How do I help my child choose a career?

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How do I help my children choose a career?  As they move toward finishing high school, how do I guide them toward a college major, a career, or an employer? How do I counsel wisely at such critical moments? And how, especially, do I honor the Lord as I guide them into new, unknown territory?

How do you and I, as Christ-followers, sort through the world’s sometimes right, but usually subtly wrong, and often blatantly wrong, answers to these important questions?

For the world tells us to discern our own life direction, and help our children choose and discern theirs, by answering the following sets of questions (ones I now realize, with conviction, I’ve used in counseling my own children).

From Darren Maxfield’s “A Strategic Time”:

  • Do your skills match up with the requirements of the job?
  • What type of income will you earn in this field?
  • Is this a stable career choice or will there be major changes coming?
  • Will you be able to provide for a family, buy a nice house, live in a nice neighborhood?
  • What are your friends doing?
  • Will you live up to your parent’s expectations?

“I think I could make the argument that all those questions are irrelevant when determining how best to serve Christ in His ever expanding Kingdom…

These questions and the mindset behind them often lead to living for self, materialism and keeping up with the Joneses. It is so easy to get caught up in the “security” that a job, bank account, and a normal middle class life offer. IMG_4277The pursuit becomes maintaining that “security” and the “glory that comes from man.” (John 12:43)

…We pursue wealth and possessions. We are killing ourselves establishing a career and a reputation. How often do we consider why we are doing this? Are we truly serving our Master or are we serving mammon? Should we not instead ask questions like:

  • How can I use my gifts and talents to serve God and His Kingdom?
  • I know the harvest is ripe and the laborers are few, so how can I be a laborer for Christ?
  • Does a large bank account really provide security?
  • When will my retirement account begin to look like barns built to store grain so we can say: “relax, eat, drink, be merry?” (Luke 12:19)
  • Does being a Christian in the workplace only mean seek out opportunities to share your faith with your co-workers?
  • What does it mean to love my life and to hate my life in this world so that I may keep it for eternal life? (John 12:25, Matthew 16:24-26)
  • How much do I value the glory that comes from man rather than the glory that comes from God? (John 12:43)
  • What does living a life of risk look like in the Kingdom of God?

I can’t answer any of these questions on your behalf. Only you can as you pray and immerse yourself in God’s Word. But I can tell you that the world is trying to deceive you…

There is so much more to life that keeping up with the Joneses. What a waste of time, effort and life! God calls us to so much more. The Lord calls us to serve Him and He will make it clear where He wants us to be. But too often we succumb to the pressures of this world and those around us. When I look at Facebook and I see what we are spending our money on, how we spend our time and what we treasure in our hearts (Matthew 6:21), and the things that make us speak up about something — I’m a bit sickened.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

I challenge you to take a risk. Risk your life that God will provide in ways you cannot imagine. Trust that Jesus is greater than the treasures of this world.” (From In the Shadow of Mount Adams, Darren Maxfield’s blog. Maxfield and his family serve as missionaries to the Yakama Indian Reservation, WA)

Jesus is greater than the treasures of this world. You and I believe that. But do we, even in subtle ways, counsel our children as if pursuing wealth, possessions and security are most important? Do we?

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Related: What do I want for my child?

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freed from always noticing yourself

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“Christian humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less… It is to be no longer always noticing yourself and how you are doing and how you are being treated…

Humility is a byproduct of belief in the gospel of Christ. In the gospel, we have a confidence not based in our performance but in the love of God in Christ (Rom. 3:22-24). This frees us from having to always be looking at ourselves. Our sin was so great, nothing less than the death of Jesus could save us. He had to die for us. But his love for us was so great, Jesus was glad to die for us.

