Something is Bugging Me.
My wife hates mosquitos. I hate mosquitos too. I mean, mosquito bites (or I guess puncture wounds is more accurate) are so annoying. But I don’t react to mosquito bites like my wife. When she gets bit they are twice as big, hurt twice as much, and last twice as long. I really feel for her.
Mosquitos for me are first heard then experienced. What I mean is that I rarely see them first. I hear this high-pitched whine or buzz like a zzzzzzippp or bzzzzsss. Like a mini kamikaze bomber, these flying annoy-machines zip around my head signifying great discomfort to come if I do not remove myself from the area or destroy the demon spawn.
Recently, I have had a nagging question on my mind that has been plaguing me like a mosquito. It buzzes in and out of my consciousness during conversations with people in Massillon, with people at church, and even at Taco Bell. This idea distracts me when I hear a stray conversation in line at Wal-Mart. I hear it when I hear people discuss the role of the church. I am terrified I will suffer ill effects if I don’t destroy it or escape it’s relentless pursuit. It just won’t go away.
What does it mean to live life abundantly? This is the question that is relentlessly bugging me.
I know the good Christian answer to this question: To be full of happiness, peace, and joy and all that good stuff. But, what is life abundant?
John 10:10 | The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
What was John thinking when he wrote this scripture and used this word ‘abundantly’? When He quoted Jesus, he could have ended the verse at ‘life’ but he continued with ‘and have it abundantly’. I mean Jesus had thwarted the thief and saved our lives. Why go farther? Looking into the word used in the original language I found it synonymous with excessive, advantageous, or exceptional. Another way to say it ‘is more than usual’. So God came so that I would have life but he wants me to have it in greater abundance. He wants more of ‘it’ for me.
I am learning that Christ wants for us to not just survive but thrive. Thriving means “to be in a vigorous state; to flourish, to be in one’s prime, to prosper”
John 10:10 is saying to me that Jesus didn’t just save us from death and destruction but saved us for something: to thrive. He saved us for something greater than what we could achieve on our own in life. This isn’t being happy for happiness sake though. God doesn’t want us to be merely happy, he wants us to be joyfully useful! We have a role to play in this grand story and when we become useful we have a deep joy! The abundant life isn’t having everything you could desire, it is becoming an individual that lives into all that God had designed for you. It is growing and contributing to those around you.
So why does this question bug me? Because I am not sure I am seeing thriving as clearly as I want to. I see it getting twisted into a worship of our own happiness where everything is about my emotional state and my wants and desires. Or I see a resigned dourness and a spirituality of boring on the other side. If thriving is why God sent his son Jesus to die, I want to see it everywhere. I want those who know Christ to have more life than any other group of people and understand it enough to speak it to everyone.
Here is where I do see thriving…
I see it in a man who struggles with debt and consumerism becoming a faithful steward, who produces a service that contributes to the good of his community. He gives with a generous heart out of his abundance. This is thriving economically.
I see it in men and women who no longer want to give away their bodies to person after person in pursuit of belonging and fleeting happiness, but desire to find their joy in God. This is thriving spiritually.
I see it in young people who are learning to speak the truth and have character, even when others aren’t looking. Young people who are willing to do what is right, no matter the cost. This is moral thriving.
I see it when Christians pray for each other, step in and help a family stand on their own two feet when everyone counts them out. I see it when we celebrate a lost son who was far from his family coming home. This is the family thriving.
I have celebrated the goodness of God and when I see thriving I begin to feel a deep joy inside. A joy that is born out of my community living as if they have been rescued and rescued for a purpose: to thrive.
The mosquito is still buzzing in my ear because I believe God wants this for our workplaces and our communities, our schools and our sports. He wants our society to thrive through Christ. God is calling us to move beyond the church. And this promise of abundant life is more than a feeling, it is a truth he wants to realize in me and you and us.
This desire of God for us to thrive won’t go away and it still zips in and out of my mind all day…maybe now, it will bug you too.