I remember thinking “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.” It was one of those moments in our journey to Orthodoxy that caused my soul to say “Aha.” A point of enlightenment about just how profound our newfound, and ancient faith was going to be for how I thought about faith. Our catechist had just said “we get what we need many times in life by going through the door of its opposite.”
He went on to explain that the concept of paradox was not only a comfortable concept in the Orthodox faith, it was expected. So, when we desire peace, invariably conflict is given to us. When we desire acceptance or belonging, we may face rejection and isolation. When we crave hope, we are given a hopeless situation to experience the power of hope, and so on.
As I thought about this and looked at my life, I saw the obstacles in my life; times of pain and loss, and began to see how each moment placed me at a crossroads of choice. Would I abandon the path or would I draw strength from that moment and receive the very virtue I thought I was missing?
In today’s Gospel Lesson Jesus makes this life-shaping principle clear.
Look at Matthew 16:24-28: The Lord said to his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father and then he will repay every man for what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
The message of Christian faith is nothing less than the turning of all our expectations upside down. And the reason for this is our world is shaped in such a warped way to have us believe “he who dies with the most toys wins”; “it’s a dog eat dog world”; “look out for number 1”; and other subtle and not so subtle attitudes and ideas that feed our own spiritual demise. Nothing less than the exact opposite attitude will turn us away from such destructive paths.
So, Jesus tells us if we try to save our lives, we’ll lose our lives. But if we lose our lives for His sake, we’ll find our lives. We get what we need in our life by passing through the door of its opposite.
Today, whatever you may be facing holds great potential for your spiritual growth. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is empty of this powerful potential to shape you into a faithful man or woman. That means the most difficult circumstance you face is packed with glorious potential if only you’d see past the fear and pain toward the “gift” waiting for you just beyond your commitment to remain faithful to the path of Christ! Do you see how this truth removes all the sting and fear from even the most dire circumstance and fills up every challenge with the blessing of God’s grace? Wow, no tear wasted! No pain worthless! No challenge “unnecessary!” But all situations filled with the potential to make me like Christ!
This is your greatest weapon against despair and failure. You are getting something you need from your present situation, if only you’ll love Him enough to trust there is a treasure here waiting for you to find it!