Mark 10: 13-16: The Anguish of the Soul, the Wilderness of Experience, the Faith of a Child.
Updated: Aug 24
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
For the last three years I have been trying to leave an extraordinary life in the world and learn an ordinary life with Christ.
I’ve wanted, endeavored for an ordinary life where my trust is rescued by His Word (what I call Faith), my attention is shepherded through His Spirit (what I call Hope) so that, by overturning, consecrating power of Word and Spirit, a gentleness might be offered in His Fellowship (what I call Love). The order is sequential: without trust I cannot pay attention, without attention it is not possible for me to be gentle. It has been a life of learning how to become quiet, simple, and available.
In order to have my trust rescued, my attention shepherded, my gentleness offered, in order to become quiet, simple, and available, I needed a procession, a rhythm, a rule of life, a discipline, a way to live with Christ by working alongside His means of grace, a way to live by His Word, through His Spirit, in His Fellowship. I needed some thread, some procession that would move me from faith to hope to love, from trust to attention to gentleness. Some way to be led in that solemn procession multiple times a day.
A way to become the gracious offer of myself. That’s the point. To become the gracious offer of myself. Knowing Christ is the joy in offering. Christ is the meaning in offering.
The solemn procession I’ve found is
Hearing, prayer, and offering
To hear, to pray, to offer
The order, I’ve found is important. It is in hearing we learn to pray, and in prayer we learn to offer.
This has been my simple life with Christ:
hear, pray, offer
hear, pray, offer
hear, pray, offer
It has been my alternative to figuring things out, making things right, defending myself, knowing for sure.
Hear, pray, offer
Had to learn it, am still learning it, will always be learning it. What are these things? Hearing, prayer, offering? What are they?
Hearing is about who Christ is. The Word, the Gospel, reveals who Christ is. It puts who He is on display. Hearing by faith is how Christ holds on to us and how we hold on to him. Hearing is how we hold on to who Christ is. We are changed by who He is. And changed into who we are.
Prayer is about who I am. Namely, prayer is everything I am headed toward everything Christ has revealed himself to be. All our concerns, situations, challenges, fears, anxieties, groanings, confusions, intercessions, worship are being led toward who Christ His through His Spirit.
Offering is about what I’m supposed to be doing. What we are supposed to be doing is giving ourselves for the building of His Fellowship. But this offering depends on knowing Who Christ Is, and knowing Who I Am. Depends on Word and Spirit, hearing and prayer.
I’ve made the definitions even simpler for myself.
Trust in Christ by hearing. That is, we trust in Christ by His Word. By hearing we hold on to Christ.
Trust Christ with things through prayer. That is, we trust Christ with things through His Spirit. Through prayer everything I have and everything I feel and everything I am is being led toward Christ through His Spirit.
Entrust myself to others in offering. That is, we give ourselves for the building of His Fellowship. In offering, we hand ourselves over for Christ's sake.
It is a sequence, a rhythm, a daily procession
In hearing we learn to pray. In prayer we learn to offer.
When I know who Christ is, I know who I am. What I know I am, I know what I’m supposed to be doing.
All of it, all of ordinary life, everything about an ordinary day, depends on, is powered by, consecrated by the vigilant proclamation of the Gospel so we never stop beholding who Christ is. And never stop being changed by who Christ is.
This is a thread, a procession that must be always available because it begins with the hearing of an overturning Word. The thread is our life with the Overturning Word of Mercy, beholding it by hearing, being patient with it in prayer, bearing witness to it in offering.
I wrote a post this last year about when that thread, that procession, felt particularly delicate, when it felt exceptionally tenuous. Like it could break. It happens at midday, where all of the sudden and without any real warning I suddenly feel
I’ve taken a long time to wonder about this. Why do I feel miserable, threatened, condemned? I’ve begun to sort it out over the years.
I feel miserable because my afflicted mind (the OCD) says certain things (situations, emotions, thoughts, desires, possibilities) are loathsome, wrong, excruciating, or perilous. In light of this, it then says certain things (called compulsions) have to happen.
I feel threatened because my traumatized body always feels in trouble, at risk, unsafe or unsettled. Like something is always at stake. Even in very normal situations.
I feel condemned because of the Devil’s lies, verdicts, and accusations about who I am in light of the fact that I feel this way. Feeling like I have no future.
When I feel miserable, threatened, and condemned, my wounded soul cries out, anguished and upset. Upset because the legitimate need of every soul is to be seen, to be safe, to be fed, to be given recognition, rest, and meaning. When my soul upset, it says three things
All is lost (no meaning, no fulfillment)
Nothing is safe (no rest, no security )
I don’t matter (no recognition, no validation)
That is, it begins to cry out in shame, fear, and despair.