…the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it…is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’ True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself…The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.” (Tim Keller)

Painting: The Reflection, by Edouard Gelhay, 1856

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suffering with hope and courage, not bitterness and despair

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“Christianity does not provide the reason for each experience of pain, but it does provide deep resources for actually facing suffering with hope and courage rather than bitterness and despair.” (Tim Keller)

Remember His words to you, dear Christian. Words of truth for you, His child, when you face suffering. Words to remind you of reasons for hope and courage while still in the middle of experiences that naturally cause pain. Words, not meant to provide the exact reason for your experience of pain, but meant to turn you from bitterness and despair — to fortify you, to remind you that He is in charge and He purposes good from it all:

“…we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:2-5)

Suffering yields endurance, and that endurance yields Christlike character, and that Christlike character yields unstoppable hope that does not disappoint. How so? Because, through it all and in it all, He pours the knowledge of His overflowing love for you into your heart by His Spirit.

Bitterness and despair can melt away. Bitterness and despair can be replaced by true hope and supernatural courage as you run to His arms. As, in His arms, you hear this: “Dearest child, I love you with forever love, and I’m not unaware of your pain. I have good purpose for you in it all.”

Oh, run there today.

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Does your faith feel really comfortable?

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“If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” 

Your all is called for.

We each give our all to something.

Don’t settle for a life filled with comfortable, self-stroking somethings — the kind of somethings that call nothing out of you. For anything worth living for and worth dying for is not going to feel comfortable.

Why exactly, then, would you expect Christianity to make you feel comfortable?

“And [Jesus] said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?'” (Luke 9:23-25)

Don’t squander your life yearning for ease! Instead, set your heart and mind toward losing your life for His sake. Each morning, each noon, each night. For when the next life begins and you arrive there, you’ll only wish that you’d followed more closely, and loved Jesus more dearly, and lost your grip on your own pleasant plans, for His sake, more decisively.

Don’t settle for the life of comfortable somethings. It’s really not life at all.

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Beginning quote: C. S. Lewis in God in the Dock

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the embarrassment that matters

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“…we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing stark naked before God. It is of no use for us to try and cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness, see the divine substitute wearing our filthy rags instead of us, and allow him to clothe us with his own righteousness.” (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, commenting on Rev. 3:17-18)

“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen…” (Revelation 3:14-19)

He has provided the way: Acknowledge your nakedness, gaze upon Jesus wearing your rags, and come to Him. Allow Him to clothe you, today, with His white garments, with His own righteousness.

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strength for weary pilgrims

“Look at the starry sky—Jesus strewed it with its jewelry…

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Look at that enchanting landscape—Jesus enamelled it with its loveliness…

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Look at that cloud-capped mountain—Jesus reared it…

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Look at that beauteous lily—Jesus painted it…

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Look at that soaring bird—Jesus feeds it…

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He, with whom is all this strength and beauty, is your Brother! Are you not better and dearer to Him than these? He has loved and chosen you from all eternity, ransomed you with His blood, and inhabited you by His Spirit.

Why, then, these fears? Why this distrust? All He requires of you is to bring to His fullness your emptiness—to His sympathy your grief—to His unerring wisdom your confusion—and to His sheltering wing your temptations and trials.

Spread your case before Him in the humble confidence of a child. Listen to His words—”I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt: open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (Christ’s Sympathy to Weary Pilgrims, by Octavius Winslow (1808-1878))

Father, today I feel myself a weary pilgrim. Please hold and keep me. Give me the ability to spread my grief before your sympathy; my emptiness before your fullness; my confusion before your wisdom. This trial tempts me toward hiding and despair; toward fear. Draw me to you! Give me a heart that runs to your sheltering wing, that comes as a trusting child pouring out my all before you. Jesus, dearest Brother, I need to hide in your comfort and find strength in your care. In my weariness, O Lord, show me you.

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not exceeding our capacity to receive it

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“The Lord did not come to make a display…For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But He who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating (blemishing or spoiling) the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.” (On the Incarnation by Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373))

Athanasius’s 4th century sentences keep running through my mind. My modern interpretation of his long-ago phrases goes like this: The Lord didn’t arrive to dazzle and then disappear, leaving us blown through and blown over and bewildered. He sure could have. Instead, He lived among us, and revealed and explained Himself as we could bear it. He even put Himself at our disposal.

If I dazzle and then disappear, I’m all about me; but if I put myself at your disposal, I’m all about you.

