John Eldredge

September 16, 2012

Table for Two

This is headed in a good direction. Just wanted you to know that.

We've always made family dinners a priority (thank you, Stasi). They really are the centerpiece of a family life, the places where stories get told and life gets processed and a lot of informal teaching gets passed along. Laughter, banter, pass the salt and you gotta hear what happened today. When our oldest son, Sam, left for college, there came that night where we no longer set a fifth place. Four place mats, and we all had to face the loss.

Then Blaine left, and it was three placemats. There have been a lot of quiet dinners these past three years; Blaine brought a lot of life to that table, and its hard to be the one son left with mom and dad.

After we took Luke to school two weeks ago, we came back and basically avoided dinner for two weeks. There was company, and some travel, and late days at work...and we were avoiding the inevitable. Neither of us wanted to sit down at a table for two.

What I wanted to share in all this is something beyond our sorrow. I've been so keenly aware how easy it is when you are hurting to make agreements. This is the time you've really got to watch over your heart (Prov 4:23). Too easy to go from the immediate pain, which is real, to something sweeping like, "Life is just loss." Or, "I hate change." Or, "What is there to look forward to now?" Pain can so quickly open the door to other things you don't want to let in - like despair, or hopelessness, or resignation.

and what has been most noticeable is that we actually have a choice whether we will let Jesus comfort us. Really.

Pain can feel so "true," so "real," that we actually push the comfort of God away because we feel we need to stay in it to honor it, or because it might be the most we've felt anything in a long time, or because those subtle agreements have begun to creep in and we giving place to pain as what is most true about life.  And I don't want to do that. You don't want to do that.

No agreements. No pushing Jesus away. Whatever the loss may be.

September 03, 2012

The Last Cup of Tea

I've been avoiding this blog too long. The story goes like this...

Three years ago our middle son Blaine left for college. He and our youngest, Luke, were very, very close and I knew Blaine was leaving a big hole in Luke's life. Luke was only a year into a high school experience that would prove very hard and very lonely. My father's heart ached for him. So every morning, I would wake before Luke and make us both a cup of tea. We'd share those early morning moments in the kitchen, sipping tea, sometimes talking, sometimes just being quiet. Then, we would pray together, and I'd send Luke into his day. I might have missed a few mornings here and there, but this was our ritual every monring for three years. Tea, and prayers.

As May approached, I could feel a knot in my stomach. I knew the morning was coming when we would have our last cup of tea. High school would end, summer would pass too quickly, and Luke would head of to college himself...and these days would be over. Forever.

Yesterday Stasi and I got home from taking Luke to the university where he'll speand the next four years. Out of state. We walked into an empty house. An era has ended. Twentyfour years of life with sons at home and in one moment we are suddenly in the next stage of life. Now yes, yes...we will always be parents. In fact, our relationships with Sam (now out of college) and Blaine (a senior) are in some ways better than ever. But the golden days of boyhood and family are over. The house is very, very quiet.

Man I hate goodbyes. I really do.

This morning I made just one cup of tea.

December 26, 2011

I am Bethlehem

And so we have celebrated Christmas, the coming of Jesus to this world. And O what a thing to celebrate! The manger, the angels, the shepherds…the focus of the entire pageant comes down to this: Jesus became a man. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity…made like his brothers in every way” (Hebrews 2:14,17). Jesus took on a genuine humanity. 

Pause, and let that sink in – Jesus shared in your humanity. Baby Jesus wasn’t wearing a halo. Apologies to Away In a Manger, but yes he cried; he spit up his food; he needed to be held, and his diapers needing changing; this infant was a real infant. He needed to learn to walk, to talk, to tie his shoes. That alone is stunning, stunning, stunning. And Jesus the man wasn’t faking it, either – Gethsemane was real. The sorrow, the anguish, all of it. His humanity was real. It makes his life all the more stunning.

Jesus took on a genuine humanity. This is at the center of our Christmas celebration – his Advent, his coming to earth. And of course, this late in the story, I hope it is nearly impossible for you to celebrate Christmas without your heart turning toward his return. One day soon, Jesus Christ is going to return to this earth, with his army, to make a final end of evil and to usher in the coming of a Golden Age. We refer to this as the “Second Coming.” I find myself praying for it nearly every day.

