Losing Our Chaff


In a BBC Earth nature documentary, cameras follow a pair of hornbills (tropical birds) as they carry out a strange and inspiring mission. We watch as the “husband/wife” team preps for an upcoming brood of hatchlings. Together, they find a tree with a hollowed-out opening. The female climbs inside and promptly gets to work pulling out her flight feathers as a “bed” for the eggs she’ll soon deliver. Meanwhile, the male scurries around collecting mud in his beak, then delivering this building material to the female nesting in the tree. She uses the mud to methodically close off the hole in the tree until she’s left with a tiny, half-dollar-sized opening. She’s now a prisoner—flightless and completely dependent on her partner to deliver food and water for her survival over the next six weeks. Over and over the male tends to his partner’s needs as she delivers her eggs in dark isolation, then cares for her chicks after they hatch.

This is a story of courageous trust, on both sides—the female won’t survive without her partner’s ongoing care, and the male knows he must stay alive and productive or she will die. They have both chosen radical vulnerability, not just as a pathway to survival, but as their relational operating system. It’s a stunning reminder of the vulnerability Jesus is inviting us into. The intimacy He longs to have with us requires courageous trust, and therefore courageous vulnerability, on both sides of the relationship…

About 15 years ago I wrote a book called Sifted—the title is a reference to something shocking Jesus says to Peter after the Last Supper: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). Peter, Jesus is warning, is about to experience a kind of naked weakness so profound that it will feel like a crushing. The sifting of wheat is not akin to a pastoral farming scene, if you are the wheat…

First the wheat is beaten to loosen the chaff from the nourishing kernel of wheat it covers, then it is thrown in the air or spun in a cylinder to separate them. The chaff has no nutritional value; it’s a protective covering for the kernel. And so the message of Jesus to Peter is that we must be separated from our protective covering so that our vulnerable core can be revealed—the part of us that is nourishing to us, and to others. It’s a lifelong process, this sifting that loosens and separates our chaff. It’s painful and disorienting, but produces a kind of freedom from captivity, the very mission of Jesus in our lives. Free from our chaff, we live vulnerably with God and others, catalyzing growth in those around us through our authentic presence in their lives.

We are made to enjoy intimacy with God, but we hang onto our protective layer of chaff because vulnerability in a broken world is a dangerous way to live. And so we have the embedded reminder of the hornbills, who are living out the kingdom of God on earth through their courageous and utterly dependent trust.

What chaff, or protective covering, is He loosening right now in your life? The point is to uncover and make available what is most needed in you, what others need most in you… Today, I encourage you to spend a couple of minutes in silence asking Jesus this very question. Put yourself before Jesus—eyes closed and hands open, in a posture of childlike waiting… Jesus, what is the “chaff” you’re loosening in me. Wait for a word, a phrase, a Scripture passage, or a picture. Then ask for clarity or follow-up. Then, inspired by the hornbill, pull out your flight feathers, mud yourself in, and trust your beloved to provide…

Just for You!
My new book Editing Jesus is now out. If you’d like an extended teaser of the book, just to check it out, the publisher has put together a pdf of the first three chapters that is exclusively available to the Vibrant Faith community. So, here you go… Just click on this link and you can download a pdf of this long excerpt from the book. And check out (below) a curriculum resource you can use with both adults and teenagers in your church this fall—Following Jesus will lay the foundation for courageous trust in their lives. It’s an experiential, highly interactive, co-discovery way to invite people into deeper intimacy with Jesus.

Rick Lawrence is Executive Director of Vibrant Faith—he created the new curriculum Following JesusHe’s editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible and author of 40 books, including his new release Editing Jesus: Confronting the Distorted Faith of the American Church, The Suicide Solution, The Jesus-Centered Life and Jesus-Centered Daily. He hosts the podcast Paying Ridiculous Attention to Jesus.



A Deeper Way to Lead Others Into Faith Maturity… Guide your people into depth relationally and experientially… A new curriculum by Rick Lawrence for both youth & adult ministries. Learn More Here




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