(Image courtesy of pastorblog.cumcdebary.org)
This painting depicts the linen cloth used to wrap the body of Jesus Christ. They lay discarded in the empty tomb; cast off because the living, resurrected Christ has no need for them. Each and every one of us has own own linens, pieces of our death shroud to cast off. They are our resentments, our counterproductive habits, vestiges of a life before salvation, the aspects of our personality that lead to sin, the material things we cannot let go of and so we wrap them around ourselves and hold them close. All of these things serve as a barrier, sometimes a protective layer against vulnerability and insecurity, but they are also parasitic. They will eat away at us and prevent us from being the healthy, whole disciples we are called to be. They weigh us down, make us immobile, and we must be free to move, to go out and make disciples. Like strips of linen, these things can be torn apart and stripped away without too much effort; a metaphor for the strength of the Holy Spirit’s empowering of each of us to overcome anything that would hold us back.
I look back on my life thus far and see many things that I have cast off, not all at once. There is a trail in my wake of things I have let go, one by one. There was my worldly desire to acquire wealth for security. My need for social acceptance left when I decided to follow my call at the age of twenty. My fear of condemnation for speaking God’s truth left behind during my second year in seminary. My desire to have a normal life thrown into the wind, freeing me for more dedicated ministry. I have more to go, and they will. I have been left lighter, more open and available to God. Yes, there is exposure, even vulnerability, but when I could get lost in that, I think about the freedom I have and the joy of living my life for something more profound than this short time on earth. I can still live life to the fullest and do what God wants me to do, finding joy all along the way. There is nothing more liberating, more secure than that feeling. I have been freed from my sin by the cross, freed from death by the Resurrection, and I’m a free to build up heavenly treasures all of my days. For that, I will shed a thousand linens and discard a million things that would attempt to keep me from my Lord.