October 1, 2018
CALEB JOSEPH WARNER
The past few months has been a rediscovery of my ambitions and the equal discovery that I do not feel ready to make anything happen.
I will just say this and say it clearly: it is depressing to be in the same place you were five years ago. Not just in the same location, but in the same economic and cultural status. Despite the fact that I have graduated college with a pretty but questionably functional degree, I do not feel like I am going anywhere. If I am going somewhere, it is certainly not fast.
At this point in many of my peers’ lives, they have climbed higher mountains. I aspire to climb mountains like this and in this recognition there is no envy on my part at all. It is convicting. It forces me to ask which mountains I am going to climb.
The fear that this realization puts in me has not yet spurned on activity and diligence. And I will just say this clearly: being in the same place I have been for half a decade is a temptation for me. It is far too easy to be comfortable and to close my eyes and sleepwalk here.
All this being said, I am getting the clear message from Reality that it is time to move on and maybe in all these past blog posts that I have written, this is the bush that I have been beating around.
I feel like I am still in the camp at the base of the mountain, sipping beer and taking naps. But one by one, people are climbing up the mountain. And there is never going to be a time when it is time to go. The innkeeper will never say to me, “Isn’t it time you headed out?” I’m keeping him in business with my dawdling.
Oh, if only I can just come out with a book, I would maybe feel ready to move on. Even if it is bad, which it is. And how on earth can I make it better? I will be stuck in the cycle of bettering my craft for ever if I do not come out with a book soon.
The difficulty of climbing the mountain is that all the guides left before I even arrived here at this inn, at this camp. There are a few people in the corner, smoking and playing card games. Maybe I could convince some of them to come with me, but undoubtedly they will not climb at the same pace as I might. Maybe that additional struggle to climb with others would be good for me, but the fact is that climbing the mountain itself seems like a task insurmountable.
It is good to climb with others, but who are these others? And what comfort are others when they also do not know the way?
Maybe it is time to reclaim the terminology of Jesus as friend. For Jesus to be our friend does not come with a clear meaning or message. It is an ambiguous claim. You think that it means that Jesus is like a good friend you are comfortable with.
But to call Jesus our friend is to call the Lord of all creation our friend. That makes me far from comfortable. It shocks me. Imagine, trite though this sounds, that the Queen of England—that final vestige of royal demonstration—came to your home and kicked up her feet on your coffee table? Would that make you comfortable, or would it be confusing and unclear about how to best relate to her?
Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord,” will have this kind of relationship with Jesus. I find that the mystery of Jesus being our friend is a mystery akin to Jesus being the Son of David and his Lord simultaneously. What is Jesus to me?
He is a Lord who I can call friend and if you doubt the biblical basis for the term, remember that Jesus had a best friend. Remember that Jesus is before but like us, son of God. Remember that Jesus is called your brother. The equality we share with Jesus is a privilege suddenly bestowed.
This is not what our earthly relationships with brothers and friends are like. With brothers and friends on this earth, we share a comfort of familiarity and undefined origins. This is especially true with siblings. When did the comfort with them begin? It began when you both began. And how many good friendships start unclearly? This is a quality they often take on, though good friendships are not defined by their ambiguous origins. I remember some first conversations with friends. I do not remember when I began to feel like I shared a secret knowledge with them, the mystery of being knit together. That takes time. How many friends do we carry with us in life because it was declared, “You will be friends now?”
I can point to times when my parents wanted me to be friends with certain kids. My mother would declare, “Go and play with him.” Playing with him was the last thing I wanted to do. I could see in his eyes that he felt the same way. As soon as friendship was declared by a higher authority, friendship died. Friendship takes being knit together in love, even though it might be wordlessly the life situation that pits you both together in some dark wood.
But our friendship with Jesus is something declared and from there, we must learn what this means. Friendship with Jesus at first is something rightly to be feared. It is good to watch your words in the presence of the living God. It is good to weigh the seriousness. But even before we were friends, Jesus knew my every thought and ambition and desire. How can you reveal too much, how can you misspeak in front of the one who knows already what it is you want to say?
Yes, it is good to fear this. But from there we learn to no longer fear the one who himself gives the weight to our thoughts and ambitions and desires. Perhaps we fear what we might say, because he is the one who gives substance to our every living breath. And we want to please him, we want to make a good impression. We know that it is possible to pray and plead in vain. We can ask for the wrong things.
Friendship with Jesus means that we must claim for ourselves the comfort of his presence, despite all the sin that once clung to us. To be friends with Jesus is to be purified. To fear what we are going to say is the beginning of the broken and contrite heart he asks for.
The world despises this knowledge Jesus has already of us. The world despises that he knows our every thought. If only the world knew that Jesus no longer condemns where there is no sin. Jesus changes our thoughts and desires.
Did Jesus associate with tax collectors or did Jesus associate with tax collectors who feared him? Did Jesus associate with whores, or did Jesus associate with whores who feared him? Does Jesus associate with you, or does Jesus associate with you who fear him?
Jesus is not friends with anyone. He is friends with those who first call him Lord and by calling him Lord, his servants are welcome to join his table like the most important guests. The servants are the last who expect this privilege.
I did not expect this privilege received by calling Jesus my Lord. But when I am sitting in the inn at the base of the mountain wondering who I might climb with, I know that I will never have to climb alone.
Our friendship with Jesus is not some invisible replacement of real friendships. If friendship with Jesus meant only that we have a spiritual connection to heaven, it would be as if Jesus said to us, “Go in peace, be warm and filled,” without giving us any food or clothing. We have asked Jesus for companions and will he give us no one? We would be fools not to be satisfied with divine communion, but communion with God means communion with the ones possessed by God bearing his name.
This companionship is not what it looked like before friendship with Jesus. Friendship with Jesus is enmity against the world. And so those smoking and playing cards in the corner of the inn, I need to ask them, “When and where are you going?” And even if they might walk at a different pace than I am used to, if they are going to the same place, they are my people.
And so the prayer should be, “Reveal to us our companions and reveal to us where we are to go.” This is my prayer right now and I have another prayer, too. “Show me how you have already crucified my ambition and resurrected my desires, so that I can confidently move on from this place. Prepare for me a path and remove me from the temptation of being too comfortable.”