But what struck me this Christmas was this: The Second Coming is actually - in fact and in reality - the Third Coming.

Christ came to Bethlehem. And then, he comes to dwell in us, to be born in us. The Second Coming is actually in us – Christ is born in us, and is formed in us. He is here, right now, in us. Paul says that his whole life of labor was so that the Incarnation might continue…in us. “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).

Until this man, this life, is formed in you. Christ was first formed in Mary’s womb; now he is being formed in us. It is a truth unique to Christianity and no other religion. "…the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints…Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col 1:25-27).

Jesus made his first invasion into Bethlehem. His second great act of indwelling happens when we open our hearts to him, and he comes to live in us. Think of it - Jesus Christ is inside of you, now, this very moment.

A friend of mine who lives in eastern Europe sent me this in a late night email. (He is responding to a passage in Beautiful Outlaw):

“It is late night and I was putting my little ones to bed (they are not that little any more but they like it anyways). I'm still sitting here next to their beds and they had fallen to sleep at least an hour ago but I'm reading on the Humility of Jesus. I am disarmed, naked, amazed and in awe with this Jesus. It is like a new Incarnation – the Word is becoming Flesh in me now. I think the Incarnation didn't finish but it continues."

The Incarnation didn’t finish but continues. It is one of my favorite phrases. The Incarnation continues…in us.

And so on Christmas Eve, as our family and a few dear friends were having a quiet service here at home, and I was sharing these very thoughts about the Second Coming actually being in us, suddenly the Spirit leapt in me and I practically shouted, “I am Bethlehem.” And you are Bethlehem. The Incarnation continues, just as real as it did that fateful night. It continues in us.

 

November 05, 2011

Loving Jesus in the Pain

This has been a tough year for me. A year with a lot of suffering.

Both Stasi and I have been through a lot of physical affliction. There were accidents. Betrayals. My father died this year. On top of this, my friends have been suffering. A year with a lot of pain in it.

And there is nothing like suffering to wreak havoc in your relationship with God. The damage pain does to our relationship with Jesus is often far, far worse than the pain itself.

Every time I turned to Jesus in the midst of one episode of heartache then another, every single time I turned to him, the first thing he would say was, "Love me." At first it surprised me - aren't you supposed to say You love me? I'm the one who's hurting here. But somehow, instinctively, I knew what he meant, knew what he was after. "Love me now, in this - not for this, but in this."  And those words have been a rescue.

Here's why: Pain causes us to pull away from God. At the very moment we need him most, we pull back. Our soul withdraws, like a snail into its shell. Then you not only have the heartache, you have "lost" God for awhile too. Desolation on top of suffering. Sometimes it takes months, even years to recover the relationship. Jesus was rescuing me from that cycle by telling me to love him now, right in the midst of the pain.

On a soul level, when I love God in this place, it opens my heart and soul back up to him right where I need him most, right in the center of the pain. Too often what we cry out for is understanding - "why, God?" But I've learned over the years that when you are in the midst of the suffering, you don't often get understanding, and frankly, you don't need understanding - you need God.

And so dear friends I wanted to pass this along to you, for it has been a great help to me. Love Jesus, right there, right in the midst of the pain. Just start telling him you love him, right where you are hurting. For as you do, it enables your heart to open back up to him, it enables him to come to you in this very place. And it is Jesus that we need. Desperately.

October 30, 2011

Jesus Freaks

Last Wednesday night I was speaking in Dallas on who Jesus really is, his actual personality, what he's really like. It is by far my favorite thing to do. Afterwards a woman came up to me, big smile, bright eyes, and said, "I'm a Jesus freak too!" It made me laugh; it gave me joy.

It also got me thinking.

Jesus freak. I'm pretty sure that phrase began back in the late 60's early 70's with the "Jesus Movement" that brought so many people to Christ. The hippie culture met Jesus. I was in on the tail end of that. We liked being Jesus freaks, meaning, people who were totally in love with Jesus.

