The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. -John 10:10
Abundant life. I like the sound of that.
A couple of months ago I was sitting down in-between shifts, checking my inbox, when I came across an email that I had been waiting for. It was from an editor at a publishing house called Wipf and Stock, saying that they were interested in printing my work. Printing my work in the form a book!
After the twentieth time I read it, I even started to believe it. And I got to work. I had to convert the ramblings I had compiled about fear, freedom, and the God who is for us, into a single, unified thought. Maybe that sounds simple to you. At first it did to me too, to be honest. But I got to work nonetheless. And last week I turned in my first manuscript to a real-life publisher. For about five minutes I felt like the king of the world. Then I slept for a couple of days.
When I awoke, I checked the same inbox that had once yielded a fruitful harvest and learned that I still had work to do on the manuscript. The margins needed to be ‘just-so,’ and there were a couple of forms for me to fill out that I had missed somewhere along the way. After a few minutes of panic–and a few deep breaths into a paper bag–I got back to work. It only took a couple of hours to finish the details I had to clean up and I was home-free. My first manuscript now sits on somebody’s desk with the intention of one day, sooner or later, being published.
That work–for now, anyway–is finally done. And I expected to feel a weight lifted off my shoulders. I expected to feel accomplished. I expected to feel like the king of the world, at least for a week or so. But I am discovering something about myself.
I have a really really hard time taking hold of the abundant life Jesus promised.
Because abundant life, you would think, looks more like resting after a long, hard work is finished. At least that’s what God did on the seventh day. He rested. He modeled what abundant life would look like. It would look like lots and lots of work that is followed up by sufficient rest and enjoyment of the work that has been done.
But our first parents, Adam and Eve, screwed it up for us. They didn’t want to work and rest. They wanted to play by their own rules. They wanted to be the king and queen of their own world. At the end of the day, they had been robbed of something that once seemed so insignificant. They had been robbed of their rest. They had been robbed of their enjoyment of the work they had done, and the threat of futility hung over them like a dark cloud.
Then Jesus steps into the picture and offers something we have forgotten that we wanted in the first place: he offers rest. He offers the security of being owned. He offers the security of being cared-for by a Shepherd who cares enough to lay down his life for his sheep.
There are many aspects to what Jesus means when he promises abundant life, but I can’t help but think of the way Moses’ psalm ends:
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands! -Psalm 90:17
This is–at least a part of–what Jesus means when he speaks of abundant life. Abundant life rests when it is time to rest because it reminds us that the success or failure of our work is purely in the hands of God.
So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to put the computer down for now and rest.