As I sit here on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I am reflecting on what MLK has done for me. As a white male living in a suburban context I may never know to the fullest extent what MLK accomplished with his journey to end discrimination and segregation (no I don’t think we are fully there yet but my hope is one day it [racism and discrimination] will end). What I do know is MLK and his courage to stand up against the “acceptable societal norm” has made my life so much richer. That I grew up in a time where I was allowed to go to school with people who were of different races and culture than I. Where my life has been enriched by my friends no matter what their color was because I wasn’t separated from them I was taught to embrace “different”. I am so glad and blessed that I have friends who are from different races and cultures than me that have made me a better person. I LOVE what MLK had to say about refusing to accept racism as an acceptable end. “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” My hope is that we can all learn to love unconditionally so that “unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word”. Thanks Martin Luther King for helping me grow up in a better world.
Today, I was thinking about our celebration of Easter, more specifically I was thinking what if Jesus died and rose again every year? (First of all I don’t think I could live through it every year, I mean that I have only seen the passion of the Christ once (by choice and design)) As I thought more about it, I began to realize that the one time event on the cross realizing that a yearly sacrifice might have actually been what the Jews were looking for. The culture that they lived in, there was so much based on personal goodness because of personal actions that a once a year atonement was a lot better than the per sin atonement previously in place in the Old Testament and into the New pre-cross.
As people we look for a way to solve our problems, a way to correct ourselves in order to become more righteous. It makes sense to us that if we mess something up, we should fix it. I know from my own life that when I mess up or sin, I want to fix it, I NEED to fix it. I think I would prefer if there was a yearly festival or something that at that point in time my sins are forgiven so that in the upcoming year, I could try to sin less and try to perform better at life. That way I would be able to say, “I got a little more righteous this year, I had 7 sins less than last year” I could be proud of my improvement and show everyone I am gonna be fully righteous and not sin at all by the time I die (which is impossible because I do’t think I can go 5 minutes without sinning… (I just tried I failed, a guy with a kilt just walked in and I judged him pretty hard) we sin without trying, that just how we are). The reality is, that the death and resurrection (Mark 14-16) were a one time event. At which point every sin I have committed and will commit has been forgiven.
WAIT! WHAT? Jesus came to earth knowing every sin I would do knowing each one was going to add a little bit of pain to him, and he still decided to take it on. That is why it’s a good thing I am not Jesus,I would say “Oh, you are going to do 10,000 times and then you’re going to THAT 4,000 times (I sin a lot, I don’t keep a tally, but I’m sure my numbers are higher haha), if you keep doing that, I’m out!”
What I am reminded is that the whole reason Jesus came, was so we never had to wonder if we were in right standing with God, that He knew that when he died and 3 days later rise that it would be possible for us to be righteous. Not on our own acts or failed attempts to not sin/be righteous but because of God’s gift to humanity, God would only see us through the lens of his son after we accept our fallen state and the only way to unfall is have Jesus save us. His gift was one and done because Jesus had to conquer and vanquish sin and death. So that it wouldn’t have a fighting chance, that once your in the family nothing can get you. Too much grace, if you ask me, but then again that is why that I am not God.
I am truly blown away that God gave his son so that I could be forgiven and be a part of his family because Jesus died for me, simply because he loves me. That’s why Easter jacks with my thinking, there’s nothing I can do to become “better” or “less of a sinner” because in God’s eyes, I am already there.
Thanks God for not doing things how I would!
This morning during my devotions I read a prayer written by Thomas Aquinas. This prayer describes how as a believer it is so important to realize that Christ is the foundation of our lives. No matter how crazy the world gets, if we can just root ourselves in him we can be staedfast in our journey with him. There is going to be tough stuff that happens, but as long as we are grounded we can never drift to far.
“Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow on me also, O Lord my God understanding to know You, diligence to seek You, wisdom to find You, and faithfulness that may finally embrace You, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen” -Thomas Aquinas
Over the past few days there have been a number of things that I have been processing.
The thing that has really spoken to me the loudest over the past two days has been learning to put my intrests behind the intrests of the Lord’s This sounds like an easy concept to grasp, but it’s hard to really put that into practice. It is human nature to look out for “number one”, to always seek for the betterment of life. After all it is the American dream to be the best and have the best life possible.
This is the challenge I face daily, learning to die to myself and put first the things of God. Something that I have done to assist me in this journey is living a life of prayer.
This is a concept that I have heard, and it is a concept that in then past I have also disregarded as possible.
The lord has really changed my heart on this subject. How Am I supposed to follow after 1 Thes 5:17 “pray without ceasing”?
Well I’ve discovered it doesn’t mean face down prayer all the time, it means that I need to dedicate my life to being in constant communication with the things of the lord, by doing this I have learned that it makes listening to the lords voice and following after it makes putting myself second a lot easier. The key to dying to myself is to search after the lords voice, and my desires eventually take the backseat naturally.