What blows me away is that it would be considered something of a freak to be totally sold out for Jesus. I mean, how does that make someone a freak? Isn't loving God the single most imporatnt thing any human being can do? (Isn't it the first and greatest of all the commandments?!) Love God. With all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It's first, it's basic, it's what it means to be human.

Let's connect the dots. God has a name. It happens to be Jesus. So, loving Jesus is the first and most essential act of any human life. First. Most essential.

I tell you what is freaky - living in a world where loving Jesus sets you so radically apart you stand out like a sore thumb.

Anyhow, here's to the Jesus Freaks. Go ahead and love him gang. With all your heart.

October 05, 2011

When Jesus is Near

A friend of ours had an encounter with Jesus this weekend in which she received his healing from a very traumatic time in her life. She wondered if she would ever find Jesus in this place, and this weekend, he came. O, to have Jesus. How beautiful. There is nothing like it in the world. As A Kempis said, "When Jesus is near, all is well...when he is absent, all is hard."

I am so very, very excited to tell you that finally, Beautiful Outlaw is here!! Amazon started shipping it last week. This is the book I've been telling you about, on the personality of Jesus. You're just gonna love it. Love it. This is huge, friends. Because this book is going to bring Jesus near.

Our friend Becky is a woman who has walked a lot of years with Jesus; she is one of those real streasures of a soul who love him and know him intimately. The kind of person you just want to be around. I was kind of nervous and anxious to have her read Outlaw. After all she's known, would it make a difference? She sent me this in an email: "I have never laughed and wept so often through a book. I have fallen in love with Jesus again."

So friends, you must grab Outlaw as soon as you can. Devour it. And then, tell the world.

O, and we are offering some beautiful videos that go along with the book free to you (yep, free). You can find those at www.beautifuloutlaw.net.  

Come Jesus. Come.

September 09, 2011

Experiencing Jesus

Whatever else it is we need, or think we need, we need Jesus. He is our life, our restoration, our everything. To have Jesus is to have the greatest treasure in all worlds.

So - how do we find him? How do we experience him?

Just begin by loving Jesus. Make a pratice of loving him. This will open up your heart and your life to experience him. For he said, "He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him" (John 14:21). Love me, he says, and I'll show myself to you.

It makes sense. I mean, you don't go around opening up your heart and your life to just anyone. The people in your life that get to have you, have the real you, are the people who love you most. As it ought to be. Well, the same holds true for God. Now yes, yes - he extends us extraordinary amounts of grace and mercy, and he reaches out even to those who hate him.

However, those who get to know God intimately, those who get to experience Jesus are those who love him.

So, just love him. As you move through your day, just turn your heart to him in love. "Jesus, I love you." As we make a practice of this, we experience more of him. Which is the best thing in the world.

August 18, 2011

How to Find Jesus

"Without a friend you cannot live," said A'Kempis, "and if Jesus be not above all a friend to you, you will be sad and desolate."

Ain't that the truth.

We often don't recognize our desolation for what it really is - missing Jesus. A longing for Jesus. After all, he is our life. Without him, there is no life.

So our basic task, whatever else it is we might be doing, is to find Jesus, and stay with him. Not an easy thing to do, as you've discovered. But here is one thing that will help you immensely both find Jesus, and find a closer union with him: Love Him. Just start loving Jesus. Whatever the emotions you are feeling, whatever it is you are facing, just return to loving Jesus. "Jesus, I love. I love you. I love you."

It will open the door for him to come closer; it opens our heart to experience him with us; it also ushers in his presence into those parts of our lives where we find it most hard to find him. Love Jesus there, in those very places. I literally say, "Jesus, I love you in this, right here, in this. I love you Jesus."

It will help. And having Jesus, well, is the best thing you can ever have. Nothing else even comes close.

August 05, 2011

Why I Stopped Blogging for Months

I know, I know. It’s been…a while.

I was writing a book. From about last October through this Spring, I found myself at the creative process of word-smithing nearly all day, every day. Pouring my heart and soul into the book I have wanted to write for years. Especially at the end, in January and February, as my deadline loomed upon me, I found myself giving every ounce of creative voice to finish the manuscript, and the thought of then trying to write something else fresh and worthy of reading was simply beyond me.

