Hi friends!

I lied. I didn't post twice yesterday. Sorry.

I needed another day to think about this post and muddle through everything that has changed in my heart and spirit in recent weeks. It's dense and new and a little bit frightening, and I want to do it justice. As I mentioned yesterday, it has nothing to do with books or publishing. Ready? Okay. Let start at the beginning...

My husband and I started attending Buckhead Church over the summer. As a result, we soon joined a small group with other married-without-children couples in Atlanta. We meet with them once a week for dinner and a study of the Bible and biblical principles. Most recently, we were reading CrazyLove by Francis Chan, a book that has really rocked me and made me extremely uncomfortable.

Two weeks ago we studied a chapter that deals with the lukewarm Christianity of our neighbors and peers (and most definitely ourselves), and the nonchalant attitude that we, as Americans, have towards the plight of our fellow man. The above statement is a very short, very breezy summary of that chapter. I say this because it was tough to read; it pointed out my flaws, my weaknesses, my fears and made me confront them in the light of what is true about the Word of God and my relationship with Christ. I saw that I was lukewarm, and it broke me.

Andy Stanley, our pastor, just so happened (yeah, right...) to start a new series called Big Church, where he has been teaching his congregation about the 1st-century Christians, their desire to witness about the miracle of Jesus' resurrection, and their struggle to do so at the risk of being imprisoned, flogged (which, if you've ever seen The Passion of the Christ, you might understand is not just being beaten or whipped, but having pieces of your flesh torn away from your body), or even murdered. He's been taking us through the Book of Acts and, very conveniently (there's that "coincidence" again), Mr. Chan was, too. Let me show you two things, from two different men, that were revealed to me during this time, and then I'll write about what they did to me:

CrazyLove, Chapter Six, paraphrased (I don't have the book in front of me, so I apologize if this is not the right chapter, but I am almost certain it is): None of what we own belongs to us. It was all given to us by God, so why are we so self-indulgent when we are called to give everything we have over to the Lord? We fall asleep at night, murmuring last-minute prayers as we close our eyes. We toss a few crumpled dollar bills into the offering plate, feeling good about giving "something". Fetch, God!

(That last line is a direct quote from the book.)

Andy Stanley, Buckhead Church, January 23, 2011: "Why are we such cowards? Our obsession with safety and comfort as American Christians has eroded our ability to be BOLD. You're probably around Christians all the time, but you don't even know it. They're 'secret Christians'! If we were doing this right, we would be seen as the most loving, compassionate, moral, upright, consistent, awesome people you'd ever met. It's not your's our fault. And we're working on it...Peter and the apostles were brought to the temple by the priests and told to shut up and never preach again about what they knew. They were flogged and beaten. And they left the temple 'rejoicing at the honor of being dishonored for the Name.'"

I'm sorry...what???

These mean were literally bleeding and bruised and maybe even bedridden and, yet, they rejoiced?

I look at these two passages (both of which reference the Book of Acts in some way) and I am ashamed. I am ashamed not because I believe that I am a terrible person or because I don't love God, but because I have no idea what true joy looks like. I'm in the middle of an ongoing Love Story with the King, and it barely registers with me on most days. I am an American Christian. I am self-serving, self-indulgent, eager to promote my own agenda, and less than eager to give it all away.

If we compare ourselves to the first-century Christians...well...there is no comparison. We are, as David Platt wrote in his book Radical, "giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist Him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with...a nice, middle class, American Jesus."

Um, ouch.

If you are not a Christian, you probably knew this already. If you are a Christian, I hope this stings you like it did me. It should...because it's the truth.

What I am getting at, my friends, is that I have seen the cost of discipleship in others- people like my friend, Jill, from college. I have witnessed their desire to pursue God above all else, even when it means risking friendships, jobs, security, comfort, family, and money. And I have seen how beautifully they suffer for the Name, and how fufilled they are by Him because of it.

When I read that verse in Acts about the apostles rejoicing over their suffering for Jesus, I had to put my Bible down and allow my mind to process the seemingly contradictory truth that was before me. I prayed over it for a long time, and I asked God to make me bold. I asked Him to give me courage because I was beginning to understand something that I had heard before, but never acknowledged. And that something was this:

I am no longer comfortable with just being comfortable.

I don't know what this means for my life, but I do know that God is directing my path to something far bigger than what I think I want or need, and I am praying that He will prepare me to obey when I finally know what to do. I pray that I will not walk away from it because I'll risk missing a friend's birthday, or disappointing my mother, or giving away my car, or quitting my job, or even doing a job I don't like, or talking to someone who thinks I'm foolish, or allowing myself to go hungry. What are these things in light of Jesus? What are these things in light of a journey- no, an adventure- with my Creator and Savior? He gave me those blessings- my friends, my car, my home, my husband, my family, my job, my health- because He loves me. But are they truly mine? No. They are His, so why would I not give them up for Him?

Now that I know this truth, I can't pretend I don't anymore. It filters through my every thought, my every hope, my every fear. It reaches into my heart and tugs, so much so that I lose my concentration and am drawn to the Word, hoping to find what it is that God has in store for me.

I don't believe that everyone has the same gifts, or is called to be the same thing. God uses our talents in many different ways. We are all a part of the same Body of Christ, and we are used in a variety of ways to acheive His will. All I can say is what I know of myself and that is this: I have a talent for writing, I love conversation, I long to travel and have been itching to go everywhere since I was about five years old, I'm healthy, and I love Jesus. So, with these things in mind, I submitted my application to the Buckhead Church/410 Bridge trip to Kenya last night. I wanted to sign up last year, but I think I wanted to do it for selfish reasons: going somewhere I've never been, meeting new people, with just a little bit of service thrown in there for good measure. Now, I am convinced that the Lord has prepared my heart to do a good work there, something that has nothing to do with what I want. Who knows what will come of it? I certainly don't. But I keep going back to it; I keep looking at these people's faces, people I've never met, and I love them. I want to talk to them and tell them how adored they are. I want to work with them and dig ditches and sing songs. I want to give them what Christ has given me: everything He has.

I can't do this alone. Not just the trip, but my life. I can't give it all up by myself. I am not equipped to do so because I have limited emotional, physical, mental, and financial resources. But I trust, and I am learning to trust, that the Lord is sufficient for my needs. Please pray for me as I go into this season, as I wait to hear back about my application, and as I go forward into a life that is radical and bold and new.


1 comment

Christy Curley said...

I pray that God will use this time to draw you closer to Him and revolutionize your life! I struggle with these same issues all the time. I feel the anguish of Paul in Romans 7 when he cries out about doing what he doesn't want and not doing what he does want. I'm almost always falling short of what I want and am capable of. I'll be praying for you...please pray for me, too!