I enter a new room, and I don’t know where to sit. The old ache returns; I feel excluded, rejected, and lonely. I’m frantically eyeing the room for a spot, but beautiful, fashionable and high-achieving people fill every seat in their circled groups. The tears well up behind my glasses and my stomach churns with anxiety as I pull my coat around my thrift-store clothing. My eyes dart around the room hopelessly. It’s true: I don’t know where to sit.
This feeling of not having a seat at the popular or important table stayed with me from seventh grade — when I wasn’t invited to sit with the cool kids — until just a few years ago. Even though I knew Jesus and had been a Christian for nearly 30 years, something was missing inside of me that kept me in a prison of loneliness, comparison and jealousy as I longed for a seat at whatever table I thought would finally bring me belonging and happiness. These metaphorical tables appeared in various forms: the smart table, the beautiful table, the wealthy table, the famous table or the prestigious, high achieving table. If only I could have a seat at this or that table, then life would finally begin for me.
One summer day in late July, I read a familiar verse in a fresh way. In Ephesians 2:6, Paul writes, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (New International Version). I kept staring at that verb “seated.” A lightning bolt of realization hit me: I have a seat at the table with Jesus. I’m seated with Him right now. I’m at the Greatest Table with the Greatest King.
I felt a strange and wonderful sense of belonging. I felt like I would never have to battle loneliness or exclusion again. Here I was, in the seat God chose for me, with other believers and Jesus Himself. I belonged. I was included.
I was seated.
Can you imagine how different your life could be if every day of your life you felt chosen and included like this? Like you were at the Greatest Table with the Greatest King no matter what was happening in your life? I carefully studied this passage in the Greek and learned how “seated” was a past tense verb, meaning it has already happened to us and is true about us right now in a spiritual sense even though, physically, we still exist in our ordinary world. Paul felt seated with Christ when he was perhaps the furthest away from this heavenly seat that a man could be. He was in a prison, and yet he fixed his mind on another reality. When I face discouragement about my own difficult circumstances, I remember that Paul’s seat in prison, according to the history of first-century Roman prisons, was disgusting. Imagine freezing temperatures, darkness, putrid odors, hunger, humiliation and isolation. This was Paul’s physical seat, but despite this circumstance, in his spiritual reality, he was seated in another place — in the heavenly realms with Christ.
This seat with Christ captured Paul’s heart and mind, and he chose, in even the direst circumstances, to celebrate how he had been “raised with Christ” and was now seated with Him in the heavenly realms. He wasn’t alone, rejected, humiliated or left out; he had the best seat of all. If Paul can know this truth, can I? Can I experience myself as seated with Jesus no matter where I am or what I’m doing? If I have a seat with Jesus, then surely I could live in adoration, gazing upon the beauty of the Lord like David (Psalm 27:4); I could enjoy His incredible provision of all I need (Philippians 4:19); and I could abide with Him to inevitably bear the fruit He has ordained specifically for my life (John 15:5). If Paul’s statement were true about my seat with Jesus, it would change everything about me. If I could take my seat in the heavenly realms with Jesus, I could finally stop fighting so hard to belong. I could stop waiting for an invitation to that table I was longing for.
When I pictured myself as finally taking my seat with Jesus, I finally felt free. The change was so radical that those who know me best would say, “What has happened to you, Heather? You are different!”
I am. I’m seated with Christ. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
As you think about your own seat in the heavenly realms, you might want to visualize the setting like I did to help inhabit this new identity. I saw myself as a knight called to the Round Table by King Arthur. If you’re familiar with Arthurian Legend, you know that at the Round Table, no one is inferior or superior. I pictured myself called by a Great King to take my seat at a royal table. I’m there with Jesus and other believers, and as I stay in my seat and worship Jesus, I experience a special closeness with Him. And, along with other believers, I know that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, English Standard Version). I stay in my seat with Jesus and my life bears the fruit He ordains. In this seat, I’m on a kingdom mission to proclaim Christ to the world. I don’t need to compare my seat to anyone else’s or feel jealous about what his or her seat looks like. In my seat, God has the perfect plan for my life that will be different from any other person’s.
As the Hayden Planetarium guidebook states, “All seats provide equal viewing of the universe.” The guide must tell children that all seats in the planetarium provide equal access to every part of the show because they are all fighting for the best seat. The guide must remind them that no matter where they sit, they won’t miss anything. When I’m racing around trying to find the best seat, I remember that all seats provide equal access to Jesus and therefore everything I need. Gone is the jealousy and comparison when I live in this truth.
When I enter a new room, I no longer agonize about where I will sit. I declare to myself, “I’m seated with Christ.” I look around the room, and instead of that old ache of loneliness and rejection, my heart swells with the joy that I belong and that I have everything I need because I’m at the table with Jesus. Nothing’s changed about my life — same old glasses and same old clothing — but now, I’m absorbed in worshiping Jesus from my seat in the heavenly realms. Now I’m perfectly positioned to locate other people frantically searching for seats. I’ll find them and invite them to the Greatest Table with the Greatest King.
Heather Holleman’s resource, “Seated With Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison” is available now. You can also hear her talk “Seated” on vimeo from the Cru Mid-Atlantic region’s winter conference, RADIATE. She blogs regularly at http://www.heatherholleman.com.
If you’re leading a team then you know you that this is crunch time. There are a few precious weeks with these people who have been entrusted to your care before your staff peel off to focus on MPD and prepare for their summer assignments. You can help your team end well by reminding them that they are not lone rangers. You can lead a discussion on what it means to be a TEAM.
“Perhaps the most undervalued quality of a great mind or, at least, an awakened mind, is the willingness to abandon cherished ideas that cannot stand up to new evidence.” Joseph Loconte “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
You know the feeling, right? You’re on the edge of your seat. The anticipation is growing. You’ve watched the competition or reality show (Celebrity Apprentice: Leeza or Geraldo? Don’t tell me. I haven’t watched the finale yet!) as the participants jumped through hoops, overcame obstacles, performed silly stunts, fought for the rose, defended themselves in the board room, etc. After all that work, who will win?
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