When I think on these beautiful thoughts — on God’s kindness in His appearing, and on His choosing, for our good, to not exceed our capacity to receive it — my heart leaps. How good and kind is our Lord! For He could have squashed us with His power and otherness. Instead, He didn’t overpower. He disclosed what we could bear.

Athanasius’s words also remind me of another set of words — of Mary’s words, which she speaks as she arrives at Elizabeth’s home. Elizabeth exclaims that Jesus, within Mary’s womb, is the Lord, and with humility and joy, Mary responds:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Luke 1:46-47, 49

When I think of the Lord choosing not to exceed our ability to receive his appearing, and in so doing, not spoiling the value of His Divine appearing, one thing happens: My heart leaps with the same awe Mary’s, Elizabeth’s, John’s, and Athanasius’s did. My spirit rejoices in God our Savior! He who is mighty has done great things for us, and holy is His name. Oh, the goodness and the kindness of our God!

17 centuries later

And one last thought: Today, if I feel blown through and blown over and bewildered by circumstances beyond my control, I’m to lean into my Lord. He will not squash me with His power. He will disclose what I can bear, and will not exceed my capacity to receive it.

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Painting: Pool of Siloam by James Tissot

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throwing ourselves into His arms

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On days when you waken and can’t shake a sense of despondency; when you’re disheartened, or sad, or crestfallen — throw yourself into His arms:

“We please God most, not by frantically trying to make ourselves good, but by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections and believing that He understands everything — and still loves us.” (A.W. Tozer, 1897-1963)

He has not moved or changed. You are still loved. Loved with an everlasting, open-armed love. An invincible love. Today, in your heart and mind and spirit, throw yourself there.

“There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.”

Deuteronomy 33:26-27

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spiritual pathways and the call to submission

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There’s an uncomfortable situation you’ll have to face when you desire to be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:1-2). When pathways of spiritual change begin to be cut into your being because you’re more and more seeing Jesus as beautiful, and you’re choosing to turn from your old ways, and your mind is being transformed through the Word by the Spirit, and you’re choosing the way of the cross — it’s then that the ways you’re choosing will seem foolish to those who don’t know the Lord. They’ll call your decisions foolish. They’ll call you foolish. Don’t be surprised. Understand what God tells you ahead of time:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.””

Your choices as you follow the way of the cross will be seen as foolish. God set it up that way.

“…Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (I Corinthians 1:18-25)

Know this, though: God’s words to us in I Corinthians aren’t meant to explain why He’s set it up that way. He’s not even necessarily meaning to help us feel better when we’re called foolish because we want to follow the path of a crucified Savior. His words in I Corinthians are meant to awaken within us something better:

“Instead of a persuasive explanation, this passage is a call to submission. Paul says, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” In order for us to be saved we have to give up on the idea that we are wise. We have to give up on the idea that we know what is best…Jesus Christ, dying on the cross, and then giving the message of the Gospel to a bunch of fishermen, is the wisdom of God. Sending out men and women all across the world to places where they do not even speak the same language, is the wisdom of God. And God specifically chose this way of salvation, in part, because he knew that it would look foolish. He knew that our proud hearts would want to reject it. And therefore, the only way to accept it is to be humbled. The only way to be saved is to trust God, to believe that he knows what he is doing, and to believe that he knows better than us. And if you resist this idea of submission, and do not find yourself drawing closer to God, do not be surprised. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).” (full quote at http://haretranslation.blogspot.com)

In uncomfortable situations, we tend toward defensiveness. We fight back (in our hearts and minds if not out loud). Or we become angry — at God. “God, I’m trying to be renewed by the transforming of my mind; I’m trying to not conform to this world; and now, though, I’m being called foolish. Your ways make me feel so uncomfortable!”

But Christianity is not a call to comfortable.

Christianity is a call to submission: a call to believe that God knows what he is doing, and that he knows better than us. Christianity is a call to something better than the comfort our old pathways would call us toward.

We’re called to the place of dependence in all things — in those that make sense, and in those that don’t. For He is completely good. His ways are always perfect. So foolishness? Yes. But we submit. Discomfort? Sure. But we submit.

