A New Way to Look at Jabs
I have not read Second Corinthians in about two years. It was once my favorite book because I always felt like Paul is baring his soul. No apologies . . . not real worried about TMI . . . sadness, disappointment, over-flowing cup of joy . . . the works. Paul experiences the entire spectrum of emotion in one heart-felt Epistle. I used to read it over and over for years. I read about Paul’s severe affliction (hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger . . . ) and I just knew I could face each day because Paul had it much worse than I. I had even memorized a large chunk out of chapter four:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies . . . 2 Cor. 4:7-10 ESV
I would recite these verses to myself whenever I was hurt or jabbed, as though they were a magic pill to make the crazy stop. I was not reading the letter right . . . I had not put it into context.
The other day, my sweet husband (David) read something out of 2 Corinthians to me and my love for the book was renewed. I ventured that way and was astonished by the fact that I could not stop reading. I fell in love with 2 Corinthians again . . . but in a new and fresh way.
I had not thought about that to which Paul might have been reacting. He is not declaring his martyrdom and suffering as though he is more holy than most. He is describing all that he has been through in utter vulnerability. He is pleading with the Church in Corinth:
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. 6:11-13
And here is the same passage in two other versions:
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also. (NIV)
Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! (Message)
Paul went through it all. He had thorns. I love that man.
I was listening to a live Jason Upton performance of his latest praise album. There is a long piece about forgiveness. In the middle of the piece, Jason Upton speaks of the “cup” that Jesus drinks. John 18:10-11 describes where Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus heals the ear and then says to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
There is something extremely powerful in what Jesus says. There is forgiveness . . . there is a deeper understanding of the big picture. If I can look my betrayer in the eye and say, “You are a cup from my Father”, I have victory. I still get jabbed at, years after I made the most difficult decision of my life (leaving my first husband). It is as though these abusers and allies of my abuser just want me to remember that they are still there — ever condemning. Now, I have a thorn; a cup. And I am thankful. Do you know why? Because (as Barb put it), it “keeps a fire in my belly”. I can continue to work and advocate for men and women who are being abused. That sick, dark feeling is never far away . . . I am not allowed to forget it because Jesus has a job for me to do. And now . . . instead of feeling stress and strain, I am thankful.
I am relating to Paul now, as all Believers in Christ can and should. Look at this: ” . . . through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known . .. “ 2 Cor. 6:8-9. He gets it. He was treated like an impostor . . . unknown . . . he was treated with dishonor and was slandered. Yet He was known by the One who counts. Paul was true and he knew it. That is a pretty solid foundation. I am known by God. I know God. I am not perfect but I am true. Good enough.
I am thankful for my thorn. I am smiling as I write this. They can’t get under my skin, anymore. They cannot get into my brain, anymore, quite as easily. It is too full of the Truth of God’s Word these days. Try as they might, their little under-handed “anonymous” baloney hits a wall of Truth. And I stand tall and hold my head up high. Which is my calling and yours . . . as a beloved child of the King.