I find Jesus has me either way … First I’m bashful about showing my light, having learned too well, too early, to hide in the back row—never volunteer for anything my father said. Let me be smug but let it be in secret. But then he gets me from the other direction: secrets. There is so much I want to keep hidden: secret shames, failures little and large, a pettiness.
How is it I can be both? Hiding both my light and my dark?
I guess it is the hiding itself I’m addicted to: Saves all kinds of trouble. My measuring out is strictly measured, quality-controlled and inspected for accidental abundance. At least that’s my default setting. But there’s a yearning in me too, source only suspected, a longing to let go, to live large, to sing my secrets like gifts, … to blaze out warm and wasteful.
Because the fire, smothered, grows cold, the secret, hidden, festers, and what you think you are protecting, all along, dies quietly un-mourned.
But stir it, feed it, and the fire cannot be contained. Tell it, shout it, and the secret fly free. Safety is open-handed.
I see that in others and it gets me yearning. But, more importantly, Jesus sees it in me and that, I reckon, is what makes the difference.
January 30th, 2003
If he comes near me ever again I’ll give that boy Jesus a piece of my mind. Hell! I’ll give him piece of my fist. Trouble-maker! Home-breaker! Arrogant, self-centered, son-of-a-…
—What do you mean, “who do I think I am?”
I’ll tell you who I think I am. You all sit here so calm and so quiet and listen to how my sons were snatched from me and you think it’s so wonderful. Do you think they are heroic getting up at the snap of his fingers and marching off after him? Stupid is what they are! Stupid and heartless and bad sons to me and my wife, Sarah. Children should respect their parents. Listen to them. Take care of them. But not mine. Not James. Not John. Brainwashed by some back-street beggar with wild eyes and a clever tongue. Homeless they are now. And we’ll soon be the same, Sarah and me, the whole fishing business in ruins, the hired men let go, the nets in tatters. I needed them. And they went anyway. Well they are no sons of mine. See! I renounce them!
Hush Zeb! Hush …
He’s right it hasn’t been easy since they went. Went without even a goodbye they did. It’s true. Even left the nets a mess. Just looked over at their Dad and then at Jesus and got up and went with him. I saw it all. I was counting fish and I saw it all. But I’ve wondered—over and again—what went on inside them … what could have been so … attractive … persuasive … about Jesus for them to just up and follow him like that?
Poor Zebedee will never get over it. He shouted after them, threatened, shook—the way he does—but they didn’t even look back. It hurt him bad—his boys gone over to a cult! Hurt me too—oh God yes … but—don’t tell this to Zebedee—I’ve been watching them when I can, watching Jim and John, and … and … yes, they are a mess, yes they are mixed up with tax-collectors and prostitutes, yes and terrorists and traitors too … but I’ve never seen them more … content, more happy, more … I don’t know! We used to have to drag them to synagogue but here they are talking about God like he was a family friend. They’re not bored any more. I thought there’d be glazed eyes and zombie-talk but they are so alive.
So do I think they betrayed us, Zeb and me? God, Yes! Does my heart break every morning when I remember they’ve gone? Yes. But do I understand them? … I think so. And if I had my chance, you know, I think would give my right arm to have what they have, and do what they have done! Yes!
Look, it’s no use trying to explain to them. You must understand that. You’ve been there yourself, after all. You’ve seen him too. Heard his voice speak your name the way he did ours. You’ve met Jesus too, the way we did and felt his invitation—hell his summons! And it’s turned you upside down the way it did us, right? How can you explain that?
… Better to be penniless with him than rich and alone, better to be homeless with him than under a roof and alone, better to be friendless with him than loved by everyone and alone.
—What did they tell you? That we are bad kids? out of our minds? selfish? Well maybe we are … but like he says, “the reign of God is at hand.” At hand! That changes everything.
Look, you understand how we got up and left—you’ve done it yourself. You’ve heard the words he held behind your eyes. You know there’s no turning back.
So … if you see them, Mum and Dad, maybe you can explain something to them. That this is the time for change and there are bigger fish to catch.
January 26th, 2003