Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Wee Little Man

Those of us who have been in church for any length of time are familiar with the children's song, "Zacchaeus was a Wee Little Man." It is easy to understand why children would love the song and the the story of Zacchaeus. They can identify with being too small to be able to see every thing they want to see! But this story isn't just for children, it is for adults as well. It tells us about our great God. 

Zacchaeus was a Jewish man who lived in the town of Jericho. He was of tiny stature and in his culture that meant he was overlooked and even looked down upon. In addition he had become a chief tax collector for the Roman government. That added to the contempt his countrymen would have had for him. His peers believed he was doing "dirty work" for the Roman government and treated him as if he were an enemy. In addition, most tax collectors became rich by taking extra taxes from people to pad their own pockets. So, it was likely he had personally robbed them, resulting in his not being liked by most of the Jewish community.
Zacchaeus had heard of Jesus, but did not know him personally. He didn't know what he looked like, but was curious about the Jesus everyone was talking about. But, because of his stature he could not see past the crowd. And no one in that crowd would have wanted to make room for him. So, he ran ahead of Jesus and climbed up in a tree and waited for Jesus to come by so he could get a glimpse of Him. When Jesus came, He paused beneath Zacchaeus and looked up and called him by name! It amazed Zacchaeus that Jesus knew his name and where he was perched before He even glanced up. Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus' home and Zacchaeus responded by quickly coming down from the tree. He found in Christ a love and an acceptance that he, a despised person, was hungry for. Because of his reputation, it was a while since anyone had made eye contact with him and acknowledged his presence. It had been a long time since he had experienced close fellowship with others in his home. 

As he began to experience Christ's pure love, Zacchaeus realized all of the wealth he accumulated could not satisfy his heart like Jesus could. As a result, he was changed from being a "thief" to being a "giver" and told Christ he would restore what he wrongly took from people fourfold! The crowd criticized Jesus for spending time with Zacchaeus, but Christ did not respond to their criticism directly. Instead He told Zacchaeus, "This day salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." What a awesome thing for Christ to do! Their enemy was now in the spiritual family. 
What can we learn from story about Zacchaeus? First, we can relate to him if we are really honest. We often feel small and overlooked. For many, that feeling began in childhood. When Mom got on the phone or in a conversation with another adult and wasn't connecting to us as children, we more than likely clamored for attention, interrupting, doing things we weren't supposed to do, or starting fights with siblings because we knew that would get Mom's attention. 

I came across a Michael Card song a few years ago called Underneath the Door. In the song he describes himself as little guy with stubbly little fingers who wanted to get his Dad's attention. But his dad often closed himself off, hiding behind his office door. He would draw his dad pictures and push them under the door. Sometimes he would even stick his little fingers beneath the door as if to say, "This is me, its who I am."  He shared his story with someone and they pointed out that as an adult he still was that little boy wanting to be seen. So often we do feel small and overlooked. We may smile at what we did as children to get the attention we wanted, but we really are just grown up children still desiring to be seen and heard. We may not be tax collectors and we may not do exactly the same things we did as children. However, we have all sorts of ways of dealing with our feelings of insignificance, insecurity, and inferiority. We have ways we deal with feeling unseen, unheard, and, "small." Some of us become hyper critical and shout the faults of others. Some of us turn those feelings inward and we beat ourselves up emotionally, sometimes physically. Some of us become perfectionists, never stopping to rest or enjoy life, people, or God. Some of us  pursue wealth, fame, or popularity only to find it is never enough to allow us to feel fully seen and fully heard. Some of become so independent we deny the need of being seen, heard, or loved is a need written carefully on the heart by the Creator Himself. Some of us may have even stepped on others, trying to climb to the top where we believed we would be noticed, only to find we felt even smaller.     
Second, we can that learn God is a God who seeks out the smallest. We don't have to climb a tree, the corporate ladder, become the favorite child, or scale the tallest peak. Christ seeks us even we are still sinners, while we are still enemies with God, and when others crowd us out, overlook us, refuse to hear us, or simply ignore us.   
Third, just as Jesus knew the wee little man by name, He knows our name. He was the one who ascribed significance to us as He chose to create us, to love us, to die for us, to reveal Himself to us, to call us down from our self-made tree. His great love looks past our visible sins as well as the invisible ones we keep so well hidden and sees who He created us to be. When He calls our name and invites us to know Him, we can either reject Him or we can embrace Him. If we embrace Him, He comes home to our hearts, radically changing our lives.  
When we feel the most lost, the most unseen, the most unheard, and the most unredeemable, that is the very moment Jesus is calling our name. Those feelings were given to us to let us know we have needs--the need to be seen by Him, the need to be known by Him, and the need to be loved by Him. Those needs were designed to drive us to Him who died to exchange our unrighteousness for His righteousness.  

Lastly, our significance is found in Christ and in the gifting He gives us. We want to be sure our biases don't get in the way of our seeking and offering the love of Christ to sinners in need of a loving, life changing God who sees and knows their names. The "tax collectors"--those we might view as enemies, those we might avoid seeing because we're angry, those we might overlook because their poverty of spirit makes us uncomfortable, those we think are beneath us are the very ones Christ might use us to be His voice calling their name. As His skin representatives He desires for us to reach out to the lost, to fellowship with the invisible, and to disciple new believers, looking past their pasts to what they can become in the hands of a holy, all powerful God. We don't want to lose God's people because they remain invisible and unheard within the church. We don't want to lose people because we have never given them the opportunity to live down their pasts. After all, in light of the bigness of our God aren't we all  Zacchaeus's? I praise God for the instant change in Zacchaeus and personally believe he, the wee little man, walked a bit taller the day Jesus invited Himself to dinner.

When feelings and lies from the past return and I find myself tempted to shrink in shame I remind myself that Jesus knew my name. I rejoice in the fact that Jesus and sought me out! Then and only then can I square my shoulders, walk a bit taller, prepare for battle, and walk in victory.
Prayer: Father, sometimes when we have heard a story over and over, we fail to see the lessons You would have us learn. Open our eyes to Your truth even in the stories we learned in our youth. Thank you for choosing us and reaching out to us when we are caught up in sin. Thank you for saving people even when we behave like Pharisees, tax collectors, and wee little people. Thank you for seeing us, for calling us by name, and being a God who redeems. Thank you for the way You have revealed yourself to us even though our sin has tainted our lives. Thank you for maintaining the vision of what You have created us to be. Help us to love the unloved people for Christ. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!