A Traveler’s Tale

A Traveler’s Tale

I’m thankful we have electricity to light our world during long New England winters, but there is no substitute for the amazing energy of pure sunshine. This cold cloudy winter has given me a new appreciation for a sunny day. It has reminded me of Aesop’s fable, the North Wind and the Sun. These personified forces argue over who is the strongest. Seeing a man walking along the road they agree the debate will be decided by who can successfully rid him of his coat. The wind sends it strongest blasts and only manages to get the man to wrap his garment tighter. The sun, without fanfare, warms the traveler and, lo and behold, the man tosses his coat over his shoulder and continues on his way.

I’m intrigued by the man’s responses and the power that ultimately moved him. There must be a lesson here. The wind grasped and the man held on. The sun gave and he let go. When adverse winds blow our way, we instinctively hold on with all our might, even as Christians. Trials, small and large, bring us face to face with loss. It could be loss of financial security, a relationship breaking, illness, a child’s rebellion or even personal failure. Whatever the trial, we feel pressed to let go of something. That sense of loss characterizes life. After all it is a broken world; nothing is truly secure here. It is when we are paralyzed by fear of loss that we are robbed of joy. We cling tighter to what we cannot lose as if it were the only barrier between our living and dying. We become self-focused and ungenerous travelers in a Narnia that “is always winter but never Christmas”.

The power of the sun also worked on the man. Instead of grasping, it expended its energy in giving, and the traveler laid his coat aside for he knew he was losing nothing; in fact he gained by the loss. The power that finally moved this man was generosity. Scripture teaches us God’s generosity precedes all things. The Creation itself is a generous overflow of the love within the Trinity. (Prov. 8:22-31) Even the Fall did not diminish its power, for in promising One who would rescue man from sin, God began to reveal a generosity beyond imagining, planned before the foundation of the world. (1 Pet. 1:19, 20; Rev. 13:8) “God gave his creation everything it needed, but it chose to take the one thing that was not given. One would think that in order to fix this God should take something back,” writes Kelly Kapic, “He doesn’t. Instead, he gives even more away. In fact, he gives everything away.” (Jn.3:16) But my life is more complicated than a child’s fable about the sun, you may say. There are extenuating circumstances to deal with. Wind, sun and coats, those are negligible in the scheme of things. Yes, you are right. There is a much better story to tell, and it is no fable.

Zacharias uses an extraordinary metaphor to announce God’s coming grace and salvation: “the Sunrise from on high will visit us to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death”. (Lk. 1:78) But this Light would shine because of measureless generosity. Paul tells us Jesus “did not regard the being equal to God a treasure to be clung to at all costs,” but for our sakes, He “emptied” Himself; He laid aside all His privileges as God and became a servant. (Phil. 2) One commentator writes that the Last Supper “was but a feeble picture of what had already been done behind the veil. Unless He had laid aside His garments of divine glory and majesty, He would have had no human flesh from which to strip the robes. Unless He had willed to take the ‘form of a servant,’ He would not have had a body to gird with the slave’s towel.” In humility and obedience, Jesus traveled among us, making His journey all the way to death on a cross: “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end”. (Jn. 13:1)

Unlike our traveling man, Jesus Christ laid aside the garment of His life, not to receive the warm rays of the sun, but to receive the cold blast of death in our place, for our sins. He didn’t cling to His glory or life but let it go for the joy set before Him. Everything concerning our salvation overflows with generosity. “Since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless, him who had the power of death, that is, the devil and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives”. (Heb. 2:14) Christ has dealt with the ultimate fear of loss, death itself.

If the greatest loss we can experience has its remedy in Christ, what about the other losses we face? I challenge you, during this season of reflection on Christ’s death and resurrection, to search the Scriptures to discover the extent of God’s generosity to His children. Our life in Christ is a “broad place” (Ps. 18:19). He hasn’t just promised His people that they may have life, but “have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). He has made a way for our “joy to be full” (Jn. 15:11, 16:24). In Christ we have complete and utter acceptance (Eph. 1:5-8). Look for the adjectives that describe His love, mercy and grace; they are breathtaking: overflowing, abundant, rich, full, plenty, exceedingly great, to list a few.

Tasting God’s generosity is to begin living without fear of loss. (Ps. 34:8) When we see His gifts to us and thank Him, our grasp will loosen and our joy will grow. We will be able to trust Him even when the storm is raging for we can be confident “that our bad things will turn out for good, our good things cannot be taken from us, and the best things are yet to come” (T. Keller on Rom. 8:28). Then and only then will we share in this giving life with Christ and be truly blessed. God’s generosity always precedes our own. (Jn. 13:14-17)

Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back–
given back with bonus and blessing.  Giving, not getting, is the way.
Generosity begets generosity.”
(Luke 6:38) The Message

Cheryl Lanoue

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