Standing on the Edge of Betrayal

Just about everyone is familiar with the “opening act” of the Passion story – Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, but Mark 14:10 gives us an unusual glimpse of that moment when Judas actually decides to betray Jesus.  The first word is key – Then. The sequence of events that precede it set the scene for the moment of decision.

Jesus was dining at the home of Simon, and a woman (John names her as Mary, sister of Lazarus in his account of the story) cracks open the seal of an alabaster jar containing an exquisite and fragrant perfume and pours it out over the head of Jesus. Some are outraged, thinking this to be wastefully extravagant – again Mark differs by referring to “some” objecting while John specifically names Judas as the one to object to this woman’s actions, citing the value of the perfume equal to one year’s wages and how that could be better used to serve the poor. Jesus goes on a bit of a rant telling them to leave the woman alone, and he praises her for the beautiful, worshipful act, saying the poor will always be with them while he will not, and predicts this anointing for burial will long be remembered.

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests to arrange to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted when they heard why he had come, and they promised to give him money. So he began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

What was it about what Jesus said in verses 6-9 that made Judas so indignant and triggered him, in that moment, to decide to betray him?  I can almost hear him saying “That’s it!” “I’m done here!”  “I’m outta here!”  Have you ever reacted that way when someone’s gotten on your last nerve?

We know from John 12 that Judas was in charge of the Treasury, and often helped himself to the money that was in there, so we might assume he wanted the perfume sold so the money – about a year’s wages, could be put in his care (more in the till to dip into). But it’s deeper than that.  Judas expected Jesus to lead a political rebellion to overthrow Rome – not to be talking about his death to come yet again.

So when Jesus praises this woman’s extravagant anointing and rebukes those who objected, Judas finally gets it – after 3 years of following Jesus, he realizes his kingdom is not a physical or a political one. He is confronted with the stark reality that Jesus is not – and will never be, the kind of Messiah he expects. In his disappointment, and feeling himself betrayed by Jesus, Judas decides to hand Jesus over to be killed.

How do we react when God is not the God we want Him to be, or expect Him to be, in our lives? Are we done with Him, outta here? Are we maybe standing on the edge of betrayal, too?  When we become disappointed with God, we have a choice to make – to desert, as Judas did, or continue to follow.

Following Jesus doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t assume we understand what’s going on.  Peter was disappointed and disillusioned, too, to hear that Jesus’ kingdom would involve shame & death – not power & glory as he imagined. Earlier in Mark, we see Peter pulling Jesus aside to admonish him for all this crazy talk about dying and then rising from the dead 3 days later, right after he declared Jesus was the Messiah. He was confused, and Jesus actually called him Satan in that exchange – harsh! But Peter overcomes his disappointment and confusion and lets go of the need to understand. With a simple trust, he continues to follow – not perfectly as we know, but he continues to follow nonetheless.

Life is just too tough to navigate in isolation – because that’s where greed, pride, and self-righteousness can so easily take root. In order to follow Jesus well in our disappointments requires us to be in the company of other doubting disciples.  The real tragedy in this story is that Judas was so isolated by his greed and desire for status, that he had no one to turn to in his disappointment, so he turned instead to the company of the religious leaders who wanted to kill Jesus.

What does this mean for us? Well, here’s what I think …

Unless you are anchored in a community where cracks in your character can be seen and filled by other imperfect followers, you are standing on the edge of betrayal at every disappointment in your life. Whether, like Judas, your disappointment is with God – not coming through as you expected or wanted Him to, or whether it lies with your spouse, your children, your boss, a friend, parent, maybe even your pastor for not living up to your expectation for them.

The choice is yours:  desert or continue to follow.  What I want for you is to choose community with other imperfect Christ followers!

  • Give them access to your life, invite their influence, allow the cracks in your character to be not only seen, but also filled.
  • Step away from the edge of betrayal and towards Christ who will never betray you, who will never be done with you, who will never be outta here, who will never say “That’s it!” no matter how many times you are disappointed in Him.
  • You are God’s Masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus to do all the things he planned for you long ago. Ephesians 2:10
  • You just have to continue to follow … with a simple trust, and a band of other imperfect followers surrounding you, just follow!

A Day of Finishing

Have you ever had one of those days when there is absolutely nothing you have to do? No appointments, nowhere you have to be, no one counting on you for anything? I never realized until today how much I hate those days.

Except for the sheer bliss of sleeping in, letting my body take in as much rest as it needs, the sense of freedom at having no commitments pressing down on me quickly sours into captivity as I draft a THINGS TO DO LIST for today. Seriously, how can nothing to do morph into a list of 19 things that come to mind in an instant, in a seemingly effortless exercise of writing down things needing to be done or “should-ing” to be done? Now I’m annoyed and overwhelmed, defeated before I even begin to move into the day that now feels impossible, heavy and oppressive. A daily discipline of time with the Lord and core strengthening exercises takes the edge off, but in the end I am declaring this to be A Day of Finishing – making a point and intentional commitment to do only those things on my list that can be categorized under finishing what I already started.