The miserable mind, threatened body, and devil’s condemnation can make my soul upset.
Feeling miserable, threatened, condemned, and upset, the hardness of my heart is awakened. My selfish pride. My dependence on myself. The dark pull of what I’ll do to be okay. To make myself seen and safe and fed.
Miserable, threatened, condemned, selfish and upset.
Who can stand up over such forces?
The problem, for me, can begin to be stated simply: the afflicted mind, the traumatized body, the devil’s lies, are two things:
A bad commentary on ordinary experience–a shroud, a false shrieking testimony about what things are that is always obscuring what they really are. Making my soul upset, stirring and awakening my selfish pride.
A terrible shepherd of the soul—leading it to the wrong place to be seen, safe, and fed. Binding my heart to a trust in myself and my compulsions to be okay.
Because they are a bad commentary they are a terrible shepherd.
The overwhelming testimony of the afflicted mind, the traumatized body, the devil’s lies, is that ordinary experience is not endurable. Together they say, “I’m not gonna make it.”
My only way forward has been this solemn childlike procession of
faith, hope, love;
Word, Spirit, Fellowship;
hearing, prayer, offering,
Trust, attention, gentleness
Who He Is, Who I am, What I’m Supposed to Be Doing
Trusting in Christ, trusting Christ with things, entrusting myself to others.
Learning to become quiet, simple, available
This has been the real gift of the last three years: that even when I am miserable, threatened, condemned, and upset, I can still trust, pay attention, and be gentle. And I can do this by His Word, through His Spirit, and in His Fellowship.
I’ve made a map of it for daily life:
The things I do to rescue my trust by hearing:
Gel Pen Lectio Divina
Devotionals and Sermons
The thing I do to shepherd my attention through prayer:
Jesus Prayer and Mindfulness Exercise–Accepting Something
Lord’s Prayer and Swimming, Biking, Driving, Hiking,Walking –Heading Somewhere
Things I do to become gentle in offering
What we can expect from an ordinary life in Christ is slow, steady growth in faith, hope, love (deepening of our trust, attention, and gentleness) by His Word, through His Spirit, in His Fellowship.
By His Word, through His Spirit, in His Fellowship Christ claims my heart and soul as His own, my heart and soul claims Christ as mine.
So yes, by Word, Spirit, Fellowship, I have Christ. But what do I have Christ as? Who is He?
The Overturning Word of Mercy–the Lamb of God, Christ’s gracious offer of Himself. The Overturning Word of Mercy means everything has been dealt with because Christ has dealt with it. And everything has been given because Christ has given himself.
The Forgiveness of Sin–by giving himself he buried my hardness of heart so I can trust in Him.
The Satisfaction of the Soul–when he buried my hardness of heart, he is free to clothe my shame, cast out my fear, give my life meaning because I’ve given up trying to clothe my own shame, cast out my own fear, end my despair. To give recognition, rest, and meaning.
The Mending of Brokenness–with my pride buried, my shame clothed, my fear cast out, and my life given meaning, I’m free to see my mind and body as things Christ will mend and heal in time, shepherding my afflicted mind and traumatized body through this daily procession.
The Overruling of Condemnation—with pride buried, soul satisfied, brokenness mended, we see that Christ is the overruling of Satan’s lies about who we are. We turn from all stories that revoke a future. Because Mercy provides a future.
When we know Christ is the Mercy offered. We know we are servants and guests of the Mercy offered.
When we know this, the daily procession helps us to stand firm in it and hold fast to it by hearing, to then be led in it through prayer, to then hand ourselves over for it in offering. To simply stand firm, be led, and give ourselves, while Christ buries our pride, satisfies our souls, mends our brokenness, and overrules every accusation and condemnation.
We welcome the limits provided by the gospel, the boundaries it offers to keep us safe. The distinction between Christ and us.
We learn the only thing we need to do each day is to stand firm, be led, and give ourselves while Christ offers, buries, clothes, mends, and overturns, by His Word, through His Spirit, in His Fellowship.
But I’ve had to claim Christ as more than those things. If the afflicted mind, the traumatized body, the devil’s condemnation is a bad commentary on ordinary experience, if it cannot be trusted when it says that ordinary human experience is not endurable, it can only be because by His Word, through His Spirit, and in His Fellowship, by hearing, through prayer and in offering, I also claim Christ as The Enduring of Experience.
Knowing Christ as the Enduring of Experience, I learn how to abide in every situation.
