So do you ever wonder if God is speaking to you? Like the One who created the universe has a message for you. Something special that requires you to pause and listen. I have been wondering about that lately. Pondering it really. Grappling with all that is swirling inside my head. Not in the way that this message is only for me. But that it is actually for all those who say “yes, I will follow you Lord.” Everyday I choose to say yes and seek to follow. Really follow. And Love. And have compassion. And die to self. I see more of His hand around me. Hear more of His voice. Yesterday things changed for us here. In the way that makes the kingdom shake and the hosts rejoice. In such a way we know with confidence that He is real. That He loves and shows mercy and wants to reveal His Glory in changed lives. In mine. In yours. In His followers.
I guess I have no clear reason for writing (although that never stops me) except that I want to share what I am learning. The journey I am on has taken me to places I never expected, could never predict, and thus cannot take credit for. Going cross cultural has been a gift I can never fully explain to anyone not living it. Taking away the known to replace it with the unknown allowed us to cling to Him in way we had not been forced to do yet in our lives. I guess we are just slow learners and needed the shake up. I am treasuring up experiences daily and I burst with thanksgiving for His leading here.
One thing J and I talk about often is the gift of learning to love those that are different from us. In Chicago we were surrounded by diversity but if I am honest I spent most of my time with those fairly similar to myself; college educated, (mostly) same political views, similar background, same social economical status, families. And when I spent time with people who were different it was on my timetable, with my barriers, and still with my own ability to retreat to comfort. Our community was amazing but they were also mostly like us. People that made me feel comfortable about who I was. People that affirmed me. We dearly love these people and I long in ways that bring me to tears often for time with friends but if I really look and dig and am honest it was not living with and loving those who are different than me. It was a “pseudo” diversity that was more like looking into a mirror and loving what you see. Do not get me wrong I do not mean I do not hold these friendships dear or that you always need to be with those that are so different from you. And diversity just for the sake of difference is only valuable when the goal is to build real community. When we share and seek to love each other. It is just that loving people who are pretty much just like you is easy. It is loving those who are different that requires you to dig deep. Loving people that hold very few of your beliefs, disagree with you politically, were brought up in a different way, value things you don’t and spit on what you value requires much more compassion and love. Real community can be painful but it the stuff of Jesus. He chose to spend his time on earth training, loving, sharing, teaching, and being with a small group of people. He reached out to those that others shunned. He saw people as people made in the image of God. Not as opposition, problems, drains, untouchable, or even too mighty. He knew that completely changing a few would impact the world. Forever. Our hearts are resistant to this kind of community because it costs a lot. It does not make us feel good all the time. But choosing to love those that are different from you requires strength. Strength that I do not posses on my own. I need the constant relationship with Christ. I am desperate for it or I am miserable. I fail and I simply cannot function. And for me recently I have realized that is part of his gift for us; desperation. Maybe we all need a little more desperation. Coming to the ends of ourselves.
I fear many of us have no need for Him to intervene daily. We can cope just fine until the occasional crisis but what a pathetic and powerless message we posses. The world does not need that message. The world, all of creation is crying out for renewal. For life. For freedom. For grace. The Almighty is not a genie that we can call on Him when we think He is needed. The Gospel is not a feel good “nice” message. Either it is life giving or complete lunacy. Jesus said drop everything, die to yourself, and follow me. We need to be desperate for Him and if we are not we need to beg for desperation. For lack of comfort. So we can see His power unleashed in our lives.
I fear in America we have made the Gospel about our comfort. Living here has given me new perspective on this and for that I am grateful. I am not more enlightened, just blessed. Comfort is not the goal. We can make ourselves feel better by saying “some” are called to live it out, to go, to risk, to die. But the truth is I just don’t read that in scripture. We are all called to die to self. Not to live by only pursuing our goals, getting more, consuming, and then just adding on “loving Jesus.” I recently got a book from a friend here and to get new books from America is sort of a special treat. They are hard to come by so I started in right away and quickly discovered it really resonated with so much of what I am experiencing and challenged by. I have only read a couple chapters but if you want to be challenged check out Radical: Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. I guarantee it will cause you to look at American culture differently. Living outside America has allowed us to see things differently and Platt writes powerfully about the need to really look hard at what we are called to.
