Thursday, July 4, 2019

persist


Barefoot and verbally bare-hearting, I paced under the guest-house awning, just outside the door that became mine and three other humans’ temporary home less than a week prior. In the Oklahoman dusk, I sent a torrent of excited, heart-searching words through the phone to my dad.

“Dad, it’s so much. It’s like my eyes are being opened again. I’m settling into these questions. What does it really look like to live not as an individual ‘pursuing my calling’ but under the greater having a role in the body of Christ?”

I was spending my summer surrounded by stories. Raw accounts of actual humans on this planet. The girl tortured in a Chinese prison camp because of Christ. The mother who spent over twenty years laying her life down on the other side of the ocean for the lost. The one smuggling Bible after Bible into “dark map” places where no one had gone because: the Gospel.

But to me, they weren’t just “inspiring stories” anymore. They were faces. Previously imprisoned Jenna she was the woman sitting to my left in the post-conference restaurant, asking about what Pad Thai actually is and describing her magazine preferences. Overseas missionary became Tammy, offering a ride to church and photographing my roommate and I laughing in front of her house’s bench-stool. Bible-smuggler became big-hearted Dad, talking about his kids’ shyness over Tajin-ed tacos. The faraway became near. The extraordinary merged with the normal. But the juxtaposed dichotomy of these similar dissimilarities still haunted my mind.

Do we have these compartments? Moments when our calling is being clearly lived out. Moments of crazy mission, and then Pad-Thai, photographing, family-focused sub-moments? How do we justify anything we do in reality of the pain and hurt in our difference-needing world?

I always thought big. Reading 10 Girls Who Changed the World as a ten-year-old, I’d heard the missionary stories, depicting living out God’s call. I was the little girl, taking denim-blue, pink-raised, embroidered-flower shoes off my feet at age five, sitting on the church step on my daddy’s lap as he left for another trip to Mexico. “Give these to a little girl like me.” I believed she was there, a mirrored version of my littleness. I knew she needed things, and my tiny heart felt compelled to give as much as I could: clearly, my blue-denim shoes would do the trick. I felt for her, and I felt moved to action.

But as time grew, I didn’t know what to do. So I talked, talked about these things. And Kasey talked back. From her young, single, female missionary perspective, I was desperate to hear counsel. Sitting in the dark brown, plastic wicker chairs under the fading Panera outdoor seating umbrella, I remember one snip bit she shared still so clearly. “When I came back from my first missions trip, I was moved. I wanted to do anything. I decided to sleep on my floor because the people I had been with didn’t have beds. So I wouldn’t either. But then, I realized sleeping on my floor would do nothing to help the kids hurting overseas. Really, it would just hurt my back.”

Self-inflicted back pain at no benefit to them. What a world we live in. But how, how do we act? How can we actually make a difference and justify anything we do when time is short and hell is real and we are really accountable for how we live our lives?

None else seemed to be struggling this hard. The rich kids at school simply talked about where they were going next on vacation. The poor kids at church talked about their cousin’s Big Mac eating back-stabbing ways. My friends focused on the next episode of New Girl. My extended family just cared about extending their eyes to politics. Some churches only seemed concerned with the production value of their Easter services.

I didn’t understand. Where was the Gospel-passion? Where was even daily mention of this person we said we were giving our life for? Why weren’t these the questions we talked about at church? Why did no one else seem to be bothered by this, and if they were, why weren’t they talking about it? Was I wrong? Do they know something I don’t know?

I found the urgency I had grown hopeless to ever truly find at Urbana. In a room more packed than possible, David Platt entered. And his voice cracked as his heart was clearly moved. But it wasn’t emotion without action. It was compassion from experience. He described seeing burial piers and bodies throw in the river. From a conviction-wrecked-heart-shell raw with the Lord’s work, he asked us: if we truly believe that every day, people are living and dying without ever hearing the name of the Lord, how are we not burdened and doing more?

And I didn’t have an answer.

Now, I sit, frustrated that I’m still asking these questions. I’m frustrated at how this deep restlessness has been undergirded my subconscious, something that’s even been twisted to make me critical of everything I do, disengaged from my life because I’m convinced that my life should be more for Jesus and that what I do and pray is never enough, critical of every choice I make and critical of my own criticalness. Initially burdened by the lost but now burdened by feeling like I’ve lost years of my life not living “good enough” as a passion-driven follower of Jesus. I went from passionate to floundering-to-find-what-to-do to critical because I hadn’t gotten it right to now tired, tired and directionally answerless, and struggling with the reality that, sometimes, I just don’t care. I don’t want the discomfort and disruption the answer might bring to my life.

Staring up at the persecuted church map that has been a part of my sleeping chambers no matter where I live and crying out on my knees by my bed for clarity for what to do next, I’m convicted. Who am I to carry around my frustration of not living my life for the Gospel “enough” when I’m not fully seeking permeation by the Gospel with my days? How can I live holding onto my lack of living-enough-for-Jesus instead of actually holding onto Jesus Himself? How can I continually bear these questions as an idol instead of accepting the love and forgiveness of the Lord and clinging to that as lifeblood?

The things is, I don’t have crystal-clear direction right now. I just have a lot of internal stirrings, but stirrings that feel like the wind of change.

And I don’t have an answer.

“What are you going to do with your life? What’s your five-year plan?” I don’t know, and I just don’t think it matters as much as people seem to think it does. I don’t want to plan my life as much as I want to be fully present and obeying Jesus in my days. I don’t want to work towards ‘self-improvement’ as much as I want to let go of my “good” desire to please Jesus and my hyper-critical-trying-to-figure-it-out-analysis and, instead, whole-heartedly focus on loving Jesus with my mind and daily actions. I don’t want to be the ‘best version of me’ as much as I want to lose myself in obediently serving others.

And I don’t want to overcomplicate things anymore. So I start today. Still restless in these questions? Yes. And still seeking, actually more profoundly than I’ve been able to before.

What does it look like to live on mission, spending each day for Jesus, knowing that Hell is close to us all but Jesus can be closer?

I’m starting here, where the season has brought me: in my deep need for Jesus because I no longer pridefully think I can do this in my own strength or rely on my own wisdom. I’m starting here, at the feet of Christ, steeped in my desperate need for Him. Praying, first:

Father! Center me in the center of you.
Father! Help me to focus on what matters.
Father! Teach me how to number my days.
Father! Show me how to spend my hours.
Father! Increase my urgency and keep me from inaction.
Father! Remove my stagnation.
Father! Renew my burden for Your people.
Father! Increase my passion for Your name.
Father! Expand my hunger for Your word.
Father! Help me to come to You first and give me Your eyes to see what to chase next.
Father! Widen my perspective.

Because I don’t know the answers, but I can know the one who does. And seeking, here I persist.

1 comment:

  1. I'm usually not one to leave comments but since you seem to receive so few on here...just wanted you to know that people like me are reading your blog and please, keep on writing. Your words here have encouraged me, pulled me back to Jesus, and I click over here pretty regularly to see if there's more. ~aletheia6012

    ReplyDelete

I definitely don't want this to be a monologue. What are your thoughts? Questions? Ideas?

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