A World Turned Upside Down

posted in: Encouragement | 59

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday, the day that marks the joyous entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. As in every other occasion of his earthly time among us, our expectations are reversed, and we are surprised again by a world turned upside down. It was not a warrior’s stallion that bore Jesus through the gates and over the cloaks and palms strewn across his path. But rather, a donkey.

When fishes flew and forests walked,
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood,
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry,
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
Of all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient, crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
G.K. Chesterton, “The Donkey”

This divine reversal was one of many. Certainly, a king would be born in a palace, right? A birth announcement made to the Senate, greeted by delegations of the political class? Oh, no. This king was born to an obscure teenage girl, huddled in an animal shelter with news of the event told to sheepherders, followed by troops looking for a child to kill. Certainly, this rabbi would preach about victories, health, and prosperity, right? Not quite, but the meek, grieving, and poor listened closely. And a few days after the cheering throngs welcome him and his donkey to the capital, Jesus took off his cloak, knelt down, and washed twelve pairs of feet.

When we are in pain or are in fear of death for ourselves, or (worse yet) in fear for the life of someone we love… when we are in mental anguish, unable to act or sleep, feeling forgotten and abandoned… when we feel least like the whole and wonderful person we know we were once, it is then that the manger, the donkey, the sermon, and the wash basin should all remind us of one important truth. Jesus came looking for us. It is alright to be low. It is alright to be humbled. In fact, there are times when those are the best things to be. When our own world is turned upside down and all we can sense in ourselves is weakness and disappointment, that is when we are closest to the loving God and the miraculous strength that we can call upon.

Conversely, when things are going swimmingly, and we bestride this narrow world like a Colossus, that is when we should be on the spiritual alert. Not just because things in life can turn around suddenly and bite us someplace painful—(a dramatic reversal of fortune that Aristotle called peripety)—but because our dials should always be tuned to the Humility setting. With the needle set to Humble, we not only become more aware of our shortcomings but we can more clearly see the needs of others.

Alleviating grief, sitting with the depressed, or getting on our knees to scrub the floor of someone who is sick is not an option. It is a command straight from the mouth of our Master. The day before Good Friday is called “Maundy Thursday,” from the Latin mandatum meaning “commandment.” Jesus said to his friends, who were clearly creeped out about his taking on the role of a house servant and washing their toes, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)

And by love, he is not talking about the super fun kind of someone you just saw from across a crowded room. Jesus is talking about devoted service and sacrifice. You have suffered. You know what you needed when you were trying to claw your way up from the bottom. Be to someone else the person that you needed. Remember that we belong to each other.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

59 Responses

  1. Jennifer Leech

    Wow! That just floored me. Tears are in abundance – Jesus came looking for me!
    Thanks you.

    • Bonnie

      Kate, my husband is in crises hospice as of today. I was raised Catholic, parochial schools, as an adult I have a strong contemplative practice through Buddhist studies. But your post today got my tears to finally break the surface and flow. I’m so grateful for your effort to assist others!

  2. Caroline

    You, your thoughts and reflections are a gift in my life and I thank God. Peace, ck

    • Carol Clark -Yeomans

      So beautifully stated….love your wisdom and insight. Thank you for this message today.


  3. Linda

    Kate, thank you so much for this. Your message is a wonderful way to start my day.


    Thank you for this wonderful message. Peace be with you. Warren Hughes

  5. Carol

    Thank you for reminding me to be the person I hoped would be there for me when I am so needy of help and love.

  6. dottie bevilacqua

    Thank you Kate. You always have the right words. God bless you

  7. Kevin J Reilly

    With the needle set to Humble, we not only become more aware of our shortcomings but we can more clearly see the needs of others.


  8. Katie Kremer

    I love the Chesterton poem, and Mother Teresa’s gentle reminder that we all belong to each other. It’s too easy to forget that simple message if we’re blinded by our own difficulties. Thank you, Kate. I am blessed to be a pt at Duke Oncology.

  9. Sandy Brighy

    A good way to reflect on how I start my day-grateful and humbled

  10. Rita Sommers-Flanagan

    We owned a donkey much like the one in Chesterton’s poem, and we live among rattlesnakes and spiders. We made it through a killing winter, only to face the flood waters erasing the roads and trails we need to get to wherever we are going. And yet, the sun has broken through the bleak sky, and for now, I am here. You are there. And we belong to Something together.

  11. John Sill

    Some excellent thoughts. The donkey’s poem is great. One typo–“manger” came out “manager” (second paragraph after the poem). Probably your word processor’s dictionary sees manager being used more than manger!

  12. Jane Patterson

    As I am in a season of feeling
    abandoned…and of desperately ‘thirsting’ for relationship renewals, this devotion brought a stirring deep within my soul….that in my state of feeling continually anxious and fearful (as a Christ follower I should know better, right?? ) , He loves me as I am…not as I should be (Brennan Manning).

  13. Nette

    Thank you, Kate, for these meaningful words. Let us not forget our desperate times and devote ourselves to those who need us.
    I really appreciate all that you are doing and sharing with us how to love and live the life we’ve been given. Thank you for your work on the history of the prosperity gospel. Our paths crossed when I checked out your book “Blessed”. What an amazing thing you have done! I am praying for you.

  14. Darci

    Your words and your presence on this earth are a blessing to so many. Thank you.

  15. Fran Early

    Beautifully said, Kate. Such a timely reminder for me. Thank you for the gift of your insight, your wordsmith, for sharing your journey with us, and reminding me of the sacred worth of my suffering. Blessings.

  16. Charlene Boone

    What a gentle reminder that we are to be servants. I await your net meditation.

  17. Amy

    Thank you so much. I needed to read this today. I share your posts with our minister at our church. Blessings!

  18. Michelle

    i am so appreciative of these posts – the audio as well! and they have really resonated with my soul. Thank you, Kate!

  19. Theresa Keefe

    Thank you, KB. I love your voice and your reflection. Peace and best wishes.

  20. Ann Rousseau Weiss

    Kate, your words are always so insightful, inspired, and amazing. Thank you.

  21. Von Sica

    Since I am a caregiver to my grandchild with cancer, people say to me,” I do not know how you do what you do.” It’s with humility and God’s presence in my life. As we head today to her checkup , I feel the apprehension in my heart. Thank you for reminding me today about the miraculous strength I need to call upon on days like this.

  22. David Kubichek

    As always, thank you, Kate. Though I try to be mindful, I am sure I do not practice love and gratitude enough. thanks for the gentle reminders.

  23. Alex

    Thank you for teaching me a new word, peripety. Nice to know there is a word for this universal experience. Makes one feel less lonely. Funny that the word itself feels happy like “Mary Poppins”. Try repeating it a few times.
    Love the humility meter. Yes, we are in control of the dial and need to be reminded to set it correctly.

  24. Norma

    “Thank you” feels woefully inadequate right now, but it is sincere and, yes, humble. You have shown us the face of Christ today, Kate. Thank you.

  25. J

    Kate, thank you.
    You have touched my heart and spurred me on.
    Blessings and love to you,

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