Good morning, Mini-Women! Y'know, I'm pretty impressed with you and the way you're willing to give up whatever you need to so you can stay on this Journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. Yikes, you're even willing to give up being bossy and trying to keep Jesus all to yourself. That's huge.
Still, though, as we go from the outdoor cafe to the little hostel (sort of a hotel but not as fancy) where we're spending the night, we're starting to feel like maybe this journey is too hard. Always letting other people be first. Always sharing what we have. Always forgiving when it feels like that other person doesn't deserve it. By the time we get to our room with its bunkbeds and sleeping bags, we're pretty bummed.
One of us (you?) finally says, "Jesus, could you, like, help us out with this? Not to sound selfish but we're pretty much leaving everything and following you. What do WE get out of it?"
The rest of us are relieved that somebody finally asked that because we've all been thinking it. We just hope Jesus isn't mad at us ...
"All right, Mini-Women," Jesus says. "Get settled in for the night and then we'll talk."
So we choose where we want to sleep (some of us on the top bunks, some on the bottom, some in sleeping bags next to the fireplace -- which do you pick?) As soon as we're snuggled in, Jesus sits cross-legged in the big overstuffed chair by the fire and smiles at us.
Whew. He isn't disgusted with us. But, then, is he ever?
"First of all," he says, "It IS a big sacrifice to follow me. A lot of other kids aren't going to think you're cool. You'll miss out on some fun stuff because there will be no-God things mixed in. You might be called 'churchy' or 'Jesus Freak' when you really just want to be called "friend" or "in." That's what you're sad about, right?"
Most of us agree.
"Are you doing all that just so you can be in heaven with God and me? Honestly?"
We don't actually answer. Some of us have been told that, but after-we-die or after-Jesus-comes-back seems like a long way away.
"What about now?" someone finally asks. (You?)
"Yes!" Jesus says. "What about now? I want you to have a life here. And now. And I want it to be a great life. So here's the deal ..."
He pauses to make sure we're all listening. We are.
"All the love you give because you follow me, you're going to get back -- and not just from me and from God, because we love you anyway -- but from the people who WILL see the kindness and compassion and love in you. Everything you give, my loves, you will get back a hundred times over. And that doesn't even include the life you'll have AFTER you leave this earth."
He lets us sink into that. We try to get it straight in our minds.
Someone says, "So if we forgive that person who has been pretty awful to us, we're going to get a hundred times that much forgiveness from other people, and from you?"
"You got it," Jesus says.
Someone else says, "And if we give up having a dance class every single night of the week and spend some of that time with you, we'll dance with a hundred times more joy?"
"And if we do our sister's chores for a week so she can study for her finals, she'll fight with us a hundred times less?"
"That's the idea." Jesus rubs his hands together. He's really into it now, and so are we. "Think of it as a Great Reversal. Do you know what a reversal is?"
"Well," someone who likes words (you?) says, "reverse means go backwards and turn around. So a revers-AL would mean ..."
"It gives you a picture. The Big Turn-Around -- reversing roles. Whoever thinks she's first -- all that, the queen bee, the cool girl who makes all the rules -- will end up last in Jesus-following. What will she have if she isn't 'first'?"
He lets that seep in. Slowly we all get it and nod.
"And the girl who is 'last' -- who lets other people get the attention while she does the right thing and the good thing and the loving thing -- she'll end up 'first' in my eyes." He looks at us with a smile in his eyes. "You can all be 'first' at the same time, so don't start competing with each other."
Jesus stands up. "It's time for rest, my loves. You can stay awake for a little while ..."
And we do, to write in our Talking To God Journals and comment to each other about what we might get back a hundred times if we give even a little, and about how it might feel to be content with the world's last place, to be in God's first place.
Before we fall asleep, little by little we understand what the verse means: "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." (Matthew 19:30) Huh. Go figure.