Obviously… but not so obviously. Sometimes I actually do have to remind myself of this little fact.
This week my staff and I were putting together a few interview questions as we interview seminary interns. You know- someone most influential, your faith story, what’s your superpower? The basics…
But as we were throwing out questions the idea of our individual Biblical framing stories came up. Vetoed for the enormity of the question, it got me thinking. There is not one biblical story that defines a person or a church, there any many, if not just about all of them at one time or another, in a lifetime.
However, there is a story I keep going back to over and over- in my own life, when I am counseling others, when looking at the church. The whole story is in Mark 9: 14-29.
The gist of the story is this: there was a father who brought his possessed son to Jesus, but in order to get to Jesus he had to go through the disciples first. The disciples were arging with the scribes and could not heal the child. Jesus came along, asked a few questions, and healed him.
Later this happened, “When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ Jesus said to them, ‘This kind can come out only through prayer.”
This story is so rich I don’t even know where to start. But for the purpose of what I’m thinking about- one day I was struggling with an issue, trying to figure out how to best handle this particular situation. It is not my natural default but over time I have been able to develop a way of thinking through and processing situations that has a systematic approach.
Anyway, I went to my spiritual director and after our meeting I realized that I was taking this process and using it as a way to circumvent God. One can go too far- I was thinking through every scenario, trying to anticipate every situation and how to best handle every response. I am not saying planning and being prepared is all bad, what I am saying is that sometimes I get so caught up in this process that I leave God out of it.
“I can solve this, I can control this, I can make this happen”. I don’t think we realize how much power and control we really do have, yet probably shouldn’t. Fixing that problem and controling this situation is not my job, I am not Jesus!
I realized that I was trying to be Jesus in my life, unconsciously and sometimes consciously I make decisions or tell myself “I can solve this problem, I can take care of this, I just have to find the right way to do it” (and don’t even get me started on the idea of a “right way”). But my spiritual director reminded me of this story. The disciples are attempting to exercise this demon, they are arguing about how and trying to figure out the best solution, yet they still can’t do it.
But Jesus does it so easily, he simply declares it to be so and it is. This is the way we think it is for us. We think we can be Jesus, we think we can simply declare our demons or someone else’s demons to be gone and they will be, we think we can solve every situation that arises ourselves, save people from their own demons and sins, be the savior of the world.
I am not Jesus.
I can do none of these things, I am a disciple. I am not Jesus.
This is a struggle for myself and just about everyone I meet, council, and pray with- we are trying to be Jesus, we think we can just snap our fingers and make it all better, we are disciples. In this moment Jesus says the biggest lesson of all- “this kind can only come out through prayer.”
I know you are hurting. I know life is hard. I know that it seems easier if everybody were to respond the way you do, but they don’t. I don’t know why this person is hurting you or why life is so hard right now. And I am truly, truly sorry this is happening to you.
But Jesus is right, this kind can come out through prayer. I am not Jesus, and thank you God for that. So take that burden off your shoulders, there is a savior of the world and you are not it. You don’t need to shoulder that responsibility. So live into who you are, you are a disciple, you will struggle, yet still fight for justice. You will teach and preach and heal, but only through the power and love of God.