While in Ft. Dauphin, Victor and I had the chance to see one of the area’s smaller church plants. There was only one small obstacle: getting there required a ninety-minute hike out into the mountains. Thankfully, the area was one of the most beautiful places I have seen. I would love to have more and better pictures than this one, but my camera ran out of battery on this photo…
Anyway, after the long hike, we arrived at the church and were thrilled to see that this small village had a vibrant congregation of over fifty people. We met with them and prayed with them and soon it was time to go.
Before we could go, however, they had something they wanted to give Victor and me. Excitedly, they came and handed us the largest papaya I have ever seen.
I smiled, but inside my reaction was not a happy one. I think papayas are ok, and it was certainly very nice of them. Yet I couldn’t help but immediately think, “I have to carry that fifteen pound papaya back with me on a five mile hike through the mountains. Thank you, but you are welcome to keep your papaya.” I was already planning ways to dump the papaya somewhere along the trail. (Oops! I just dropped the papaya down that cliff. Oh well!)
Why am I writing about papayas? As we lugged the big fruit back to where we were staying in Ft. Dauphin, I started thinking. The fact that the gift was a heavy gift in no way diminished the fact that it was still one hundred percent a gift. It might not have been the gift I wanted at the time (I would have gladly carried back fifteen pounds of peanut butter), but a papaya was exactly the gift the people wanted to give us. Did I want it enough to carry it?
I think the gift of Christ is similar. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost Of Discipleship, contrasted the “costly grace” of Christ with the “cheap grace” that the world would like him to give. I think the contrast could also be thought of in terms of a “weighty gift” vs. a “weightless gift”. It is the difference between a papaya-gift and a cash-gift that I can make into whatever I want.
Christ’s gift is certainly a weighty gift; it is as weighty as it is glorious.* It is his gift of himself, and it is a cross to carry. The fact that the weight of the gift makes huge demands on our lives does not, in any way, diminish the fact that it is a gift. The question simply becomes, do we want the gift? Do we want to bring Christ with us on the journey home? If not, it will seem like a silly dead weight on one’s life that probably should be dumped half way down the trail. If the gift is recognized as precious, however, then the yoke will be easy, and the burden will be light, and Gift Himself will actually be carrying us home.
*(The Hebrew word for glory, kabod, carries the idea of weight or mass.)