Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Risking all to pursue Christ


"There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’" (John 3:1-2, 4, NKJV)


My grandmother Marie Hayes was a brilliant woman. Born in the early 1880s in Georgia and reared in Mineola, Texas, she was the wife of a Methodist minister and the mother of four girls and seven boys. Like many women of that era, what she didn’t achieve in the way of formal education was more than made up for in the classroom of life.

What my grandmother and other women of her generation possessed is defined as mother wit. It took the place of book-learning for them.

Mother wit describes a common-sense approach to living. My grandmother had a natural intelligence. She understood life as it revealed itself through everyday experiences; she saw clearly the pattern of God’s actions and felt that Holy Presence in everything around her. Grandma and other matriarchs of her time owned an unshakable faith.

"Big Mama," as we called her, had the ability to laugh at life and herself. I was fortunate enough to be in her presence for 25 years, until her death, and her insightful teachings inspire me even today.

I remember most her personal proverbs, filled with wisdom that only can be learned with time.

One such saying was: Need knows no shame!

As a young boy, I didn’t really know what that meant when she shared it with me, but I figured it out later. Grandma was saying that, when a great need presses upon your life, you reach a point when that claim causes you to drop all pretense and pride so you can deal with the necessity.

It’s the definitive place where you say, "I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Long, long after I learned my grandmother’s proverb, a startling find in my Bible reading made her words even more profound. Throughout the Gospels, I realized, the people who came to Jesus almost always came out of needs so great that they were willing to do whatever it took to find cures or remedy dire situations.

In the third chapter of John’s Gospel we find Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a leader of the Jews, going out under cover of darkness and in jeopardy of his position, to ask Jesus a question that he could not answer.

The 10 lepers in Luke 17:11 threw caution to the wind as they begged Jesus for help.

In Mark 5:27, a woman who had suffered from a flow of blood for 12 years broke a Jewish law that carried punishment of death, so she could touch the hem of Jesus’ robe.

And the Samaritan woman at the well at Sychar (John 4:5) went far beyond the accepted norms of her day by engaging in conversation with a Jewish stranger who promised her living water.

All these and many more came to Jesus because of such a pressing need, a spiritual emptiness, a hunger they had to fill. No matter the cost, they were willing to risk it all!

Someone else wrote: In order to get something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done!

As Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18, ushers in another Lenten season, I apply my grandmother’s words and the New Testament stories in drawing up this article. They can teach us much about ourselves.

Each of us, like all those people who sought out Jesus, reaches a tipping point — where the need to find meaning in life has become the claim that will not let go of us!

On the surface, you think that you have everything for success and happiness. Yet, something is missing. A spiritual void causes you to persist in asking: Is this all there is to life, or is there something more?

Yes, there is something more! The only place to find life in all its fullness is in Jesus!

Maybe pride has gotten in the way of your deep need for Christ. Not until you confess the shame of conceding you’ve missed the mark will you be truly whole.

In all those Bible stories, the people could not find life in all its fullness until they were willing to do what they had never done.

What about you?

Someone reading these words has a need to re-establish that personal relationship with Christ that somehow has become lost in time. Someone else is thinking they’ve been down this Lenten road so many times and nothing has happened, so why believe something will happen now.

Nothing will happen until you step outside of that comfort zone. Until you move away from the pride that has held you back. Until you stop fearing what others might think.

You can entrust yourself to the Lord of life, the one who knows your needs and the desires of your heart. If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, do something you’ve never done — let go of shame so you can fulfill your greatest need.


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