“There are unassuming people who have achieved various degrees of success in the world but they believe they were created for more than a Christian spin on the American Dream. They believe the purpose of their lives is deeper than having a nice job, raising a decent family, living a comfortable life, and tacking on church attendance onto the end of it. They believe Jesus has called them to a much higher plane and given them a greater dream. They believe God has shown them great grace in order that he might use them to accomplish the glorious, global, God-exalting purpose that has been primary since the beginning of time, and they don’t want to settle for anything less than radical abandonment to that radical purpose.”
Wow, that is hard to swallow but it is what I want for my life; radical God given purpose. We are blessed and then called to be a blessing. We are changed to then go out and bless others. Not to store it up on earth. Not to carefully plan our lives and orchestrate our circumstances. Not to hoard, hide, make excuses, or sit back. God is moving in the world and He invites us to join the work. It requires sacrifice and laying down but all the while we can smile knowing the end result is foretold. Is set and will come to pass. We can join in or sit back. If we chose the latter it is us who misses out. When people questioned Jesus he called them to sacrifice, to act, to respond in a real way that cost something. When a rich young ruler who had always followed the rules asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life Jesus replied “sell everything you own and give the money to the poor” the man went away sad because he knew the cost was high. Is that too high for me? Even more harsh is when Jesus tells those who wanted to follow him that they should leave their father and not even attend the funeral, not say goodbye to their family, and that even he has no where to lay his head. Certainly not the “recruitment techniques” we would choose to use today. He did not say “just close your eyes, pray this prayer, attend church, and give some money away.” We can try to make this lighter and easier than it is by saying that Jesus really doesn’t mean we have to give up our possessions, leave our families, or not have a secure place to lay our heads but what is he saying? I think he answers in this way not because this is a formula that everyone needs to do but that real devotion costs. It hurts. He knew that we make our comfort our idol. That we fill our lives with “good things” at the expense of the one thing. He said lay down your life. It costs to follow Him.
Seeing His hand here has made me realize in a new way that we are designed for much more than carving out for ourselves a safe, attractive, and comfortable life, where only the “best education” for our children, the “best job to make us happy”, and the “safest surroundings” to protect us is relevant. I want to be radical. To be transformed. To risk and believe what He says and to follow wherever He leads. That a life spent in the pursuit of Him, the good of others, and making Him known is worth living. Platt calls this a life “making much of Him” and that sounds right to me. But how do I reconcile this with how I also have felt recently that He has been speaking to me about slowing the pace at which I am running siku hizi (these days). Actually I think they are one in the same message. I do not want to run with my strength, my energy, my zeal. I want to be closer to His heart so I hear Him, join His efforts on earth, and rest in Him. I often run at my own pace with my own strength but I want to be part of something that except for by the Grace of God could not be possible. That can only be attributed to Him. His power at work. Not only does He promise to give us what we need but He promises that the resources of heaven are available to the people of God who desire to change the world with His message.
I am blabbering on and really have more questions than answers. I do not know exactly what this looks like for me or for anyone else but I am searching for it. Pouring out my heart to Jesus and asking God to show me how to be and do what I was created for. What I know for sure is that I want to consistently dive into things that apart from Him would be glorious failures. I no longer want to carefully weigh whether I can succeed. In fact, I want to know I cannot. Because the sin of self love is that it is easy for me to take credit for that which we can accomplish easily. Maybe that is part of the blessing of struggle and trial; you know for sure you are not the center.
Jason and I were taking through our adoption this week and while there are so many unknowns that are scary we also sense we will need to cling to Him like we have not before. We just know that trusting in the power available to us will be required. But that is how we grow. Everything that happened this week was because of His grace and for His glory and we feel so grateful to be a part of what He is doing. In looking forward I have no idea where we will be or what we will be doing but I am at peace. I want my life to be about making Him known more in me, my family, and the world. I know the adventures, challenges, and miracles are waiting. I just need to say “yes, Lord I will follow you.”