podunk: A small isolated town, region, or place that is regarded as unimportant
here’s what gets me ~ out of all the extraordinary, large and magnificent galaxies in the universe, God chose our tiny little galaxy. and within that tiny little galaxy, He chose a tiny little planet (Earth’s diameter is 11x smaller than Jupiter’s diameter. Earth has one moon. Jupiter has like a gajillion…ok, ok, 63.). and within that tiny little planet He chose a tiny little creature (have you seen how lee-to a man is compared to a giraffe or dinosaur?) from a tiny little group of people born from the smallest humblest act of faith by this regular shmo named Abraham, who didn’t even get it completely kosher the first time (sorry Ishmael…but we still love you & are praying for your descendants’ salvation), and his grandson Jacob, aka total liar & deceiver–but God changed all that, as we all know–and through Jacob’s podunk group of folks He chose a tribe and lineage that boasts a prostitute, multiple non-kosher foreigners, an adulterer and murderer, and for cryin out loud a guy who had like 600 concubines, through which to manifest His unfathomable glory. Out of all the possible more illustrious possibilities, God chooses the podunkiest of us all through which to manifest Himself.
the past few months have been really mind-changing for me. i did a 40-day fast, made some life-altering life decisions (like a new career path), FINALLY put together a chapbook of poetry, visited Egypt and Israel, aka Jesus’s old stomping grounds, and got a total reality check of His utter humility and glory.
see, growing up in the mass media- & consumer-driven USofA under western Christianity conditioned me with the image of a flashier, dazzle-and-razzle-me-because-i-have-the-attention-span-of-a-gnat Jesus that was just 2 sparkles short of His actual humble glory. i had a tweaked definition of His glory, which PTL all came to a crashing halt when i got face-smashed with the following realizations:
1. Jesus was from Galilee, and most of His ministry was there. remember in John 1 when Nathaniel says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Well, Nazareth is in Galilee, which makes me think that Galilee was considered to be like the podunk suburbs. which is why the city snobs in Jerusalem–aka the flashier Pharisees with their phylacteries–were like, “whoaa you the Messiah? yea right you are way too country rugged carpenter and way not cool enough to be our royal high priest Messiah Savior of the Universe”
2. Jesus was very likely NOT melodramatically crucified on top of a brooding cliffy cliff, NOR raised up eight-ish feet high on a glamorous cross as depicted in most Hollywood renditions of His crucifixion. no. He was most likely crucified street level, the cross no more than a few feet up off the ground so passersby might momentarily spit on him, jeer, mock and hate on him as they just walked on by this podunk criminal being crucified by the side of a nondescript unnamed road next to two nameless criminals outside the cool cosmopolitan city streets and walls of Jerusalem.
according to one website, In the Roman Empire, crucifixion was not normally used for citizens or free men, but reserved for people lower down the social ladder. Thus it became known as the ‘slave’s punishment’. Those higher up the social ladder, like St Paul, could demand a quick death by decapitation, which was considered more humane. Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded, possibly because he admired or feared him.
Jesus died an ignoble death, and there was nothing glitzy or glamorous about it. it was brutal, demeaning, humiliating, bloody, and to the normal passersby, Jesus was a most detestable and mockable thing.
3. Jesus was crucified outside the city gates. He was our scapegoat. in Leviticus, priests were commanded to take a goat on the Day of Atonement and confess over the goat all the wickedness, rebellion and sins of the Israelites (Leviticus 16:21). During this time, the goat would stand facing the people, (just as Jesus stood before Pilate and the Israelites as they demanded He be crucified). A priest would then lead the scapegoat to a predetermined site outside the limits of the city to the edge of a cliff where the goat was then forced over it–notice that the scapegoat dies on the ground, not on a cliff. the scapegoat had to die outside the camp, paying the ultimate sacrifice “For the life of a creature is in the blood…it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Leviticus 17:11).
what spoke to me most was that Jesus was crucified, as a willing scapegoat and atonement for us, outside the city gates. Hebrews 13:11-14 says, For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
see, one of the earnest desires & prayers of my heart is to see Jesus face-to-face; i’ve spent many a nights in our house of prayer wailing Kim Walker’s rendition of “show me your glory;” i’ve wanted it with every fiber of my being, and always imagined an encounter with the glory of Jesus to be filled with trumpets and cymbals and tympani and glitz and glam and all these flashy fireworks and spiro whooooaaaaas. and i’m not cutting off that possibility nor am i belittling those kinds of encounters. it’s just i think i had a weak sauce shallow imagining of what shekinah glory is.
more importantly, God wanted to show me something first, something so vital and necessary that if i missed it, i would be missing the point of the Kingdom of God and the rhythm of God’s heart entirely and would never be able to stand in the middle of trumpets cymbals tympani glitz glam lightnings thunders true shekinah without absolutely dying or falling into some kind of weird apostasy. and i think the thing God wants me to understand is this: Podunk Glory. PG.
see, Jesus is so…down to earth and real. He comes so low-key at first, just riding on that lil donkey, so outside the limits of my narrow red-carpet expectations that with all the pride and hot air that was in me i totally kept missing Him. so He took me through some wilderness–no, literally, i spent like 3 days in the Sinai desert and climbed Mt. Sinai in Egypt looking for Him–to breakfree me so’s i could lean into Him. His is a glory that hides, His is a glory that puts treasure in clay humble podunk jars, His is a Kingdom that is buried treasure in a nondescript unnamed field, His is a Kingdom that starts as a common mustard seed and grows into the boss tree, His is a stealth glory.
i needed to put down all my expectations and go outside the city–outside my comfort zones, outside the familiar known named streets, outside of prescribed labeled codes of behavior and belief, outside of myself, outside of my culture, outside of my family, outside of civilization, outside of my coolness, outside of everything that is definable and recognizable, and go to the boonies, to the podunk place (like seriously, why do the most revelatory moments of my day happen when i’m in the bathroom??)…and there…there was His Glory. Because it is the glory of God to hide a matter in the most seemingly ordinary podunk things, in mundane clay jars…and it’s the glory of a King to search it out.