The Christ Year

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Dear Jesus, I come to You in so much brokenness. I am tired, worn out, weary. My mind, my soul and even my body feel brittle and fragile and dirty. I confess that even as I begin to pray I am consumed with anger and frustration about things that do not warrant these feelings. I confess I have not appreciated the wife You have given me, nor been patient with the Son You have given me. I confess I have not served with all diligence at the job You have given me. I confess that I make the choice, conscious and unconscious, to neglect the many privileges, blessings and conveniences that fill my life.
Blessed be Your name, for You are good, most generous, most faithful.

What is the Christ Year?
This year, I turn thirty-three.DSCN3928
Traditionally, the Scriptures are interpreted as saying that Jesus Christ began His public ministry at age thirty, then was crucified and resurrected at age thirty-three. In three pre-middle-age years, He changed the world and reconciled all Humanity with God.
I am not the Christ, nor will I be anyone’s savior.
I am a follower of Christ. In some form, I have been all my life.
Now I am at the age that Christ was when His work on Earth culminated and was fulfilled. I am choosing to look at that same age in my life as a milestone. An opportunity. A challenge.
An opportunity for reflection. Who am I and what am I doing? Am I in a right relationship with God? Do I follow Him with my whole heart? Do I truly love Him? Are my deepest beliefs truly grounded in His truth? Do I really understand the God-man Jesus?
A challenge to how I am living. How am I loving my wife? How am I loving and raising my son? How am I loving my church? My friends? My colleagues? Strangers and neighbors? Are the works I do, the interests I pursue, the pleasures I enjoy drawing me towards or away from the Lord? Am I walking on the path He has set for me?
I’m facing this coming year as if this time in my life is sacred, even holy, and as if this time in life presents a unique and beautiful opportunity to encounter the Living Christ.
I don’t know what to expect, or how He will respond to me. Actually, as I’m writing this, the thought occurs to me that the Lord has frequently met His people in deserts and wildernesses. If I am indeed consecrating this year as a year to seek the Lord, then I could be setting myself up, not for a year of prosperity, but for a year of various sorts of misery.
That would not be incredibly delightful. However, realistically, I feel like I’ve been in a spiritual desert for almost a decade. A little more pain leading to a greater closeness with the Savior might be a good thing.
So then, I embark on the Christ Year, the year I am thirty-three. I am consecrating this year as a time when seeking the living Christ is an absolute priority. My intention is to continually read through the four Gospels, reading through all of them at least five times over the course of the year. My hope is to find Jesus, or rather to put myself in a place where He will find me.
I’m not specifically giving up any other things, as in the case of an abstinence resolution. Rather, I’m choosing to take the approach of giving the Lord the first priority in how I spend my free time. If, after He is done with me each day, I still have time and energy for other things, I will enjoy those other things. If I don’t get to the other things because I am spending my time with the Lord, then I will have given them up because I loved Someone else more.

I’m starting in Lent. My birthday is in July. If I can handle it, I’ll extend the year through my thirty-fourth birthday.

Wow, I’ve never written out my age since being in my thirties. I feel adult in a funny way. I usually don’t; most of the time I feel like I got frozen at age 22. I feel strange looking at myself as actually being grown up, actually being a man, not a boy.

DSCN0698    Ten years ago this February was when it happened, when my relationship with the church was shattered. Ten years ago, Jimmy and John Mark called me into their office. We were going to talk about my volunteer work with the middle school group.
I’ll write the full story soon, sometime this month. Essentially, the kicked me out of the youth group. Their reasons were that they were uncomfortable with my sexual orientation, and they were thinly veiled behind grandiose language about the Lord revealing that my time with youth was done.
That might have been true…but there could have been less damaging ways to let me know.
The hardest part were the months that followed. Months where I was afraid to just leave and never speak to them again, because somehow that felt like I would be quitting and failing them and giving up…even though they’d given up on me. JM met with me once after that to process what we’d talked about, then never spoke to me again from February until May when I finally did left. No one spoke to me. No one noticed that my world had been destroyed and I was alone and hurting and confused and still figuring out my sexual orientation, now with harsh reality that I could lose precious things about it.
They tore my heart out, then abandoned me.
Ten years later, I’ve made some sense of the pieces, but I still don’t trust the church, particularly her leaders.

Today, I read a bit of II Chronicles, which I want to finish, and Matthew 1 and 2. In Chronicles, I read the story of when Hezekiah purified the temple and brought the people back to worshipping the Lord. In Matthew, I read about the birth of Christ, and about how His parents had to start their lives over three times. Today is also the first day of Lent, the first day of a new season in the church calendar. Today, I also heard from the man who I believe will be my next employer. We spoke briefly and he said he wanted me to fill out paperwork for joining his team. Another new thing.
I don’t know how much order there is in the happenings of the universe, but I certainly hope that the Lord is at work. If in everything that happened today, He is whispering that He is about to do a new thing in my life, I shudder and tremble and breathe a sigh of relief.

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