We submit and we trust.

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May the mind of Christ, my Savior

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May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
live in me from day to day,
by his love and power controlling
all I do and say.

May the word of God dwell richly
in my heart from hour to hour,
so that all may see I triumph
only through his power.

May the peace of God, my Father,
rule my life in everything,
that I may be calm to comfort
sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
as the waters fill the sea.
Him exalting, self abasing:
this is victory.

May I run the race before me,
strong and brave to face the foe,
looking only unto Jesus
as I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me
as I seek the lost to win,
and may they forget the channel,
seeing only Him.

By Kate Wilkinson, 1859-1928

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footprints and deep mental paths

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When our kids were small, we spent a lot of time in the woods behind our house. We’d tramp along the pathway begun by mostly unseen deer to visit “our” waterfall. We’d place our feet into the narrow groove of the path begun by hundreds of small hoof-prints seeking drink at the waterfall’s stream. Their path, begun by tiny hoof-steps, transformed through the years into a deep and wide pathway as hundreds of footsteps of happy children raced along its route. Now, a decade later, I fondly remember our waterfall treks when I read these words:

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” (Henry David Thoreau)

One footstep doesn’t a path make. Cutting and maintaining a footpath through deep woods only happens with many footsteps. In our woods, grass blades crushed by deer’s small hoof-prints began what my children’s footprints completed.

Mental paths work the same way. As we over and over believe and act on a thought, that thought assumes boss-like dominance, for good or bad, in our lives. Modern neuro-scientists and psychiatrists tells us this. Thoreau observed the same in the 1800s. And God said it all thousands of years before:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Rom 12:2)

Physical paths in forests, mental paths in brains, and spiritual paths of supernatural transformation: all are made not by a single footstep, or a single thought, or a single moment of loving and choosing God’s way, but by again and again-ness and over and over-ness.

We’re transformed into a person who knows the will of the Lord, who knows the Lord, as we over and over meditate on His words to us; as He cuts deep spiritual paths into our being by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we then obey, we find Him faithful, and so love Him even more: we’re transformed from the person we were before we knew the Lord into a person who thinks and acts as a new creation.

Cutting pathways with intentionality

A few cursory readings of sections of scripture, or single sermons listened to, won’t a transformative path make. We have to meditate on the verses’ meaning and application. We have to pray to apply, and then work to apply the teaching of the sermon. Daily. Over and over. Intentionally.

And also, beforehand. Proactively. As we face each new instance or concept in life, we cut pathways by questioning ourselves: “In this area, will I act as a follower of Jesus through the way of the cross, or will I actually act and choose the world’s way?”

  • The world’s way self-promotes, self-justifies, self-protects. The world’s way says, “I can and should have glory now.”
  • The way of the cross lives life in light of the rejected Shepherd, Jesus. The way of the cross knows that the way up is to go down. Like Jesus. (Phil. 2:5-8)

But we don’t only discern and question our motives. We must choose. One of my pastors points out that we choose the world’s way without even thinking. So we have to be intentional: We must work to discern the oppositeness of God’s way from our own natural way. Through the Spirit’s enabling, we then submit to God’s way. The way of the cross.

You probably think you do this already. I’d say that about myself, too. But as I listened to my pastor’s sermon, I was convicted that worldly thoughts and aspirations about power, and the purpose of life, and the end-goal of love, still speak into my everyday choices. Here are some of his thoughts on the opposites — the world’s way vs. the way of the cross:

Power.  World’s definition = power makes sure my desires are fulfilled by everyone and everything around me. Through the way of the cross = power is used for self-sacrifice and for the good of others.

Life. World’s definition = the life worth living is experienced by those with the most toys. Through the way of the cross = true life is loyalty to God, even if you die.

