The Backwards Invitation of God: In Order To Live We First Must Die

The Backwards Invitation of God: In Order To Live We First Must Die April 18, 2015
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View of the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo where Moses died.

As you probably know, I’ve been spending the last ten days exploring the Holy Land in Jordan. I’ve had an amazing time experiencing the beauty and hospitality of this land, and certainly have discovered there’s plenty here in Jordan to write about.

However, the other day I experienced a moment I hadn’t budgeted for. Yes, one expects to see and experience the sights, take in the beauty, immerse oneself in history and everything else, but what I hadn’t really expected was to experience God in the Holy Land. Honestly, I’m embarrassed to say that out loud because it’s not very spiritual of me, but my commitment to walking authentically with you bids me to put that on the table.

Our family has had past struggles, and currently we are in a chapter where our future is uncertain. Like everyone else, we have hopes, dreams, and goals for our family… some which have come true, and some which only exist as a painful thorn in our sides- a constant reminder of what never was, or may not be. These issues have sat on my chest lately like a team of elephants to the point where I was beginning to have anxiety attacks when they crept into my field of vision. If dreams could become something that haunt, mine certainly do.

And so, while having a few minutes of quiet and solitude at a holy site, I sat down and had one of my direct and blunt talks with God (the kind that I describe in my book, Undiluted).

I sat on top of Mt. Nebo- the place where Moses stood after years of wandering, and finally saw the land God had promised. From that quiet spot, I laid all my hopes and dreams on the table before God. I asked him if there would ever be an arrival at a Promised Land for us, or if like Moses, I’d be excluded from ever entering in. I just sat there, at the “golden hour of the day” and one by one marched my unfulfilled hopes and dreams before him, and wept alone over them.

It was then, at my most broken moment, where I feel like I finally heard God whisper in my ear. It doesn’t happen that often, but I feel like I can tell when that quiet voice is God- because what that voice says typically flies in the face of my own logic, never seems to line up with what I’d tell myself if I could, and often presents a challenge to myself that I’d rather pretend wasn’t posed.

Like when God spoke to Elijah (whose hometown I visited) in the “soft still voice” after the wind passed, that’s how he came to me during my moment on Mt. Nebo. The soft rustle of the wind blew some wheat back and forth before me, as can be seen in this picture I took with my iPhone:

IMG_1055 And then God spoke to me about my hopes and dreams. Not in some new, strange way, but simply by reminding me of some words of Jesus which it seemed he was inviting me to apply to my own life. The words were hard to hear, but as I watched the wheat gently blow back and forth in front of me, I knew that God was speaking to my heart when he quoted:

“Very truly I tell you: unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it will produce even more fruit.” – Jesus (John 12:24)

As hard as it was to hear, I couldn’t deny it: I knew that God was inviting me to let go of so many hopes and to let them fall to the ground. Not exactly the advice I would have given myself, but my heart knew it was his invitation. How does letting go and embracing death bring new life? That’s always the unknown question. When I posed it to God, I just got a clear sense that he was telling me: “Your job is just the dying part. New life is mine.”

I continued to cry over these broken dreams and unfulfilled hopes, but knowing that God was speaking at that moment, I symbolically plucked a piece of the wheat before me and separated the grains in my hand. One by one, I dropped each to the ground and said, “I embrace death to this dream, God. I trust you to grow the fruit.”

Letting go and embracing death to ourselves, death to hopes, and death to our own dreams so that something new and beautiful can grow out of that death is hard– especially since our part is just the dying part– and that we have to wait and trust for the fruit it will bring. Yet, I believe with all my being, that this is the crazy, illogical life that God invites us into.

And this is the backwards invitation of God: if we want to truly live, we first must become willing to die.

The following day I felt like God unexpectedly spoke again- affirming his invitation to put so many parts of myself to death so that he can grow something new. As I was walking through the gorge on my way to the ancient city of Petra, I came upon this sight: a tree growing out of a rock:

IMG_4161 As I stood and looked at that tree– life growing out of death, it was as if I could hear God whisper: “See Ben? I can grow things anywhere- even out of death. Your part is just the dying part.”

My journey to Jordan has been many things, but perhaps more than anything, Jordan is where I remembered that God invites us to let our kernels of wheat– whatever they are– fall to the ground and die, so that he can grow something new out of death… something that he promises will “bear much fruit.”

What are your kernels of wheat? What is it that you are still holding onto, that haunts you in the middle of the night or that travels with you like a thorn in the side?

Whatever your kernel of wheat is, I’d invite you to continue walking with me on this spiritual journey by dropping it to the ground and embracing the truth that unless our kernels of wheat fall to the ground and die, they remain a single seed- but if they die, they produce much fruit.

God can grow new life anywhere. He can bring forth new life out of death, and produce infinite fruit with our small kernels. But to get there, we must embrace that God’s invitation is a backwards invitation where he invites us to discover vibrant new life… by first becoming willing to die.

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