  1. Return the carry-on suitcase I bought as a Christmas gift for Josh at Kohl’s – he told me 2 weeks ago that he doesn’t need one.
  2. Put in the new furnace filter I bought in early Nov. when the note on my calendar told me the filter was due to be changed.
  3. Finish and publish the blog post I started two days ago.
  4. Unpack and put away the contents of 4 boxes of office supplies and coaching files from my desk & file cabinet sold before my Aug. 1st move. Seriously, those boxes have been sitting on the bench in my study area for 4 months now? The truth is I don’t want to do this any more today than I did in August – better organized in the uniform size boxes than sprawled out on my bed needing a spot to go to since my new work station has no drawers. Even on my short list of things to finish today, this one is definitely at the bottom. I just don’t want to figure out where to put this stuff.
  5. Take the memory stick from my camera to CVS and print pictures of me and the girls to send to Irene, my precious sponsored child at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage in Kampala, Uganda. In her last letter, Irene asked me to bring my 24-year old daughters, Ashley & Marissa, to Uganda on my next visit, saying, “I would love to see them with my naked eyes”. Dismissing that idea, I was waiting until Thanksgiving week when I would be with the girls to take some pictures – now I’ve got them (on my camera), but I have to print a few to send to Irene to add to the album I started for her a few years back.
  6. Okay, you probably guessed this was coming next – I need to write a letter to Irene once I have the pictures to enclose. I put off responding to her letter & term progress report because I knew I wouldn’t be seeing my daughters until this past week to snap some new pictures to send her. Could I not have written back immediately to this little girl who calls me mommy susie, who writes “If I look up in the sky I see the star shining and I stay very strong when you are not here.”? I am ashamed at how careless I was with Irene’s little heart filled with such a big love, and I will write her today with or without pictures to enclose. And as I have been praying about returning to Uganda over Easter, I will ask my daughters to pray about God’s desire for them to go with me in April so Irene can meet them with her naked eyes.
  7. Fill out Confidential Female Hormone Evaluation Medical History form to consider/pursue Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy. At the Oct. 23rd Mahwah Family Fun Run & 5K, I met up with and talked to staff from Millers Pharmacy about a tendency to feel like I’m crashing if I go more than 2 hrs. without eating – even though my blood sugar levels are normal year after year on annual physicals. I had never heard of detailed hormone evaluation or “custom” hormone replacement therapy, but two days later I was on the phone with a Pharmacologist in the Compounding Division at Millers. I’ve had the hormone evaluation medical history forms she sent me for a month now – today I will fill them out.

So as I ready myself for a Day of Finishing, and look to the Word to bolster me, I can’t get Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6 out of my head – “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

I am a new creation in Christ, fueled by His abundant grace to leave past failures in the past. In that sufficiency, I kick off my Day of Finishing with a kitchen stool to reach and lift the clock hanging above the kitchen window off the wall and set it back one hour. Daylight Savings Time ended 3 weeks ago, but today as I set back the lone clock I didn’t bother to change then, I am reminded that I serve a God of Second Chances who each and every day sets back the hands of time to redeem me.

How about you? Do you have some unfinished business to attend to before moving headlong into the Christmas season?

Tidings of Comfort & Joy

All the reading and talking about “How We Love” by Milan & Kay Yerkovich – how important it is to have had a childhood experience of being comforted by a parent – really coming to grips (painful ones) on the long term effect of coming up empty in the comfort memory bank … if it’s true that it affects the way you seek and communicate love in adult relationships, well then I have some follow-on questions.

What about joy?  Does having an experience, a memory, a recollection of joy as the essence or flavor of your home life growing up – does that influence the joy we seek, communicate and play out in our adult relationships?

I have a friend whose joy is stunningly radiant, infectious, and she communicates so passionately, drawing out words in an elongated way that just oozes … Thank you sooooo much!!!  You are amaaaaazing – I loveeeeee you!!! How I love to be around her!  How I long to be that girl, to feel something little and common so deeply that I could make someone feel as special and stroked as she makes me feel – oh to be able to muster up that kind of expressed joy that looks nothing like mustered up or manufactured.

As I reflect back on my adult relationships with men, I am aware that I could never be totally happy, satisfied, or even content.  I was always wanting and whining for more.  Did I not recognize joy at the door of my heart?  Since I was never good enough to be celebrated as a child, since no one asked me what I wanted or needed growing up, was it anger from that woundedness that demanded (expected really!) that my husband bring me joy?  I feel like I somehow learned to give it – can you give what you don’t know?

As a now single person and empty nester living entirely solo and on my own, with no family even in the same state, how do I seek joy?  Where do I find it?  I love Joyce Meyer‘s line “There is no room in your future for your past” – seriously, doesn’t that hit you right between the eyes?  My NLT Bible Dictionary/Concordance defines JOY this way – “the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune” – hmmm … another eye-banger!  Well-being is something I’ve only felt in the last 5 years, and even then, it was only a seed in its beginnings half a decade ago.

Where did I learn joy along the way?  To have it, to give it?  My journey into Paul’s Epistles gave me great insight.

Philippians 1:4 – Paul prayed with joy for other believers he called “my partners in spreading the Good News”.

Philippians 1:25 – Paul says he lives to continue to help the believers grow and experience the joy of their faith.

Philippians 4:1 – Paul gives encouragement to his brothers & sisters in Christ to stay true to the Lord as he professes his love for them and says “For you are my JOY and the crown I receive for my work”.

Galatians 5:22 – the Holy Spirit produces joy as fruit in our lives.

Where did I learn joy, to have it, to give it?  It is rooted in my relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit, and other believers.  As I pray for my partners in spreading the Gospel, live to help others grow and claim all God has for them, and relish the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in my life day in and day out, I can say to my church community, my small group, my life coaching clients, my brothers and sisters in Christ – You are my JOY and the crown I receive for my work!

What brings you joy?  Share with me, dear ones!