This past Sunday, I received word that my Grandpa had passed away. This was news that I had never thought I would receive simply because I thought Grandpa was too stubborn to die. The call came and I was shocked, I felt as if I had been hit in the stomach with a baseball bat, the life had been knocked out of me, I couldn’t respond, all that I could muster up the strength to do was stand there and remain silent. I had no idea how I was supposed to respond. This is the first time I have experienced a death as close as this, I don’t know how to handle this. Learning how to handle a death in the family isn’t something that we come equipped with, it isn’t something they teach you in high school or college. Death is ironically, only something we deal with as we experience more life. I haven’t lived enough to know how to deal with death. I am 1,000 miles away from my closest family member, needless to say these past two days have been extremely difficult. I may have not experienced something like this, but I have been blessed by the people around me who have and have given me wisdom to get through this difficult time. The three things that have helped me the most, through this time have been. Honor my Grandpa, remembering who my Grandpa was, he had lived a life that made it very easy to honor him. Hardworking, I have never met a man in my life who was more hard working than my Grandpa was. He always worked extremely hard at whatever he did, and he always became successful at it. He worked a variety of jobs to provide for his family, and his work ethic carried out even through his retirement. He is the only person I have ever met that worked hard everyday throughout retirement. For the last twenty years I always remember how Grandpa was tending his “small garden” which was more like a small farm (really it was twice the size of most people’s backyards) . He worked diligently and tirelessly in that garden, because that is what he loved to do, work hard. Dedication, Grandpa was dedicated to doing his best for not only himself, but even putting the family first even if it meant more work for himself. Loving, Grandpa was an extremely loving person. He loved every single one of his children so much, each child of his felt his love as an individual and as a family. He loved every single one of his grandchildren so much, that there was never a time where Grandpa didn’t greet you with a warm hug and an even warmer look followed by a simple “why hello there” which we knew meant I love you and I am proud of you. Grandpa loved Grandma more than I knew you could ever love someone. They were married over 60 years and there wasn’t anything that my Grandpa wouldn’t do to ensure the well being of my Grandma. Loyal, if you look up loyalty in the dictionary, George Wrede’s picture should be next to it. My Grandpa was the most loyal friend anyone could ever have. Whenever any of his friends were going through something, Grandpa was there, whether it was picking them up to take them to dialysis or helping them with yardwork or simply just being a friend, Grandpa was there for his friends. He never complained about it, rather he did all of these things with joy becayse he knew, that is just simply how you act as a friend, father, husband, and as a Grandpa.
Who was Grandpa to me as an individual? My Grandpa loved me unconditionally, never afraid to tell me that he loved me no matter what project I had messed up on or if I had accidentally balded his lawn with the mower. I always felt nothing but love. Grandpa was never afraid to put me to work, sometimes it was to the point where it was somewhat annoying, but it instilled a work ethic in me that I know will carry on through the rest of my life. My Grandpa was such a huge support in my college career. I cannot begin to express how awesome I felt hearing the words “I’m proud of how well you are doing in college and in work”. Grandpa was so quick to encourage me in what I was doing academically and career wise. Grandpa was such an influential part of making me who I am today.
How do I honor my Grandpa? I take the example that he has laid before me and follow in his footsteps. Living my life not for myself , rather living to help out others through being the best version of myself that I can be.
The next thing that I have learned through this process is that it is important to be with your family. When you are 1,000 miles away from your nearest family member, it is extremely hard to face the death of the family patriarch. My family is so important to me, and the importance of family is something that I learned from my Grandpa. He always made it very clear that family sticks together no matter what is going on. Family is a unit that functions together in order to provide support for eachother. Being away from parents, siblings, aunts & uncles, and cousins has been hard on me. (Luckily I am currently flying home, and I get to be there for my family, with my family). The family legacy that my Grandpa left behind is strong and we are a stronger unit because of him.
The last thing that I learned today from one of my friends was the advice “don’t forget to take the time to mourn, because if you don’t it’s not good and you will carry it with you”. These were some very important words for me to hear. They have been running through my head all day and I have spent all day thinking about the importance of mourning. These words which were spoken to me actually inspired me to write this post. (As I sit here on the plane tearing up after almost every word and memory I have of my Grandpa passes through my mind, it is truly helping through this difficult process.) Mourning allows for healing. Taking the time to process through my loss is helping me rejoice in the life that my Grandpa lived, remembering the legacy that he is leaving through his family. I am learning to let go, to celebrate the life and to be there to help my family go through the same process.
Grandpa Wrede, thank you so much for who you were/who you will continue to be in the lives of your family and friends. You leave behind a great legacy, a family who will never be the same without you and who is better off from the man you were to each individual. You will be missed and always be loved.