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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Faithfulness: The Noble Cause

I’m ridiculously happy right now. And really, if you think hard about it, there’s no real reason to be. None of our outward issues have changed in terms of finances, the house, etc. And yet…

I have this joy. And really, that’s the thing about serving God. It doesn’t really make sense to the logical mind—not that the logic part of my brain is all that well-developed. He gives peace (in the midst) of storms. Not when the storm is over. Love your enemies, pray for those who use you. Believe even when you can’t see or imagine the results.

Simply put, God’s ways are higher.

And we are a culture—a world, really, of humans who have a hard time wrapping our heads around that sort of thing. Because we want answers now. We want results. Walking out onto a raging sea goes against everything sane and reasonable. We think we know best.

But we really don’t.

Faithfulness hasn’t always been my issue to overcome. Or lack of faithfulness, is a better way to put it. Many years, I did the church thing regularly, joyfully, and without complaint. Then God told us to switch churches about 13 years ago. This is what He said, and no he didn’t speak through a burning bush, but an inner knowing. “If you will leave the familiar and go where I’m sending you, I’ll raise your kids up in righteousness.”

We had been concerned about the kids being raised in the church we'd attended for so many years. There was strong worship and great preaching, but for some reason, the young people have always struggled to walk in purity—including me in my teen years. It’s like, it’s expected that for two or three years, the children of the church will fall away, into sin, and come back once they’re adults and marked with scars of sin and their past. And the cycle starts over with the next group of teens. We didn’t want that for our kids. We desperately wanted them to avoid the pitfalls I went through and learn something different.

Well, if you want something different, you have to do something different.

The church we attend now was new. The talk of the town, really. They were different from anything in our town where I grew up. And when I told my husband what I felt God said, he scowled. ☺ He’s the kind of guy who sticks things out. He’s steady and dependable and couldn’t imagine why God would ask us to pull up roots and plant somewhere else. But he trusted me enough to at least visit the new church. And within a couple of weeks, he knew we were doing the right thing. Whew.

But, truly, we struggled. The older kids, who were nine and seven at the time, struggled. We were like Abraham, leaving Ur and going to a place where God was asking us to have some faith. A place that was unfamiliar.

I was beginning my writing career at the time. I got my first book contract the year we started at the new church and it was really easy to turn my eyes from church ministry and make myself believe God was finished with all that in me. After all, we hadn’t come to the new church to use our gifts, we came to keep our kids from the pits of hell. It was a noble cause. And fiction writers know that the hero of the story must always have a noble cause. I was writing a new story of my life.

With that mentality, I could justify starting on the worship team, and quitting. Starting again, and quitting. Helping in kids ministry and stopping. Doing drama, quitting. You see the pattern. I had a victim’s mentality. My gifts aren’t needed. I’m not as good as the others who are serving. Blah, blah, blah.

And I knew better. I had served long enough and well enough that I knew when you commit to serving in the church: nursery, children’s church, worship team, door greeters, and you don’t show up for your turn, it causes a real problem for not only the leaders in that department, but for your fellow workers, because someone has to take up your slack. But I didn’t see it. I had so many insecurities that I figured they were better off without me. It was such a selfish way to behave.

As I’ve begun to open my heart again recently over the past few months, God has shown me so much of what I thought and felt and did or didn’t do came purely from a heart that wasn’t developed in Love. And that’s our first and second commandment. Love God, Love each other. Serve one another, prefer one another. By committing and blowing off those commitments, I was essentially telling those I was letting down: I don’t love you enough to ease your burden, instead, I expect you to ease mine.

This message truly hit me yesterday during a discussion with some friends—people who have sacrificed willingly, for years and years, who have taken up slack for those who haven’t loved enough to be faithful—including me—and have done it with grace and kindness.

It cut me to the core. And in that moment I experienced true repentance.

So here’s what I want to say: Be faithful where God has you right now. Put down some roots. The best way to do that is to see others more highly than yourself. Different from popular belief, Love means ALWAYS saying you’re sorry. But repentance isn’t saying you’re sorry and doing the same thing over and over. It’s being truly sorry and changing your behavior.

I’m making a fresh start. A few months ago, I did a 40 days of walking out my commitments. As day forty approached I was terrified that I would fail on day 41. But true change was beginning in me.

God walked alongside me with each shaky step forward. And He is continuing that work in me. But it hasn’t been without a setback here and there. It hasn’t been without what I considered sacrifice.

But I’m learning again, there’s joy in learning to love. To prefer others. To stop thinking it’s all about me. My roots are slowly sinking into the soil where God planted me. And I’m growing.

Change is hard. But the joy filling me up and pouring out, keeps me face forward on this journey to the place called God’s Best for my life. Whatever that promised land is going to look like and however it takes to get there, I believe God is leading.

Where He leads me, I will follow. Where He leads me I will follow. Where He leads me I will follow. I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.

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