Finding and claiming Christ as the Enduring of Experience is something I have done through prayer. Specifically it has been the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I say words and I name what I am experiencing, and by saying those words repeatedly and rhythmically in the background while naming what I am experiencing to him, I trust Christ with it, and claim him as the Enduring of Experience. The Jesus Prayer has been, for me, about leaving behind rumination and simply accepting what I’m experiencing and trusting Christ with whatever it is, whether being miserable, threatened, condemned, upset, or somethings else. It’s been about learning to become as simple as accepting something.
And so I made a list, a child’s map of ordinary experience, so might claim Christ as the Enduring of Experience. My hope is, with this list, I’m not far from the language of the psalms, where Christ is said to be our keeper, our shade, our shield, our fortress, our deliverance, our portion, our hiding place. Maybe the naivete of this list is not far from the language of the Psalms, where the wilderness of experience and the anguish of the soul is matched with the faith of a child.
There are five categories of experience that can often feeling unendurable, too painful, to me: suffering, uncertainty, impulse, alienation, complication,
This map says that in order to be okay, to make it it through the day, Christ must be
my acceptance, my abiding in every situation:
My abiding in alienation, uncertainty, temptation, suffering , and complication,
I’ve made an even more detailed list….
That He is my abiding in alienation, my
Forgiveness in hostility
Courtesy in provocation
Civility in response
Dignity in disrespect
Reputation in embarrassment
Honor in humiliation
Privilege in being ignored
Delight in being a nobody
Vindication in betrayal
Welcome in rejection
Regard in contempt
Shield in condemnation
Posture in challenge
Reconciliation in estrangement
Invitation in alienation
Return in exile
Way back in estrangement
Entrance in pain
Entrance in revulsion
Bridge in disconnection
Homecoming in sojourning
Nearness in aversion
Involvement in avoidance
Compassion in wretchedness
Solace in confusion
Stillness in indecision
Serenity in disorientation
Contentment in dissatisfaction
Direction in longing
Softening in grudge
Amnesty in grievance
My abiding in complication, my
Honesty in conversation
Kindness in conflict
Tenderness in confrontation
Clarity in expectation
Release in responsibility
Limit in concern
Boundary in control
Permission in disapproval
Perseverance in difficulty
Durability in turbulence
Resilience in turmoil
Resolve in restlessness
Obedience in dread
Faithfulness in commitment
Willingness in obligation
Readiness in deliberation
Momentum in habit
Will in rhythm
Fulfillment in labor
Satisfaction in toil
Discipline in tedium
Daily bread in details
Level-head in unrest
Anchor in agitation
Stamina in trial
Forbearance in imperfection
Rest in Harassment
Gentleness in hardship
Meaning in futility
Mission in setback
Involvement in discomfort
Persistence in complication
Patience in frustration
Diligence in logistics
Firmness in pushback
Forgivness in forgetfulness
Grit in letting down
Charity in forgetfulness
Victory in defeat
Winning in losing
Joy in offering
Meaning in offering
Privilege in offering
Vindication in offering
Fulfillment in offering
My abiding in temptation, my
Stillness in impulse
Compunction in cruelty
Purpose in renunciation
Calm in the horrendous pull
Defiance in compulsion
Warden in urge
Delay in response
Discretion in reaction
Control in hunger
Honor in desire
Discretion in interest
Contentment in dissatisfaction
Sobriety in pain
Level head in agitation
Education in instinct
Restraint in anger
Standing place in intimidation
Steadiness in stress
Steadfastness in feeling drawn
Deliberateness in urgency
Letting go in holding on
Equanimity in awareness
Balance in interests
Appreciation in beauty
Acceptance in attraction
Focus in possibilities
He is my abiding in uncertainty, my
Ease in tension
Release in apprehension
Reassurance in risk
Companion in thresholds
Company in transition
Thread in change
Constant in disruption
Serenity in confusion
Stillness in indecision
Acceptance in new environment
Calm in peril
Crossing-over in moments of crisis
Way Forward in the unknown
Way out in ensnarement
Reverence in frailty
Accommodation in inconvenience
Equanimity in interruption
Faithfulness in commitment
Readiness in arrangement
He is my abiding in suffering, my
Safe passage in annihilation
Foothold in agony
Stronghold in horror
Comfort in affliction
Quiet in trauma
Acknowledgement in hurt
Song in pain
Companion in grief
Composure in distress
Expression in being upset
Promise in loss
Consolation in ruin
Shepherd in tragedy
Answer in the unanswerable
Cry in Sadness
Lament in despair
Longing in melancholy
Tenderness in depression
Purpose in discouragement
Recognition in guilt
Remorse in regret
Grace in mistakes
And with this list, I claim what Paul claimed in Galatians: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.