Going Home Isn’t Always Easy

pedestrian and traffic through a rainy window
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sbh/552164278/">Stephen Heron</a>

Mark 6:1-6

Leaving there, he went to his hometown. His students went with him. On the holy day he began teaching in church. Many who heard him were surprised. They said, “Where’d he pick up all this? Where’s this wisdom we heard about? And where are all the big miracles we heard he could do? Isn’t this Mary’s son, the handyman, Jim’s and Joses’ and Judas’ and Simon’s brother? And here are his sisters, too!” They were totally offended.

So Jesus told them, “People who tell the truth are honored, except when they’re in their hometown, with their family in their own home.” Except for restoring a few sick folk, he couldn’t do anything significant with them. He was exasperated with their disbelief.

Sometimes the people who are the hardest to deal with are the people you know the best. It doesn’t mean you love them any less. It just means that doing what you’re called to do when they’re around is exponentially harder. Even exasperating.

Because they know you, or think they know you, they’re more invested in your being who they are used to. Changing their perception of who you are or what you’re about can be threatening to them. Either they have a vested interest in the way you were, or they know if you’ve changed then perhaps they will have to change too.

Then there is the matter of credentials. Sure, you may have gone off to that college and picked up a fancy degree or two. But they knew you when you were a high school goof-off. No matter how famous Jesus becomes, with the home crowd he’s still just “the handyman” and always will be.

When you find yourself in that kind of tough home crowd situation, here’s the good news.

In spite of the home crowd’s opinion, you can still be who you are called to be. You can still do significant work. It’s harder. But it can be done. Even in the face of their offense, Mark reports that Jesus was able to restore a few sick folk. It’s not as much as he would have liked. But it was something. They may think they know you. But they don’t. And their opinion about you is only binding if you let it be. Jesus knew who he had become, and he stuck with it. If he could do it, so can you.

You’re an Idea Worth Living Into

Woman casting rays in the sky
Image credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/6116884557/">Hartwig HKD</a>

Mark 4:13-20

Then he said, “You don’t get the koan either, do you? And if you don’t get this one, you won’t get any of them.

“The gardener plants the idea. When the idea comes to someone who’s as dense as asphalt, they hear it but the Resistance takes it away before it has any chance of sinking in. When the idea lands in gravel it falls between the cracks, as if it’s been readily absorbed, but nothing takes root. As soon as trouble comes or the idea meets opposition, it’s abandoned. When the idea is planted in the weeds, it takes root. But because of so many other worries, concerns for making money, and always wanting first this, then that, the idea never comes to anything. But when the idea finds good soil, it is heard and lived, and that’s when it bears fruit, increasing the opportunity to spread it, thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”

As Seth Godin says, an idea can be a terrific idea, but if it can’t spread, it’s like no one ever had it.

And there are lots of factors that keep great ideas from spreading. Jesus names three:

  1. Starting with your own resistance. You have a great idea. You’re in love with the idea. It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. So why don’t you do anything about it? Sure, you run it by a couple people. But that’s it. A year later, you can hardly remember what it was. Because as much as you’re in love with the idea, somewhere in the back of your mind is the fear that if you try it, it won’t work. You’ll be a failure. People might laugh at you. Did that friend really think it was a great idea, or was she just saying that the way people nod in agreement to move on? You start second-guessing. In the end you just never do anything about it.
  2. The next obstacle is other people’s resistance. A friend really does laugh at you and tell you it’s a dumb idea. A spouse tells you you’re overreacting, or worse, crazy. So you believe them and just drop it. Like hitting the first bump in the road or catching your first snag.
  3. Then there are all the other things vying for your attention. And how are you going to make a living and support your family until your idea starts to pay off? Or will it ever pay the bills? And then there’s a great new sit-com on TV starting this week, and you want to see who’s going to win America’s Got Talent, and your friend calls and invites you to play a round of golf (or whatever game it is you play that takes all day). And before you know it, that lovely idea is buried in the back of a file cabinet and your grandkids will fish it out after your funeral and wonder why you never did anything with such a great idea.

Turns out, the only way for an idea to survive is for you to live it. (The ten-dollar theological word for it is incarnation but you don’t have to use that unless you want to.) If you’re good soil for an idea, you’ll make time for it. If you really love it as much as you say you do, you’ll keep at it, work it around your other jobs, do it in spite of your old buddies making fun of you for it, put in the effort it needs, and stick with it in spite of all the other things that keep cropping up.

If it’s really a great idea, the effort will be worth it. Jesus thought the goal, the realization of the person you were born to be, was worth it. Jesus thought the idea that would make the world a better, more humane, more peaceful place for everyone was worth it.

Jesus thought you were a great idea. But do you? Really? Are you living it?

If you are, great! Tell us about it (in the comments). If not, what’s holding you back?

The Only Way to Get Started Is to Start

thinking about itMark 1:12-15

But as soon as this had happened, the vision cast Jesus into a desert of uncertainty, where for 40 days he wrestled with the Resistance, where he came face to face with fear, and still the divine vision endured. Then, when John was arrested, Jesus returned to Galilee, where he started working toward the goal. “It starts now,” he said. “The goal is close. Turn your life around! It’s going to be awesome.”

Steven Pressfield (The War Of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle. Rugged Land, 2010) calls it Resistance. It’s the the self-doubt and self-sabotage that manifests itself within you the moment you are certain you know what you are really, truly called to do.

Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed out on a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace, or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

Jesus knew the Resistance. We all know the Resistance. But the Resistance depends entirely on the fact that there is something you know, deep down, you are supposed to do. It is, in fact, an indication that what you experienced at the moment of your baptism really was true.

It took John’s arrest for Jesus to realize that the only way to get out of the desert, to get past the uncertainty and the fear about being God’s child with God’s message, was to start living it. The only way to stop being a “writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint,” is to start writing or painting. The only way to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate, to change the planet – is to start. So Jesus started. And he changed the planet.

So. What are you waiting for?