just stay at the bottom of the hillside. Not ask you to climb.

What do we do in a season at the bottom?

We’ve all had those times in our lives. We are willing to walk, but not climb. Willing to attend, but not plug in. Willing to read the email devotional, but not our Bible. Willing to share a prayer request, but not pray. Willing to talk about Him, but not listen to Him.

These are the seasons of slow motion. Or no motion. Feels like a long stretch of lonely. Of condemnation. After all, if we really loved Jesus we would always climb. We would never allow our passion to fade.  Right?

Maybe it’s hurt, confusion, disappointment or just plain exhaustion that keeps us at the bottom of the hillside. Sometimes it’s sin we don’t want to let go of or our own self-absorbed view of life. Whatever the cause, the effect is often the same.

We sense we are inadequate. Unworthy.

And so we run.

Maybe Jesus was partly testing His followers that day…maybe He did want a glimpse of the hearts around Him. Who was willing to come up…who in the crowd recognized their own desperate need to hear Him…be closer. But what if mostly Jesus climbed the hillside to make more room? What if Jesus saw the hillside as the answer to the throng of people surrounding Him?

If Jesus preached the Beatitudes (what came on the hillside) at the bottom only those closest would hear. But if He climbed the hillside the people could spread out…stop competing for space…embrace the opportunity to be transformed and healed. In my mind, I picture Him coming back down the hillside not with a glare of accusation, but a promise of invitation.

See, we get more than one.

If we will stay at the bottom instead of run away.

The bottom sounds less spiritual. Less “good.” And really, we do miss out when we stay at the bottom. But the greatest danger is in the temptation to head back the way we came as we watch the committed pass us by. To shuffle away…kick a few stones and let our hearts harden against our failures.

But what if Jesus pauses on His way up…what if He looks back and scans the stragglers till He finds you? What if, with the warmest smile and kindest eyes, he asks you to wait?

Don’t go. Stay right where you are.

Even at the bottom.

It’s not over and He is not finished as long as we don’t run. Sometimes staying at the bottom, facing our resistance to climb, is a climb all its own.

Maybe as you read this post your passion isn’t what it once was. Maybe your joy and desire to serve has fizzled. Maybe you are tired of the weight of disappointment. Shame and ambivalence might be drawing you away. You fear the censure and judgement that sometimes comes from well-meaning climbers.

I get it. And any honest Christian will admit they get it, too. So if you know you aren’t climbing, if you know deep inside you are missing out on the nearness found on the hillside, make the choice to stay. Don’t run. Don’t hide.

He’ll find you. Even at the bottom.

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