As we have done throughout previous Lenten and Advent seasons, we are again blogging through the Lectionary readings in this Lenten season. This year, however, due to our travels in Central Asia, we have asked a number of guests to blog for us. These guests are individuals who are influential in our lives and work. We're honored to share this space with them-and with you–in this season of reflection.
Today, we are incredibly excited to introduce you to a great friend who is laboring with us here in Central Asia. We had the privilege of meeting Bevin Ginder and his family last year while in Colorado Springs. Bevin was born and raised in Southern Africa. He is grateful to be a follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Presently, he serves on the leadership team of a large YWAM community in Colorado Springs while he teaches and coaches internationally. In his free time Bevin enjoys dabbling in ethno-doxology, gardening and podcasting.
A reading from the Prophet Isaiah
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”
— Isaiah 55:1-3 (NIV)
As we read Isaiah 55:1-3 it's like we are listening to Father God shout across the playground: “Olly olly oxen free!!!” This phrase is thought to derive from “All ye, all ye 'outs' in free” in other words: all who are “out” may come in without penalty. God is calling out to all His children: “the price has already been paid. No more need for fear, guilt or shame. Everyone, come on home. Everyone, come on in. Eat and drink until your soul is fat and happy!!!”
There is something about unmerited favor that just does not compute in mankind’s brain. Grace is one of the most difficult ideas to get our hearts to deeply embrace and relax into. I guess that is understandable since we have a lifetime of performing, measuring up and earning everything we get under our belts. We have a lifetime of saturating in a transactional world that is driven by a conditional and contractual operating system. In just about every season of life and in endeavor we take on there are typically conditional, contractual, and transactional dynamics at play. Whether at school or work or church, we hear the message: “measure up or there will be consequences.” Not just any consequences but consequences that will negatively impact your very identity and value as a person. So, we understand the language of “GIGO” or “Garbage In Garbage Out”. We understand report cards and performance reviews that impact our careers. We understand “walk the walk and talk the talk” or get shunned. We understand winning gold or being forgotten. But, for many of us, we find grace to be a completely foreign language.
After a lifetime of living in the performance operating system, we have no frame of reference for understanding grace. It just sounds too good to be true. Besides, we understand how the conditional, contractual system works. If I want to improve life there is something I can do–I can try harder! On many levels, we just don’t believe that grace will accomplish as much as good ol’ fashion work and performance. Most of the time it seems like we would much rather have a rule to follow than to have to keep going back to God for direction in each season of our lives. Blaise Pascal once said “God created man in his own image…and man returned the favor.” We tend to project mankind’s conditional, contractual, petty and demanding ways onto the heart of God. This reality deeply impacts our capacity to understand and trust that God “really is that good’ and that He really is for us and not against us.
I believe that the best remedy for our tendency to distrust the heart of God is to look at Jesus. I love the account of Philip saying to Jesus “show us the Father” and how Jesus answered ”anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”. On one hand, Jesus raised the standard so high that if understood correctly it should completely unravel any illusions about being able to measure up by ‘trying harder’. On the other hand, Jesus demonstrated the spirit of God’s “Olly olly oxen free!!!” call in his interactions with people like the women caught in adultery and Zacchaeus. The Father’s “Olly olly oxen free!!!” invitation echoes clearly through passages such as the parable of the prodigal son and the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Jesus took one of the most well-developed, legalistic performance-based-systems man had ever developed head on, and they killed him for it.
So, the question is: what will enable us to take a trust fall back into His grace? What will motivate us to taste and see that the Lord is good? What will it take for ideas that we understand in our heads to become revelation in our hearts that will enable us to come out of hiding and run to homebase? I’m sure we should not pray this lightly but perhaps we can ask our Father for the grace of a holy discontentment? Perhaps there is a “holy heart sickness” that could arise from the deferred hope of trying harder and falling short? Perhaps a holy heart sickness could lead us to a healthy disillusionment and back to our heart’s true home.
Father we invite you to stir up in us that deep yearning that enables us to hear your “Olly olly oxen free” invitation and coming running home to the “grace feast”.