Words are powerful. Take songs for example. Have you ever been surprised by the power of a song to suddenly evoke the manifestation of an emotion deep inside you? I can hear a song that I listened to in a particular season of my life and in a second it’s as if I am re-living that season. I’m getting pumped up for a soccer game. I’m walking down the aisle. I’m in labor with my first child. The words trigger the emotions in me that are tied to the moments that these songs have come to define.
This happened to me recently. We were in the car with a good friend and this song came on. Instantly, I was in the Queen Anne Community Center weeping my face off, devastated that God might move me from Seattle and afraid of what my life might become. I was at home there. I found pleasure there. That was what I wanted. All of the emotions that I felt that day flooded my soul in the car a year later when that song started playing.
Yesterday, I was spending time with a close friend and she shared a revelation she had from reading a book and hashing out it’s content with God. She shared something with me that I closely related to–something I believe all followers of Jesus closely relate to–the things we have “taken off the table.” Jesus, I’ll radically follow you and surrender my life, just don’t ask me to do this. Don’t take away that. She used a phrase that struck me as she brought up what she sees throughout the Bible: “He always goes for the jugular.”
I didn’t like that. I didn’t want to believe it. I couldn’t come to terms with what that implied. I literally sat there speechless, unsure how I felt about it and unsure whether there was truth there.
Today, I hashed it out with God. In my experience, a lot of times that seemed true. He always seemed to ask me to do what I didn’t want to do. He always prodded the places of comfort and safety in my life. He always seemed to be wanting what I didn’t want. But God is love, and that’s not loving. Or is it? That doesn’t seem to line up with who I believe God is. Or does it?
So today, I listened to the song again that takes me back to that Sunday, a few weeks before God uprooted me from the city I loved and brought me to a place I had small vision for. Then, I drenched myself in Scripture. I read Paul’s words. I looked at Ruth’s life. I searched for the Truth. And here is what I found:
God always goes to the extremes to make His love known. His sent His own son to die on a sinner’s cross. I can’t imagine a higher extreme. He will stop at nothing to see that I taste and see of His goodness, His riches, His kindness, His fulfillment. He is not interested in seeing me live a life of earthly peace and pleasure. He is interested in seeing me live a life of fullness. He is interested in seeing me so transformed by His love and by the Gospel of Jesus and the power of the cross that I encounter a fulfillment that is everlasting and eternally satisfying. So when I choose to place family, security, location, possessions, as an idol in my life, THE most loving thing He can do is to strip me bare, to ask me to give it all up, to go for the jugular. Because He knows the idols in my life are a shadow of the fullness and intimacy found with Him. They pale in comparison to His glory revealed in my life. I love what Graham Cooke says, that I stand in a puddle when God would give me a lake. I dwell in a river when He would give me the oceans of the world.
I take things off the table. I withhold. I self-protect. I resist. But He will stop at nothing. He desires that nothing separate me from His love–death nor life, angels nor rulers, things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation (Romans 8).
Read Matthew 10. Hash out Jeremiah 31. Think about all that he asked the people in the Bible, like Ruth, to leave behind. Meditate in awe at the truth in 2 Peter 1. What I believe you will find Biblically is this: He will stop at nothing. He is extreme. It may seem “unloving” in the world’s eyes at times, but it remains true that it is THE most loving thing He can do to strip you bare from all that stands between you loving Him with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength. Paul writes a lot about His sufferings and His temporary pain. But Paul lived with the knowledge and revelation that the sufferings, the discomfort, the conflict, the barrenness, are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8). He goes for the jugular–the vein that carries blood to the heart–because He wants our heart to receive life from Him, and not from what we are receiving life from apart from him. The phrase “go for the jugular” is defined as this: to attack fiercely in order to have no doubt about winning. So, yes, I believe that is what He does for me. He attacked sin fiercely, having no doubt about winning my righteousness and restored relationship with Him, by sending His son to die on the cross. He attacks my idols fiercely, having no doubt about winning my love and worship for Him, the only one worthy of it. He wants glory, and praise, and worship, not because He is arrogant and selfish, but because He knows that He could satisfy fully every place I strive to find satisfaction elsewhere. He would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you (Psalm 81). And because my satisfaction and life in Him is to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1)!
I put everything back on the table, trusting you to attack everything that stands in between us, believing that when you go for the jugular, your intention is not death, but life itself. Real life. Full life.