Abundant Life

I’ve been wondering recently about abundant life.  I mean, really, what is it? No one I know thinks it is material wealth, so we’ll just dismiss that out of hand. Is it happiness? Popularity? Beauty?  I’m pretty sure that’s a no, nope, and nada respectively.

I know a 96-year-old woman who is living in a nursing home and is physically too weak to get out of bed. She grins when you visit and tells you how glad she is to see you and what Jesus is teaching her.  When you leave, you feel—loved.

There’s a mother who used to come to my practice, a large African-American woman of strong opinions and the wife of a Baptist preacher.  Their children are all grown now. I miss her and think of her often. She always treated me like I was the most important person in the world—not because she needed my help and skill as a physician but because her life was full of Jesus and it spilled out of her.  One morning I saw three social disasters in a row and when I walked into room four and saw her there, I felt like I could release my burden for just a moment. I leaned back against the exam room door, closed my eyes and let out a long sigh.
“I’m so glad to see you.”
“Dr. Cooper, what’s the matter?”
“The world is broken and in need of redemption.”
She just smiled widely and said, “That’ll preach all day.”
I laughed and she hugged me before telling me about her kid.  

I think these ladies have abundant life.

As I was thinking about abundant life, I thought I’d go to the source.  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. There is a duality in this verse that I’m sure has been pointed out by others many times before.  Satan steals; Jesus gives. Satan kills; Jesus gives what? Life! Satan destroys; Jesus gives life how? Abundantly.

There’s another parallel that’s I’ve recently begun to see.  

I come face to face with immense tragedy on a daily basis—clear evidence of the enemy coming to steal, kill, and destroy lives.  This is not exaggeration. In the past week, I’ve had a very handsome 15-year-old teenage boy sneaking out at night to meet an adult man at Waffle House.  He looked stunned when I mentioned that Atlanta was the center for child sex trafficking. I had a 17-year old whose first cousin and best friend committed suicide.  He wept in my arms. I talked to another young man, a former-sort-of-still patient, who told me about the day his father left the family years before. He fought to hold back tears. There was the college student who is daily numbing the metaphorical gunshot wound to his chest with marijuana and the high school senior, six weeks from graduation, who is expecting to be kicked out of school on Monday.  A family came into my practice Friday for their very first visit with no idea that their five-year-old daughter almost certainly has autism. I had to tell them the news and change the course of their imagined future. An hour later, a newborn came in for his first visit and I found Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip.  Another was sexually molested.  There’s always ‘another’.  It is my immense privilege to help these people, to love them.

I’m beginning to believe that abundant life is a life of walking with Jesus such that His life spills out of you and into the lives of others, but that’s not all it is.  It’s also painful. It costs us something to walk with Jesus. It costs us something to help another human soul. In order to feel the joy of making a difference in someone else’s life, you must also feel their pain.  Holding pain and joy simultaneously in your heart is not easy. It is difficult and it hurts and you wish it would go away; but in order to heal their hurts and pains, to rescue the perishing and care for the dying, we as Christians are called upon to dive into their wounds with them and show them that they are loved unconditionally. Yeah, it costs us something, but it’s necessary to pay that price in order to reap the reward of seeing Jesus change lives, to know that you were a tiny part of healing another’s heart-wound.  It’s also beautiful and rewarding and abundant.  

I don’t claim to know all the answers and there are certainly more aspects to the abundant life than this, but at least part of it is loving another human soul with the love of Jesus because it is spilling out of you.  That is the abundance of Christ’s love overflowing. 

Jesus, did the same for us, didn’t he?  He feels our pain and sees our brokenness.  When we go to him, he just holds us and loves us–abundantly.

Jesus, I feel sad today and I’m not sure why except for the overwhelming losses I’ve seen this week.  How do I hold it all?

You don’t.  You were never meant to hold it.  Just like my life flows through you to them.  Their griefs are to flow through you to me. Their pain and wounds are not for you to hold onto but to absorb and pass to me.  It is too much for the human heart to bear.
“casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
I Peter 5:7 NKJV

You can’t know the joy of loving others without Jesus; you also can’t bear their pain without Jesus.

 

Sadness

I’m not given to strong emotions.  Actually, I have difficulty feeling sad.  I just hate it.  Sometime in my childhood, I learned that sadness wasn’t “appropriate”.

I idolized Mr. Spock from ST:TOS, (For the syfy naïve that’s “Star Trek: The Original Series”.) I knew as a fourth grader that Mr. Spock was half human and half Vulcan.  Vulcan’s are known for being logical.  They aren’t devoid of emotion; they just refuse to be ruled by their emotions.  Mr. Spock, as half-human, desperately wanted to be seen as Vulcan and struggled to keep his all too human emotions under control.  I wanted to be him.  Learning the “Vulcan Salute” was a given, but I went so far as to sit cross-legged on the bathroom counter, looking in the mirror, and trying to raise one eyebrow while saying “Fascinating”.

Two women that I love are in failing health.  My mother has had numerous medical procedures, pulmonary embolus, pacemaker placement, shoulder surgery, medication reactions, etc.  You name it and she’s probably had it along with all the exceptions to the rules.  She was a vigorous woman when I was growing up, loving and jovial, bossy and in charge.  She could always tell what needed to be done and had probably already done it.  I’ve joked that you could call her at 5:00pm and tell her that you were bringing 20 people for dinner and she would welcome them with open arms and a hearty meal.  That’s all changed now.  She really can’t do for others like she used to and in fact, needs help herself most days.

Similarly, my mother-in-law has always had a smile for everybody and a servant’s heart for everyone in need.  She loves her daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren and greets us all with a hug and a kiss.  My MIL can cook a turkey better than any I’ve ever tasted (and she has fortunately taught my wife!)  She’s never been the gale-force wind that my own mom can be, but she is always accepting and loving and kind.  Her health is failing.

Sunday morning, I picked my MIL up to take her to church and she wasn’t doing well.  She is well aware of her decline and was feeling a bit emotional as a result.  It was tearing me up to see her in her sadness.  I held it together until church.

Right before we went into the worship center, a woman who stands near me in the choir, a woman who I have known tangentially for many years, told me that she has just been diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer.  The damn dam broke.

Oh, I didn’t openly weep!  That would have been against the “Cooper Family Values” that sadness is bad; but I was sad.   I felt it deeply.  I could hardly hold it together to sing.  “Our God Saves”?, “Jesus Messiah”?  “How Marvelous”?  Really Jesus?  I usually worship with my whole heart and sing with abandon, but not Sunday.  I was grieving.

We lost so much at The Fall.  Life.  Freedom.  Wholeness. Everything.

Revelation 1:18 says Jesus holds the keys to death and Hell.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Maranatha.  Come quickly.