“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
This phrase has been catching some heat these days. Some in public office are not big fans of it. One went so far as to exegete it and explain how it is a ridiculous term. The idea of self-responsibility and working for things on your own is something that my parents instilled in my.
Yet, they also instilled in my brothers and I a clear and undeniable sense of gratitude. The reason for this was because they wanted us to acknowledge the reality that none of us get to where we are on our own.
None of us.
Someone inevitably goes before us and helps set some things up for us to be able to accomplish what we are trying to accomplish. Some of us have more help than others. Our private safety nets (those people who provide soft landings for us in times of trial) and trampolines (those people who help propel us toward our desired future) may be more or less helpful. Some of us have significant help, others have minimal. But, whether it is family, friend, or government we all have some help.
This really hit home for me as I was reading through Matthew 3.
Jesus is the God-man. He is fully God, fully man. He is the Christ. He is the long awaited for Messiah who would redeem his people from their long-suffering. Yet, not even he entered into public life on his own.
Matthew tells us this about Jesus’ cousin John:
'In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” ' Matthew 3:1-3
Jesus, the savior of the world needed someone to prepare the way for him. As he was about to embark on his public ministry he needed a person of peace to open the way. John challenged the religious leaders. But more importantly he baptized Jesus. He identified Jesus for the world.
Isaiah said that John would make straight paths for the Lord. Think about how crazy that is to say. God had someone make straight paths for himself. Culturally, this made a lot of sense. When kings would go visit they would send advance teams to make sure that the ways were straight and that they had been cleared of bandits. Yet, surely the God-man wouldn’t need an advance team. So why John?
I think it’s because as God truly became one of us he wanted to show us what it looks like to trust others. Part of our shared humanity is living in the knowledge that we need one another. The God-man was not exempt. He needed others. Jesus, showed us what this looks like. John opened the door for him to walk through. He paved the way.
We all need people in our lives to help us.
Take a minute and think about the folks who have helped you in your life. What are their names? How did they make straight paths for you? Share some of your stories in the comments!