We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
-2 Corinthians 4:8-10
Awhile back, I planted onions. I started their lives in a dark, hostile environment and watched patiently as seed turned to tiny, weak wisps of green that would collapse every time it rained. I got down with them when it was time, pulling away weeds that would choke them... chasing off pests that would kill them... nurturing life and waiting, patiently, for them to respond and grow.
And then, you know what happened. Just as the onions appeared to be coming into their fullness, into their good place, the heat came. In Texas it comes early and hot. And the onions do what onions do- their proud, tall tops bend under the conditions and that beautiful green ends up in the dirt. All that growing, all that height, and it shrivels away. The dying begins. And you know what? That's when I know they're ready.
See, an onion is supposed to come to life. It's supposed to grow. But what's of use to me isn't really all the showy, green tops that everyone who's visited my little garden bed comments on. No, what's of use to me is the root. What I'm after is the deep stuff that's been tucked away where no one can see. And it's only after all the pretty/showy dies away that I know my onions are ready to really be used. That's when I know they're mature.
A lot like God does, I guess, with our lives.
The Gospel of Jesus is radical. It's hard. But our American culture has been sold the lie that a weepy-eyed Jesus is off in heaven just waiting to give everyone good lives if only they'll try hard and be great examples and not mess up their lives and raise good kids. But the Bible paints a different picture. The Bible paints an onion picture. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.
Come. And die.
I pulled onions this week and braided them into thick, gnarly braids so they can dry and I can use them. And the entire time, I thought of how my life, really, has been so much like those onions-- growing, getting wiped out by rain, growing again, bending in the heat, and finally learning to die.
Clarke's Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4 says that we are "every moment in danger of losing our lives in the cause of truth, as Jesus Christ was. We... are ready to offer up our lives for him. There is probably an allusion here to the marks, wounds, and bruises which the contenders in those games got, and continued to carry throughout life." It goes on to say that it's so the life of Jesus might be be made openly known, so "that in our preservation, the success of our ministry, we might be able to give the fullest demonstration that Jesus is risen again from the dead."
So we are living the life of an onion, we are struck down but not destroyed, we are bid to come and die, so that we may be poignant, air-permeating, bring-tears-to-eyes-strong demonstrations that Jesus died, but now He lives.
I don't know what you're going through. I don't know where you've been this past year. I don't know if you're seed... a thin, wispy bit of green... a top-flopped in the dirt... or a pulled-and-hung-on-display-to-die so that you can be used person. Gosh, I don't even know if you're an onion. But I do know that those who are have a 2 Corinthians 4 "so Jesus may be revealed in your body" moment coming, and that's spelled: immortal, heavenly and blessed.
So hey you. You take heart. You lift your weary head. You raise your voice and cry out to the Onion Maker that You hear His call, and that you will live a life and die a death worthy of the calling you have received. If we're gonna lose our skin, let's lose it well.
You have my heart and prayers, fellow onion. -Brin
Monday Moment is a little devotional to help kick start your week. See you again next Monday!