Love. World’s definition = love is when you make me feel good; you give me pleasure. Through the way of the cross = to the undeserving and unlovely, I give grace and patience and kindness. I fight my self-justifying tendency toward arrogance, irritability or resentfulness, and I give my life for you.

september-in-the-forestI’m left wondering: How many other areas of life do I need to put under the microscope? What would my default definition of the purpose of marriage be, for instance, versus viewing marriage through the way of the cross? (Something like this: World’s definition = You marry me and make me happy; we gather a lot of toys together, and you fulfill all of my desires. Through the way of the cross = I sacrifice my own desires for your good, even when you are undeserving and unlovely. I give grace and I care for your good more than my own. I do all I can to make your love for the Lord easy. We, as one, give our lives for God, even if we die.)

As I begin to view instances and relationships and concepts through this renewed lens, I’m left with strong need. I pray for me, and for you:

Father, by the power of your Spirit, please do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. Stop us short when we’re conforming to this world. Give us discernment. We want to be aware when we’re not choosing the way of the cross. Then convict us. Soften our hearts! Please cut deep, re-new-ed pathways, transforming, through your Word, our minds and heart’s desires.

For more help: The Renewed Mind and How to Have It, sermon by John Piper.

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your ransom price

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For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

(I Peter 1:18-19)

Related: REDEEMED RANSOMED ADOPTED

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confident of this very thing

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Dearest one,

He will do it. He will finish what He began.

He redeemed you, and saved you. He called you. He holds you evermore. I am confident, not because of you, but because of Him. He will complete the good work He began. He will work in you that which is pleasing in His sight. He will not let you go; not now, not tomorrow, not on any day until the day when Jesus returns.

Until the day when the sky splits open and the clouds roll back and you see Him face to face. Him, your Lord, your King, your Redeemer. Until the day when all you’ve ever yearned for is answered by His arrival, by His culminating Presence.

He will do it. Start to Finish. First to Last.

 He will.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6

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trampled the waves of the sea

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“…how can a man be in the right before God?
He is wise in heart and mighty in strength…
who alone stretched out the heavens
and trampled the waves of the sea;
…who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number…”

Job 9: 2,4,8,10

Did you notice that Job says God “trampled the waves of the sea”? John Gill, who lived in the 1700s and preached in the same church Charles Spurgeon would preach in 100 years later, gives fascinating details about that exact phrase:

“…when the waves are lifted up as high as they sometimes are, by strong and stormy winds, the Lord on high is mightier than they, he treads upon them and represses them; he rules their raging, stills their noise, and makes them smooth, calm, and quiet (Psalm 65:7); this none but God can do: the Egyptian hieroglyphic of “doing a thing impossible” was a man’s walking upon water; the heathens chose not to describe even their god of the sea, Neptune, by walking on it, as being too great for him, but by swimming…Then, though, think “of Christ’s walking upon the sea…” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible)

Had you ever heard of the Egyptian hieroglyphic for “doing something impossible”? I hadn’t. And I’d never heard that the Roman’s thought even mighty Neptune unable to walk on the sea. I now read Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on Galilee’s turbulent waters with enlightened, fascinated eyes:

“…the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”” (Matthew 14:24-27)

Raging seas were dreaded in ancient times. Boats, even those manned by the most seasoned of sailors and fishermen, were tossed about and smashed against rocky shorelines. Both the mighty Egyptians and the world-conquering Romans dared not think that the bravest of humans, or even Neptune, the powerful god of the sea, could walk upon roiling water.

And yet.

The Lord God Almighty, He of the Bible, treads, represses, rules the raging. He tramples the waves of the sea.

Job knew this.

And years later, when He comes to earth, Jesus not only tramples, but walks. He does “a thing impossible.” Where Neptune dared not venture, He succeeds. And as He walks, He, knowing that the sight of His walking toward them terrifies His disciples, cares to calm their fear-filled hearts. He both demonstrates His terrifying power and cares for the men His trampling scares.

Hear again the kindness of your Savior as He speaks to them — the seasoned fishermen, now terrified as they perceive the “impossible” outline of a man walking on the night’s turbulent waves. He immediately says:

“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

From this, I take away amazement. First: amazement at God’s work through recorded history. The disciples probably had knowledge, stored in their fisherman minds, of the Egyptian’s “impossible” hieroglyphic and of the Roman god’s inabilities, as well as incidents of their own past battles on storm-tossed waves. They knew open waters were not controllable. And then Jesus arrives. Walking toward them. Breaking all rules. Demonstrating all power. All on purpose.

