Who is a Chef? Is it one who knows the most recipes by heart and owns the biggest cookbook library? Who is a Warrior? Is it one who has completed basic training and graduated West Point, tough, fresh faced, eyes bright with knowledge? Who is a Carpenter? Is it the one who owns the most tools and is well-read on building techniques? Who is a Student? Is it one who has been enrolled in classes with a backpack full of textbooks?
In order to be named, there must come a point of turning where theory becomes practice, knowledge becomes action, and tools are put to work. That moment you engage and risk it all for something greater than you. That moment you drive your first nail to build a house, shoot your first bullet in war, break your first egg to make an omelette, or study for your first exam to earn a degree. There is a moment where dreams must become blood, sweat, and tears; where you must step off the ledge, off the cliff into nothing but air. That is the moment you begin to be Named.
The first step of turning from student to master, from recruit to veteran, from dream to reality must be taken with your whole heart. With everything you are. And taking a step of any kind is a movement toward action. It is turning from the reflection to the real. The beautiful image of a tree reflected in a still lake is real in the way it stirs you, yet it is not the same as feeling with your fingertips the complex texture of its bark as you bask in the cool shade it provides while its branches whisper softly above your head. There is something wonderful and inspiring in reading about an amazing personality, but it is altogether different to come into the presence of that person to know them. There is knowledge, and there is knowing. I can tell you every wonderful attribute my wife possesses so that you feel you know her, yet no description will begin to touch the actual living experience of being loved by her and spending intimate moments in her company. The first step is an invitation to risk. An unsafe step. An unknowable future. That first step must be taken wholeheartedly or not at all. You must jump in with both feet, recklessly abandoning safety. There is no half-way. It is all or not-at-all. This is the way of Passion. This is the way of Jesus.
The All God became All Man. Jesus refers to himself the most as “Son of Man”, not Son of God, not King of Kings, not I Am. Completely emptying himself of Divinity, he became not just a man, but a Servant of Men. He jumped in with both aching feet, walking miles on dusty roads, healing the sick, touching the unclean, washing the dirty feet of confused friends, crying over a city who should have recognized him but didn’t. Jesus became utterly Man, holding nothing back in his rejection of Divine Rights. He humbled himself even to the point of experiencing the greatest indignity of mankind. Death. And not the peaceful death of long life and old age, but the violent death of the worst criminal. He abandoned himself to the task of showing us the heart of his Father. Compassionate, kind, wholly open to the risk of loving with no guarantee of that love being returned. The point of turning from being merely a person who knows about historical Jesus to being a person who knows personally the living Jesus enters the same narrow gate of risky abandon through which Jesus walked. “If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” Be prepared for that gate to look nothing like what you expect.
It is not reserved only for the worst among us to discover freedom in the breathtaking compassion of Jesus. “How hard it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Those rich in spiritual knowledge, Christian heritage, Biblical worldview, and church culture will often find it harder to recognize their desperate need than the thief on the cross hanging next to an innocent Jesus. “Who will love him more, the one who was forgiven little, or the one who was forgiven much?” This question from the lips of Jesus is directed toward a respected church member, not the ragged drunkard lying in a gutter. It points an uncomfortable finger toward the good man and his blindness. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a good man to let go of his good reputation to follow the Great Disrupter. But with God all things are possible, and I bear witness to that truth. The first step toward Jesus is off a cliff without your carefully packed parachute. It is a freefall into the relentless adoration of Jesus for you exactly as you are. It is letting go with both fists the heavy weights of false self and tearing down the whitewashed walls you have built to protect your heart, in order to reveal your true self to Jesus. Your vulnerable self. Your broken self. Your inconsistent self. Your foolish self. Your bruised self. Your wounded self. Your needy self. It is drowning those self’s in the healing waters of Jesus’ furious love for you, and being raised up with your new name as his Beloved. It is losing yourself in his Sacred Romance for you and being set free. Jesus invites, “Come to Me all you who labor, carrying heavy burdens. I will give you rest! Take my burden upon your shoulders instead, and learn of Me, for I am approachable with a heart of humility and compassion. In Me you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my burden light!”