“The sabbatical started more suddenly and violently than anticipated. A high fever, a few scans, multiple masses, possibly a lethal abscess . . . the specialists convened, conferred, counseled me to cancel all engagements, and began cutting. The reduction had begun. Waking from surgery, my first memory was seeing a dear friend place a hand over her mouth. Later she told me, ‘I’d never seen anyone that color, alive.’ The masses, thankfully, were all benign. But my body did not respond well to the invasion. The area’s organs went into hibernation and for the first time in my life, I became familiar with breathtaking pain. The experience redefined that word for me. It hurt to be awake. It hurt to see my children’s fear. It hurt to hear, ‘We don’t know why.’ In time, it would even hurt to hope. Reductions, it seems, have blurry release dates. Days stacked upon one another in vain like whisper-thin blankets with no warmth to offer. Though technology blinked, beeped, and buzzed noisily around me, the organs slept on. This healing simply would not be hurried. The wound was evidently too great to risk haste. After eight days in the hospital, the doctors sent me home. ‘At this point, I give you a fifty-fifty chance that the organs will come back online,’ the specialist offered. With those words, my entire recovery-time ‘to do’ list vaporized in the desert heat of pain. All I could do was sit and be loved—a need that my family filled extravagantly. Little did I know that the pain was under assignment: it was making room in my life for another operation well beyond the reach of any surgeon’s scalpel. I would not trade that desert of pain for the world. Deserts unclutter the soul. The hot desert sun vaporizes all manner of luxuries. Then the cold, shelterless nights expose the essential guts of life. I needed to eat, to sleep, to be protected, and to not be alone. Lent had come half a year early. God asked me to fast mental and physical strength. He invited me into holy weakness. I found Jesus there. We often think of Jesus’ fast beginning when He stepped into the Judean wilderness. But the fast actually began three decades earlier when the Glory of heaven was wrapped in plain paper and given as a gift to mankind. The Grand Reduction had begun. Jesus fasted omnipresence and clothed Himself with flesh. He fasted being worshiped by angels and accepted the disregard of man. He fasted the Voice that birthed planets and submitted to the silence of thirty hidden years: How must it have felt—knowing he had the power to heal—to have to walk past children suffering with leprosy? What would it have been like—knowing that his conception was miraculous—to be unable to defend his mother when others whispered about her past? And how agonizing would it be—when his Word could one day raise the dead to life again—to stand by while those he loved (perhaps even Joseph his father) died? We are duly thankful, challenged, and inspired by Jesus’ forty-day fast from food in the Judean wilderness. Perhaps we should likewise be grateful, awed, and humbled by His thirty-year fast from praise, power, and potential in Nazareth. It takes a great deal of strength to choose weakness. Jesus chose voluntarily. I did not possess the courage or wisdom to volunteer. So God, for the sake of my soul, took me there involuntarily. His drafts are merciful indeed. When He calls us to fast strength—when He drafts us into decrease—God’s purposes are clear: Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8: 2– 3) To humble us, to test us, to know what is in our hearts . . . such is the sifting power of helplessness. In our daily lives, we may prefer self-reliance. But perhaps utter dependence is the truer friend of our souls.” Alicia Britt Chole
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Have you ever considered meeting Jesus in the midst of your “breathtaking pain?” … your “utter dependence?”
- Are you perhaps waiting for a healing that you shouldn’t rush–that will not be hurried?
- Is God inviting you into a decluttering “holy weakness?” Have you followed? Have you found Jesus there?
Abba, unclutter my soul. Use my decrease for increase.
For More: 40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Fast by Alicia Britt Chole
Thanks for reading and sharing my blog! (Sorry, longer than usual, but too awesome to clip.) – Bill (Psalm 90:14)