I had lived backward. No, not in a Benjamin Button way—born old and growing younger, but a very human, self-first way.
My life was filled with good things: sound works and the fruit of that labor. A twenty-year-old marriage that was still new and children—five of them, unique and bright—gems in my crown. My house is safe and warm, a place of peace. We have a business. It is successful. We attend a church we love and have deep relationships there. Oh, life is good. And this isn’t a story of losing it all—but of finding a better way to have it all.
I saw the fingerprint of God in my life but felt as though I was a holy disappointment. That I wasn’t walking in a manner worthy of my calling unless I was producing, and even then, it was too little, too late. I strove against my flesh, frustrated by my inability to do enough, well enough. Oh certainly, dear friends encouraged me.
Rest, Dionne. Wait on the Lord. Work in the strength he supplies. But wasn’t I? As a woman set apart by God and a woman who deeply loves God, I am responsible and burdened to walk worthy. Instead of living set-apart lives, many Christians live mixed-in lives—one would be hard-pressed to discern their true allegiance—so I would make mine obvious. But now I saw I had lost my way too. I had gotten it wrong. I had lived backward instead of Christward.
A Better Practice
Once, I heard an online pastor say to live a life of honor, find someone who’s done it, and imitate them. He called it reverse engineering. So, if I sought a healthy marriage, find an older couple who had survived the peaks and valleys of fifty years and dissect their experiences to discern my next steps. In business, this is “best practices.” Find someone who’s done it well and replicate it. I think I did this. I lived this. It's a start but there's more--much more.
Plans fail for lack of good counsel but succeed with many advisors (Proverbs 15:22), so there’s no doubt I can and should learn from others who’ve done it longer and did it well. But Paul didn’t merely instruct his audience to imitate him but to be imitators of him as he imitates Christ (I Corinthians 11:1). And it's not a marriage or business on the line here—but my soul. Eternity. This really matters.
The key is Christ.
Jesus is the key.
It wasn’t best practices and reverse engineering that would carry me to the next level of living but Christ himself.
Living toward him. A heart posture that has me leaning forward, leaning into the Divine Presence. It was falling into Jesus, even. Because getting it just right, probably doesn’t happen either. Because the path of obedience, of faithfulness, is a path of skinned knees and fumbled words. It’s a vertical and horizontal repentance journey—seeking forgiveness from God, asking forgiveness of others, and living forgiven by faith. Living whole in a broken world.
It’s the cruciform life. We embrace the cross—its rugged ugliness and its perfect beauty because Jesus did. Not because we like pain or death but because we desire joy and life, and if we want Sunday’s resurrection, we must first pass-through Friday’s crucifixion.
The Apostle John says Jesus is the Word (John 1:1) and the Light (John 1:9). The Word by which I hear. The Light by which I see. The Wordlight who gives life.
It’s not mainly about living forward (progression, improvement, acquisition) or upward (growing in self-awareness, stature, building a more prominent platform or network) or onward (continuing, keeping up) but Christward. Jesus isn’t one way, but the way. He’s HPS, the heavenly positioning system. Follow me, he says.
The secular world encourages passion, but do they know passion, from the Latin root pati means suffering? Compassion, compati means suffer with. Jesus, the Key of David, the always-existing Word, the Light of humanity, the Holy Way, suffers for us and with us, so we can “suffer with” one another.
The Christward life is for the faint of heart. The proud and self-assured will never look for light in dirt, yet that’s where it is. The Christward life is marked by the things we assume must be eliminated before we can genuinely live, yet they are the passion promises. They beckon us to crucify self and all its idols—vain grabs for comfort, security, and status and trade them for Jesus.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said, “Aim at Heaven, and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth, and you will get neither.” I want it all.
The Christward life will call us to different spaces—and shouldn’t it? The world is overflowing with suffering--passion, in every corner on every continent.
My prayer is to passionately embrace the Christward call, come what may. Diligence as I read and study my Bible. Faithfulness in gathering with others. Obedience in my activities. Repentance. Stillness in the Divine Presence.
And bloody knees when I’m pressed into the dirt, searching for light.
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "