I’ve been thinking about all that it meant for Jesus to leave his rightful place at the Father’s side to become human. It really is a remarkable, wonderful, beautiful mystery to contemplate—God taking on flesh. As I come to grips with the real divinity and humanity of Jesus, I understand that his life on this planet was a real human life. I think Jesus experienced deep joy in his human family and his human friendships. But I also think that many of his experiences—even before his passion—were as challenging for him as they are for us. But he didn’t try to avoid those challenges, he moved toward them, lived in them, brought grace, and love, and truth to them.
This has caused me to reflect on my own responses under stress and how they differ from Christ’s. There are many, but I will address one today. I confess that I often succumb to imagining escape strategies to get out of stressful or difficult circumstances. I am tempted to change my environment, wondering if the grass would be greener somewhere else. The words from Saint Anthony have come to my mind:
Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”
These words encourage me to stay where I am. The dis-ease I feel in many situations usually is an indication that something needs to change, and that something is most often myself. I know this temptation is probably common in others as well. I have had opportunity to share this advice with a number of people over the last month. It’s always easier to try to change our environment than to allow that environment and/or circumstance to change us.
Jesus did not run away. He ran toward a broken and sinful world. He descended into the challenge, struggles, and chaos of human experience to bring light, and life, and hope. He didn’t run away from the cross either. To live like him means to be willing to listen and to attend to God in prayer and in the word. And often it means to stay put—to wait on God to do in and through and for us what only he can do.
Are there circumstances in your life that you long to escape? How does Jesus’ real human life speak to you? How do the words of Saint Anthony speak to you? Listen to what God wants to say to you right now.