The Life

Pray nothing too hard for God

“I am . . . the life.”

–Jesus, John 14:6


I recently finished reading Sheldon Vanauken’s excellent book A Severe Mercy. At a certain point in the book Sheldon and his wife “Davy” come to believe in Jesus. After this experience Davy is filled with the Holy Spirit and she’s all in.

“When Davy wasn’t reading the Bible to prepare for her class, she was reading it for her soul’s sake. She was always reading it, or reading Brother Lawrence and other devotional works. I wanted to protest, that it was too much; but how could I do that? It’s not possible for one Christian to say to another: You love God too much. Nor to say: You are holier than necessary.” (Vanauken)

Vanauken writes about what he wants during that time in his life, even though he’s now a believer.

“I wanted the fine keen bow of a schooner cutting the waves with Davy and me–just Davy and me and Flurry [their collie]–happy and loving and comradely on her decks . . . But, though I wouldn’t have admitted it, even to myself, I didn’t want God aboard. He was too heavy. I wanted Him approving from a distance . . . Christ now and then, like a loved poem I could read when I wanted to.”

That resonated with me. I’ve felt those feelings Sheldon Vanauken wrote about. In our text Jesus says he is the life. I don’t want to admit it but too often I don’t want Jesus to be my life. I want to sprinkle a little bit of Jesus onto my life the way it exists right now. Like a spice that a finicky eater adds only to his personal liking, I want to add him to what I already have on my plate.

I want to be entertained and have Jesus. I want to have my fill of football, the NBA, my favorite video game, and have Jesus. I don’t want to be interrupted or bothered by people — but I want to have Jesus. I want to have my career the way I want it and have Jesus. I want to do what I want when I want and have Jesus.

I find myself trying to save parts of my life. I try to cling to certain parts of my life. Big huge parts of my life. But Jesus said, “. . . whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

Jesus is so much more than an ingredient in a recipe. He is the life. The way Jesus is the life reminds me of how a mother is the life for a baby in her womb. The baby receives her oxygen from her mother. The baby receives his nutrition from his mother. A human being can’t live for fifteen minutes without oxygen. Before 22 weeks or so, a baby can’t live outside of his mother’s womb. It’s the mother’s blood that provides the baby with oxygen. It’s the mother’s blood that provides the baby with nutrition. His or her mother is the life for her baby. And the mother’s blood is what makes the baby’s life possible.

I wonder if that’s why Jesus spoke of being born again when he was talking with Nicodemus. I wonder if that’s why Jesus used the words “abide in me.” (John 3:3, 15:4)

I think Sheldon’s wife Davy had it right. She was all in.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

–Jesus, John 11:25-26

You might also like Why You Can’t Add Jesus To Your Life


Further study will be rewarded: Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, HarperOne, 2011

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