Abandonment


“Father, into Your Hands I Commend My Spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Ian Bedloe, the hero of Ann Tyler’s novel, Saint Maybe, blames himself for the “accidental” death of his older brother and drops out of college to raise his brother’s three orphaned children.  Nurtured by the good people in the Church of the Second Chance, Ian becomes attuned to the logic of faith that is not understood by others.  When he explains his plan to his parents, they react with disbelief:

“Ian, have you fallen into the hands of some sect?” his father asked.

“No, I haven’t,” Ian answered.  “I have merely discovered a church that makes sense to me, the same as Dober Street Presbyterian makes sense to you and Mom.”

“Dober Street didn’t ask us to abandon our educations,” his mother told him.  “Of course we have nothing against religion; we raised all of you children to be Christians.  But our church never asked us to abandon our entire way of life.”

“Well, maybe it should have,” Ian said.

We like our lives, you and I, for the most part the way they are.  Oh sure, they could use a little tweak here and there, but our lives are pretty comfortable right now.  That’s not to say that we don=t have some problems, our share of pain and doubt and anxiety and frustration, but at least our worries are ours and not somebody else’s.

We live in a culture that convinces us that the future is ours to secure, that the course of our lives is ours to determine.  So we buy plenty of insurance, put up chain-link fences, and install alarms on those possessions most precious to us.  We are so often in danger of buying the lie that if we’re only careful enough, if we look both ways before crossing the street, if we limit our fat grams and get enough aerobic exercise, we can insure our safety, we can beat the actuarial tables.  Make sure you’ve got two air-bags, stay away from the Twinkies and Doritos, no more than two drinks a day, wash your hands after you go to the bathroom; you know the drill.  Ah, but it’s so easy to mistake a little common sense for a free pass to an ouchless existence.

But Jesus won’t let it go at that.  Think about Jesus’ life for just a moment.  If you’ve spent any time in front of the flannel-graph, you know as well as I do, that Jesus could have avoided this whole deal, could have stayed on the good side of the powers that be, didn’t have to start throwing ethical gas on the religious leaders’ theological fire.  But Jesus won’t let it go at that.  He has to tell the truth, has to do God’s will, has open up his big mouth when keeping it shut could have saved him his life.  But Jesus has entrusted his life to someone else.  He’s decided to live it as he’s called to live it, and let the chips fall where they may.

In the last words he utters this side of death, Jesus makes an interesting move.  He says, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”  This, of course, is a line from Psalm 31.  That verse from Psalms was the first prayer that every Jewish mother taught her child to pray during evening prayers.  In essence, the last words Jesus says are, “Now, I lay me down to sleep . . .”

Do you see?  We who’ve taken such comfort in our own abilities to secure our lives have a hard time hearing a child’s words on the lips of the King of the Universe.  Even in death, Jesus offers up his life to God=s hands to secure.

How absurd that we who are his followers believe that we might get by with anything less.

“But our church never asked us to abandon our entire way of life.”

“Well, maybe it should have.”

As a matter of fact, as a follower of Jesus, you’re asked not only to abandon your entire way of life, you may at some point even be asked to abandon your life.  Lord knows it’s been asked before.

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