Jesu juva (Jesus, help!)
Over the past few months, I have slowly worked my way through a book called Adorning the Dark. Written by a favorite artist, Andrew Peterson, I knew I’d love this book. Everything he puts his mind and pen to turns my heart to Jesus. Many of us feel deep, personal connection to certain authors/musicians/artists, and for me, Andrew Peterson is the one who speaks clearest.
The book is bursting with encouragement and wisdom, but I keep holding onto one phrase: Jesu juva; Jesus, help.
If you’re familiar with Bach, you may know that at the bottom of his manuscripts, he wrote the initials “S.D.G.” Soli Deo Gloria, which means “glory to God alone”. What you may not know is that at the top of his manuscripts, he wrote “Jesu Juva,” which is Latin for “Jesus, help!” There’s no better prayer for the beginning of an adventure. Jesus, you’re the source of beauty: help us make something beautiful; Jesus you’re the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that made all creation: give us words and be with us in this beginning of this creation; Jesus, you’re the light of the world: light our way into this mystery; Jesus, you love perfectly and with perfect humility: let this imperfect music bear your perfect love to every ear that hears it. – Adorning the Dark, p. 8
I am not a song writer, and you may not be one either. But we’re all creators. Some put their hands to the work of painting, writing, or music-making. Others create business plans that make companies run well. I know friends that create spaces in their homes that provide peace and sanctuary for all who enter. Whether you’ve literally created children or subtly created a culture in your workplace, you get to enter into God’s work.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set into place, what is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet…” (Psalm 8:3-6)
The God who put everything intentionally in its place also put us in our work. He cares for us, and he gives us good work to attend to. Work is a gift. Creating is a privilege awarded to us by a kind Father. This invitation to participate is a beautiful piece of God’s character. But we don’t take this charge and push our way into the work. We listen. We read God’s truth in the Bible. We say, Jesu juva. And we work in obedience and humility. This is the work of his hands.
Like many, I am embarking on a new year of possibility. I want to do everything: eat good food, read books that fill me up, write more, exercise often, and live with my people in love and peace. I may do bits of this, but when I pause before the big adventure of another year, I must ask again: Jesus juva; Jesus, help. Help me to pursue you, not the high of achievement and projects. Help me to listen and pay attention as I create. Help me to think of you often – don’t let me get so caught up in my own stuff or my own schedule that I forget you. I pray that there are so many good things ahead. I want fun and laughter and exciting experiences. But I also want discipline; or rather, I want to want discipline. Jesus juva. Help me listen. Help me obey. Help me serve the work that you have put before me.