Christmas is out the door, with the exception of a few hanger-on pine needles I’ll be finding well into August. It’s time for another year, and like a train on a schedule it doesn’t hold its doors for me to get on board, before its smoke plumes and whistles and gears start cranking. Ready or not.
I begin each New Year with a general sense of contemplation, as I imagine most do.
Whether we buy into resolutions, diets, gym-joining, goal-setting, we are naturally designed for turning seasons and fresh beginnings. It is only right and good that we consider afresh what we long to do, who we long to be this coming year.
Marketing companies may cash in on what this month represents, but its’ newness they did not create.
This is God’s gift of time measurement. Without it we’d have days running into one another unbound by solstices or seasons, the markings that make it possible for us to determine things like, “Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far.” Januaries give us context for what is “far”. They offer us a moment to pause and consider what has happened, and what we long to have happen.
I’ve been doing much of my contemplation this year through the Gospel of Mark. A new friend of mine encouraged me to steep myself in this particular book because Mark writes more about the Kingdom of God than any of the other Gospel writers. Since one of my desires this year is to see a greater coming of Jesus’ Kingdom here on earth – in everyday, real life we’re talking about here – I’m enjoying a book I’ve read many times before, only this time in a different way.
I mused with this new friend who happens to be ministering in a particularly unsettled part of the world. I told her how I struggle to talk about the Gospel in ways the people around me understand, even desire. This is a much bigger conversation than whatever fits into the going length of a blog these days, but her response to me needs little room. In fact, she began with a question: “Kelly, what did Jesus tell the man from Gerasenes, the one He cast the demon out of, to do?” We were eating at a place called Potbelly’s. Just being at a place with this name made me less smart. I couldn’t remember. She smiled and then began to deliver a truth the way Proverbs speaks of a word fitly spoken. “Jesus simply told him” she said, “tell your people about the mercy God has shown you. That was His evangelism strategy.” (Mark 5:19, for precise quotation).
I nearly burst into tears for two reasons I can trace. The first was out of relief. I have so thoroughly complicated the process of sharing my faith, witnessing, evangelizing, however you may name it, that I have missed the ease with which a person speaks about Jesus who has firsthand experienced Him. We should speak of His mercies as naturally as the songbird carols from our windows; I have never once prompted her. If we have a redemptive story to tell we should tell it often to all manner of listeners. Which brings me to my second traceable reason for tears: Sometimes I struggle receiving the mercy God has shown me. If I can’t connect to His personal love then the faith-story I tell others will be forced and awkward, saddled with inaccessible doctrines that may be true, but they won’t be life. The man from Gerasenes had everything he needed to share the fame of Jesus in his community because he’d had a personal encounter with Jesus.
We will talk about Him to the degree we experience Him.
I am still contemplating. Contemplating about what the Lord has done for me, and how He has had mercy upon me. I am examining why I often struggle to receive such goodness, or simply fail to recognize it. The truth is that every Christ-follower has a story of mercy to share, and when we share it with passion, humility, joy and even ease, well then, perhaps more people around us will respond the way the people of the Decapolis responded to the man from Gerasenes.
“and they were all amazed.”