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What Is Holding You Back?

When we read the Gospels, we notice something very peculiar happening time and time again.  Men and women resist stepping out of their comfort zones in order to step forward to follow Christ and serve others.

Luke 18:18-30:  The rich young man can't find it within himself to step away from the life he has built ...

Luke 7:36-39:  The Pharisee stands apart emotionally and physically from Jesus when a scandalous woman has the audacity to offer a tremendous gift of love and praise ...

Luke 8:19-21:  Even Jesus' own family found it hard to step beyond their comfort zone of security, choosing a limited vision of family instead of God's bigger one.

The same theme of standing apart is also prevalent in Jesus' parables:

Luke 15:11-32:  The parable of the Prodigal Son ultimately turns into a tale of how moral superiority can hold us back.  

Luke 16:19-31:  And the story of the Rich Man warns us about the end result of being imprisoned by our inability to love others.

Jesus' interest is in calling us out of our own personal ghettos, and into deeper, more authentic relationships.  This includes calling us to step into a deeper relationship with our Maker and Lord, but it also includes taking risky steps to deepen our relationships with those around us.  This is what ministry is at its deepest level:  simply being there and for another human being in a way that seeks their welfare.

If we want to live effective lives of ministry, we have to be mindful of what holds us back from doing so.  Each of us has our own unique comfort zones, our own cherished attachments that we are afraid to let go of.

I saw this recently in a very powerful way.  I went to a meeting recently whose purpose - I thought - was to start a new ministry.  That was the intent, but something got in the way.  In this case, it was theology.  Not the first time that has happened.  Nor will it be the last.  As the meeting drug on, many thoughts ran through my head.  How did we end up in this rabbit hole?  Can I find an excuse for stepping out of the meeting?  How did the Seahawks blow that game?

The respectful side of my nature won out.  I stayed for the rest of the meeting.  As I walked out in the cold night, though, I was frustrated.  But, as often happens, time allowed me to realize once again that my frustration over this one meeting was actually indicative of my "stuff" and not just what went on in that meeting.  It is so much easier to stew and point out the incredible shortcomings in someone else or with that meeting rather than digging deeper into my own sinfulness.  Didn't Jesus say that too - something about little specks of wood, great big logs, and eye-irritants?

The deeper reality is that Jesus was challenging me to consider the places and things I'm holding onto that keep me from going deeper in my journey with him and from serving and loving those around me.  My precious time?  My own structure of theology?  Too much of a focus on sports and fitness?

The list of things that can hold us back is almost endless.  But, whatever it is, it is ultimately robbing us of a deeper and more abundant life.  These disordered attachments will keep us confined.  Like ropes tying a boat to a dock, they will restrict us from entering into the deeper waters of life.

There is, of course, another trend in the stories about Jesus in the Gospels.  For every story of a man or woman unable and unwilling to step out of their comfort zone into a risky venture of greater love and freedom, there is another story about someone doing exactly that.  More often than not, it's the little ones of the world ... the individuals who really don't have much to lose and who - therefore - have everything to gain by stepping towards Jesus.  It's the children and the prostitutes.  It's the sick man and the old prophet.  But, that's not always the case.  There was also the Roman soldier.  There was Joseph of Arimethea.  There is hope for all of us.

God's call upon our lives is to step into deeper relationship with Christ and into deeper relationships of love and service with one another.   What is holding you back?  Perhaps, today is the day to let go of what has a hold of you.  Whatever it is trying to offer you ... it's nothing compared to what awaits you as you step towards Jesus Christ ... and step out to serve others in his name.



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