We spend a lot of our time as strangers, here.
As shining ivory residing in an exquisite ebony land we know what it is to stand out and be foreign.
Our family (missionaries in East Africa) understands what it is to be different from those around us.
There are blessings abundant in this life choice.
It never stops being difficult.
Feeling like ‘the others’ has become our most settled niche.
Take furlough for instance.
Months ago our family landed in Miami, Florida to begin our Stateside travels.
My husband was scheduled to complete his commercial pilot’s license there but Florida was new for us.
We know no one in Miami. No church family. No friends. No relatives.
Just a few days in, my kids started mentioning it.
“We need some familiar hugs, Mom. Furlough is about those we love here. It is very weird to not see our people yet.”
We managed well in Florida but something was definitely missing.
Remarkably I would find the absent ingredient in a Whole Foods grocery store.
Having grown comfortable with the limited grocery inventory of our Ugandan supply, the abundance of an American supermarket can leave me a bit undone making furlough grocery expeditions disorienting and foreign. In the midst of one my first attempts to buy food this furlough I received a text message from my sister with pictures of some old friends. I immediately swapped messages with my family and felt all of the out of place and uncomfortable of that moment wash away.
Sweet, sweet knowing.
It is truly awesome.
Being a stranger is not so impressive no matter how well rehearsed we are at the coping.
Connecting with those who know me? That is a life giving exorbitance.
And that brings us to John chapter 17.
In this chapter we have Jesus. Only His voice. And He is praying. Out loud. For all of His people.
The glory and sweetness and sheer comfort of Him praying for the likes of us…
It is breathtaking.
But in all the glory of these generous words, there are some very specific phrases that echo and stand astounding.
It is, quite simply, the beginning and the end.
(He is so beautifully both.)
“…Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
“I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
All authority was given to Jesus so that He might give.
(selah and repeat)
Jesus, by God’s design, has authority over all and his authority gives life.
Life that equals knowing. And being known.
“I have made you known…so that your love may be in them.”
Here we are reminded simply and profoundly of Jesus’ work.
Knowing God so closely that it’s all he had to proclaim.
Being one with a God who is FOR us. (Glorify me that I may glorify YOU!)
Exercising authority that is FOR all the other ones.
We don’t have to look far to witness authority that demands and takes and self aggrandizes. Sometimes under the veil of establishing credibility an authority structure will state strengths and advancement as reason for receiving one’s trust. In contrast we see Jesus who, with all authority well in hand, proceeds to give and to break and to die. To serve.
Looking like Jesus is always the best choice when we step into the humility of leadership. His image, a wounded one, mirrored into all of our daily service.
“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name…”
“…I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”
“My prayer is… that you protect them from the evil one.”
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
Jesus wants protection for us.
He wants us to have joy.
He wants us sanctified.
He wants truth for us.
“…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father…”
When I read this verse I often glance guiltily at every chasm I can see in our fellowship of believing. Every parting and separating and definitive line drawn.
The unity prayed for by Jesus here is our joining with God and Christ.
A joining that is far less severable.
Far less effected by the likes of us.
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.”
Outside of our control.
It is a joining that holds onto me.
“Then the world will know…”
That Jesus was sent from God and that God has LOVED US. Even as He has loved Jesus.
This alone will teach them: our connection with God.
As we strategize, plan, study and grow in all our big, big kingdom work this truth repeats and kneads deeply into every shattered place.
We must never stop practicing our acceptance of this.
He is IN us.
We are known.
Grasp and hold.
Eternal life is now.
In the sheltered and cozied-up comfort of His very knowing gaze.
All of that love poured into us.
Attention enough for all.
And this is knowing.
And this is grace.
And this is unity.
Anchored in Them, complete.
Cheryl Cash Missionary Fort Portal, Uganda