But then I finished the manuscript, and couldn’t bring myself to resume blogging. Which touches on a deeper reason for my “silence.”

The world is filled with noise. With content. We are absolutely drowning in it. Some of you might remember the brilliant Disney short, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, where Mickey Mouse has enough magic to make the broom do his work, but it gets out of hand and eventually there are innumerable brooms dumping immeasurable pails of water and he is downing in it all and can’t make it stop.  That is our world today.

Texts. Tweets. Pokes. Posts. Facebook. Youtube. Blogs. Hulu. Google. Yahoo. ITunes. Cable. Sattelite. Podcasts. Emails. Updates. Facetime. AppleTV. Are you aware of how much content floods into your life each day??!!

I hate it, hate what it does to the human soul. I simple didn’t want to add to the noise. When an inundation of content, inspiration, story, news, anecdotes and such washes over our lives, we lose the ability to distinguish the value of any particular piece. Its not so much pearls before swine as it is pearls in a vast, rolling sea of bubbles.

So, I stopped blogging because I was giving my all to writing a new book (on Jesus, called Beautiful Outlaw; it comes out in October; you’re gonna love it). And then I couldn’t bring myself to resume blogging because I’m sickened by the bloat of content and everyone’s attempt to get your attention by making their content seem  more hip, cool, urgent, relevant, insightful, important. Shout louder. I hate that.

But then I realized this morning that what we all need is Jesus – himself, really. In our lives, really. Far more than information or inspiration or content or news or updates, we need Jesus. In fact, because of the inundation bloat we need Jesus. Jesus Really.

So here’s what I’m going to do…I’m going to resume blogging but in a very specific direction. I want to help us find Jesus, as often and as truly as we can possibly find him. If I can help with that, it would be worth writing about.

 

 

December 08, 2010

Baby Jesus had Poopy Diapers

Last May I had the opportunity, while in London, to visit the National Gallery. Loving art, and being with my son who is an art major, I was excited to spend hours there. I loved the Van Gogh, the Monet, the Rembrandt paintings and many more. But there was one massive disappointment. No, it was more than disappointment. Massive frustration. 

I did not see one portrait of Christ, in all the famous works of him, that came anywhere close to depicting Jesus as he really is. Not one.

They are all wispy, pale Jesus, looking haunted, a ghost-like figure floating along through life making vague gestures and even vaguer statements. The Nativity scenes were particularly ridiculous. The classic art depicting the infant – themes now repeated on Christmas cards and in the creche scenes displayed in churches and on suburban coffee tables – portrays a rather mature baby, very white, radiantly clean as no baby is ever clean, arms outstretched to reassure the nervous adults around him, intelligent, without need, halo glowing, conscious with an adult consciousness. Superbaby.

This infant clearly never pooped his diapers. He looks ready to take up the Prime Minister-ship.

Why did it make me angry? Because when we lose his humanity, we lose Jesus. The Incarnation is one of the greatest treasures of our faith. The world keeps pushing God away, but in the coming of Jesus he draws near. Incredibly near. He takes on our humanity. "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity..." (Hebrews 2:14). 

But we have so sanitized and religious-ized the baby Jesus that most of our imagery of the Nativity now adds to those horrible religious views of him. Jesus becomes a vague though impressive figure with wonder powers who is floating above this life that the rest of us are slogging through. Life was easy for Jesus, right? He barely broke a sweat. O, wait - there was that terrible sweat in Gethsemane. Hmm.

The Incarnation – the beyond-all-doubt evidence that whatever else he was Jesus was surely a human being – it has been stolen from us. And with it innumerable treasures regarding the humanity of Jesus and, therefore, our humanity too.

One of my favorite Christmas meditations comes from this passage by Chesterton. (He is speaking of Bethlehem, and what it held in its hills that fateful night.)

"…as the strange kings fade into a far country and the mountains resound no more with the feet of the shepherds; and only the night and the cavern lie in fold upon fold over something more human than humanity."

Savor that last passage for a moment. That feeding-trough-turned-cradle held something more human than humanity? What? Do you think of Jesus as the most human human-being that ever lived? 

 

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