As most who read my Weekly Thoughts know, our oldest son, Chris, is handicapped. He was delivered by emergency C-section after he had gone into “fetal distress” during labor, and was found to have the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck in a slip knot. The result is that physically he will be 35 on December 23, but mentally he is about 4 years old.
Chris is very outgoing, talkative, and has a very funny sense of humor. But being brain damaged it also means he shares the traits so often found in people with brain damage no matter the cause, including disliking a change in routine, is easily startled by loud noises, and is prone to violent bursts of temper if either of the first two things happens.
Re-direct our attention
As a result, a skill learned early on is that of ‘re-directing’ Chris’ attention. If we were planning on going in the car to run errands, and suddenly the plans changed, he could get very angry and yell or even hit something or someone. However, if we could suddenly insert into his line of sight a new toy or something of interest like a train going by, the anger would be turned off like a switch as his attention was re-directed.
The visitation I’m sharing about, and the 3 examples from scripture the Lord used to teach me, is largely about how He redirects our attention from our ulterior motives and distractions, to purity of focus and love.
The last example in the visitation
The first example He used was from John 3, where He purposely went through Samaria, where the Pharisees would not follow, in order to redirect their attention back to John the Baptist’s ministry of repentance. His point was they could not go on in Him before they had first accepted the repentance John preached.
The 2nd example I shared that He taught me from was John 6, where many of those who Jesus had miraculously fed and had wanted to take Him by force and make Him king, were exposed for the truth they weren’t following Jesus for the miracles proving who He was, but because of what He could do for them. To expose their ulterior motives and make them face their own hearts, He told them a hard to understand parable, that they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood for He was the true Manna from heaven. Many left Him rather than face their own heart.
Today I share His 3rd example in that visitation, which is a redirection of the Rich Young Ruler’s conversation with the Lord, as seen in Matthew 19:16-22.
As the visitation happened…
When the rich young ruler came to Jesus he asked: “Good master, what must I do to have eternal life?” Now if this were you or I, we would have just answered the man by telling him to believe in Jesus. We wouldn’t have cared about why he wanted to follow Jesus, we would have reported that ‘we got someone saved’ as proven by the fact they prayed with us.
But Jesus replied, “Why are you calling me good? There is no one good but God.” Jesus was asking the man this: By calling Me good, and knowing that no one is good but God, are you therefore calling me God?
That was the big question Jesus asked him directly, but the man side-stepped the question. We read these 7 verses in a few seconds not realizing it was a real conversation, with pauses at the end of sentences and thoughtful consideration given before answering.
When he didn’t answer the Lord directly, the Lord tried another way to expose his heart, and in the next 3 verses the young man stated how perfect he was, how righteous he was, in a statement of his performance based faith, not realizing he was being set up by the Lord. Suddenly the conversation turned, and he was forced to look at his own heart: “If you want to be complete, go and sell all you have, give the proceeds to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow Me.”
If he believed Jesus was God, as he inferred at the start but never answered directly, he no doubt would have done so gladly. as Andrew, Peter, James, John, and Matthew had all done previously. But he didn’t, so this was the redirect, taking the conversation back to the man’s heart and what he truly loved: Not what his performance based faith demonstrated, but the motives as to why he was wanting God in the first place.
The young man’s focus had originally been on himself – What one thing must I do to have eternal life? I’ve kept all (these) commands from my youth. What do I still lack? It was a ‘me’ based faith.
Without accusing him directly of loving his money and status more than loving God, and without forcing him to be confronted with Who Jesus is, the Lord put it all back in his lap to force him to make a decision. And once redirected to see the truth of his own heart, he went away sad, not yet willing to give up his wealth.
Suddenly I understood why in times past I was in such desperate need of answered prayer or money or a solution and heaven was totally silent in that area, yet at the exact same time He was forcing me to work on some area of my personality while NOT answering what I thought was a more pressing need. He was trying to redirect my attention to what He was working on my heart about, while I kept wanting to focus on my need for answered prayer, my need for money, or just needing answers.
When the Lord shared this about the rich young ruler and how He redirected his focus back onto his own heart, I couldn’t help but ask Him this: “Lord, there is an ancient tradition that says the Rich Young Ruler was Barnabus, who eventually did sell everything and follow you as seen in Acts 4:36-37, is that true?”
He was silent, just looking at me. And suddenly as I looked into His eyes it was like looking into a mirror, but the reflection I saw was not my physical being, but my motives in asking such a question. The first thing I saw was that I love trivia and history and that I was asking because I was curious. Then a layer was pulled back to the motive behind that motive, and I saw I asked because part of me wanted to know something I couldn’t prove by chapter and verse, but could tell people ‘the Lord told me’. And one layer beneath that was a hypothetical picture of me sharing that little bit of trivia with a group of people and doing so wasn’t for their edification, but to make me look all the better in their eyes. The sin was that I would have shared that for my benefit, while under the guise of sharing to help them. I saw my pride and was abhorred myself.
I said “I’m sorry Lord” and made an adjustment in my heart to check myself in the future before sharing things of Him so that if I shared, it would truly be to help others and not for my own ego. It took just a second to repent and redirect my heart.
And then I realized the 3 examples He had just taught me about how He redirected people’s focus to their own hearts and motives, is exactly what He just did to me. I had just become object lesson #4 in that visitation, and I was humbled in a way I had never been before. And all without the slightest hint of condemnation, just fact undergirded with Absolute unconditional love.
I saw Him that day as the Living Word of God who critiques and divides the thoughts and intentions of the heart, and before Whose eyes all things are naked and open. (Hebrews 4:12-13).
And suddenly He smiled and said to me: “It’s OK. The teaching is over, let the lesson remain.” And with that He changed the subject to talk of some other things, as a friend might lighten the mood of a serious conversation before going, and that’s exactly what He did. He turned, and as is His custom, walked away, and half way into his third step, disappeared, no doubt to appear to someone else somewhere in the world, leaving me to think on the depth of what I’d just learned. And I’ll leave you there too - new subject next week.