It was a bit of a significant moment between me and my daughter. We were at the Mall and went into a store for her to buy some of the pins and stickers she loves and behind the counter was a young person with piercings on his nose and ears and eyebrow. Half his hair was shaved and the other half was purple. He was so very friendly and we exchanged some small talk as we checked out.
Suddenly a huge wave of compassion and pain and sorrow swept over me to the point I began to weep. We left and my daughter was worried and asked if I was OK. Through sobs, I tried to explain in a moment that I had begun to feel such pain and sorrow coming from this delightful young man who was serving us. In an instant, I felt his fear and loneliness and his desperation to discover his identity and to know himself. The feelings of anguish were too much for me and I just sat on a bench in the Mall with my daughter trying to comfort me while I wept. It was a surreal experience.
But it created a moment of discussion between me and my precious daughter where we could discuss just what allows us to discover our true selves. How do we discover who we really are and what we are really capable of becoming? How do we discover our potential?
Look at our lesson in 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 the 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. All other paths seem to enslave us to some form of conformity with a false idea of who we are. It is only as we confront the One True Man – Christ – that will ever give us our truest image of what we can be!
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. This profound bit of wisdom is both a comfort and a challenge: a comfort when I’m passing through a tough time in my life, I can take comfort in the reality that I am being taught peace in the middle of pain; and challenge when my heart is painfully unaware of all the wisdom I am ignoring when I’m not truly AWAKE to all that surrounds me! And how many opportunities I miss to help others when I don’t know who I am! What a tragic wasted potential that exists in my life and those around me when I forget it is Christ that knows me best!
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 direst 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 become, by grace, filled with the potential to make me like Christ! Every moment I’m called to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, incredibly, You made me in Your Image to be transformed into Your Likeness. And everyone I will meet today is created in that same image to be made into that same likeness. This vast and beautiful potential is Your gift to each of us. And You also give us the grace and strength to become our true selves through You. Please forgive me when I forget my potential in You and please help me press towards this potential every day of my life. Amen