Jesus uses other culture’s ancient, recorded thoughts, the disciple’s own knowledge of scary seas, and his own unexpected display of power — all to strengthen their burgeoning faith. Faith in his dominion over the uncontrollable. And faith in his tender care.

And then this: Through Egyptian hieroglyphics (no one can walk on water), Neptune’s inability (not even a god can walk on water), and this recorded account in scripture (Jesus can walk on water), God means for us to also know something. We’re to know that when we lose heart and panic arises, we’re also to trust the Doer of the impossible. It’s then that he says to us, as he said to them:

Take heart. I trample the waves of the sea. I walk on them. Toward you.

Do not be afraid.

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Paintings by Andreas Achenbach: Clearing Up–Coast of Sicily, 1847; Storm on the Sea at the Norwegian Coast, 1837

Related: passing through walls like rocks pass through water

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passing through walls like rocks pass through water

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I once heard an explanation that’s stuck with me. We were studying the passage where Jesus, in His glorified body after His resurrection, passes through the walls into the room where the disciples are hiding. Do you remember it?

“That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!” (John 20:19-20)

Did you notice the phrase “behind locked doors”? The disciples are hiding away in fear, and God records for us that they’d locked the doors. Then Jesus is suddenly among them. How’d he do that? Bodies don’t pass through walls. Not here on earth, anyway.

Remembering science

That’s where the explanation that’s stuck with me comes in: Think back to high school science class and a lesson on density. A physics teacher would have explained that an object that’s more dense than another object will always pass through the less dense object. Every single time. Our teacher would tell us to picture a rock, or an orange. Both rocks and oranges are denser than, say, water.

Rock or orange = more dense than water.

In defining density, our teacher might have used words like firm, solid, weighty. Density means how much stuff there is packed into the object. And because the laws of physics say that the more dense object always passes through the less dense object, the rock or the orange will always pass through water. You can picture that: Drop an orange into a deep bucket of water, and the orange will sink, or pass through the water, on the way to the bottom. The water doesn’t have the ability to “stop” the rock.

So what?

So here’s the so what. With Jesus, the opposite occurred. John records that Jesus, only hours after his resurrection, passed through walls into rooms with dead-bolted doors. He defied density laws.

Something new was afoot. Something opposite. Something other. Jesus’ glorified body, on that Sunday night after His resurrection, was now more dense, more weighty, than what we’d consider the densest of earth’s dense — a wall. He passed straight through into the room where the disciples huddled. The more dense passed through the less dense. The wall didn’t have the ability to “stop” Jesus.

It’s not that He’s now vaporous and passed through. It’s that He’s weightier. Denser. More solid. Our physics laws don’t apply. Jesus is Other.

I bow. I’m stupefied.

And I have a few last questions.

With density laws still in mind, when I remember Jesus walking on the water toward the disciples (in Matthew 14), and compare what happened on the sea that night with what later happened in the room after His resurrection:

  1. Why did Jesus in His resurrected body (which must have now been denser, and not only metaphorically) pass through the room’s walls (which should have been denser) but
  2. not pass through the water (less dense) when He walked on the waves toward the disciples in His earthly body (which should have then been denser)? Why didn’t the laws of physics apply either time?

On the waves, Jesus should have been more dense and sunk into the less dense water. After His resurrection, He should have been less dense than the walls and not been able to pass through. The two times seem to be almost opposites, and yet the laws of physics didn’t apply to Him either time.

I cannot wait to ask about that in heaven.

Today, though, as I try to grasp it all, I’m left feeling small and un-smart compared to God. And that’s a really, really good thing. My inability to comprehend Jesus’ opposite-physics puts me in my proper place. I close the book, acutely aware of His Great Otherness.

I’m humbled. I love Him even more. And I worship:

When I cannot understand anything in the Bible, it seems to me as though God had set a chair there for me, at which to kneel and worship; and that the mysteries are intended to be an altar of devotion. (C.H. Spurgeon)

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