With Christ, Against the Grain

As I sit in the quiet bookstore, reading a magazine article called, “Liquidating Your Life”(1), I find my eyes welling up with tears. The author is recalling the choice of one of her sisters to become a cloistered nun. It’s not a sad story, yet I weep.

A few pages earlier, I was reminded of the thing we call Lent and how its purpose is to point us toward Easter. This article’s author encouraged his readers to give up something they’d miss, such as their Blackberry or coffee, to “identify, if only slightly and with great humility, with Christ’s denial of Himself as He went to the cross.”

Perhaps the root of my tears was the segue from the thought that, this Lenten season, I didn’t feel convicted to give up anything, to the idea that a vibrant, university-educated young woman would reduce her worldly possessions to underwear and glasses.

During the weeks before she made her vows, friends who came to say good-bye left with something of hers. Her clothes went to one sister, her books to another. The author drew her sister’s name at Christmas and chose to purchase a sapling to plant as a family so they’d have a reminder of Heather when they would gather without her for future holidays.

It’s not so much the thought that I couldn’t live without coffee or blogging, but more that I feel I’m missing something that goes much deeper. I’m longing for a soul depth similar to the one that inspired Heather to sacrifice her future for the sake of others, in order to pray for them for the rest of her life. I’ve felt it before when doing things much less sacrificial than becoming a nun, and once again I’m humbled by the feeling.

There are days when I can’t imagine how I lived without wireless Internet and a laptop glued to my hip, or before the days of cell phones. Normally, I would cringe at the thought of living without a car to get around in or a choice of shoes or my skinny jeans or new music every week. Today, however, I’m longing. Longing for a reason to give it all up for the sake of Christ, for the sake of others.

I’d like to be able to truly say:

Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands. (hear it) (2)
Even as I copy and paste these lyrics, I can feel the reluctance returning, the hesitation that comes with knowing I’ve sung these words flippantly before and I’ll probably do it again; the reluctance to give up all for the sake of King and Kingdom. Yet part of me remains desperate for a reason to do just that, a reason to discover what Much-Afraid did on the altar as the High Priest cut the “root of human love” out of her heart(3) so she could live in true grace and freedom.

I hope that someday I’ll be challenged to give up most of my “creature comforts” and make my heart at home in the simple and functional rather than the sophisticated and fashionable. I suspect I’ll find more joy and peace when I do, because I’ll know that every day I’m choosing Christ likeness.

Heather chose not to remain a cloistered nun for the rest of her life, but the stories of men and women who have similarly set aside their lives of convenience will continue to astound and inspire me. Perhaps I’ll do a Lenten fast next year, even if I don’t feel “convicted”.

(1) “Liquidating Your Life”, Holly Rankin Zaher. (Relevant Magazine, Mar-Apr 2007, p.46) (2) Robin Mark, 1990 Word Music. (3) Hind’s Feet on High Places, Hannah Hurnard.

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