Tag Archives: faithful

Overseas.

I let the papers slide from my hand into the recycling bin and climbed onto my bed. Across the room I could still see the corner of the support letter papers I’d printed out, mocking me from the trash can. Pictures from previous trips lined the bottom of blank pages where I’d planned on writing heartfelt pleas for summer funding. If you didn’t want me overseas this summer, Lord, why not start with that? Why lead me to meeting after meeting, sorting through a dozen different opportunities and organizations, to find one that I was sure I sensed You moving in, only to have it all fall through?

I’ll spare you the details of my angered, and often one-sided, spats with the Lord and suffice it to say that those pleas of winter break 2015 led into what would become the transformative summer of 2016 – all without leaving Wheaton, Illinois.

You make me laugh, Jesus.

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A year ago, I couldn’t force my way overseas; I know because I tried. It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – nothing fit, felt right, or worked out in the end. In typical, omniscient God fashion, He knew better. Little did I know that I needed both the refinement and redemption that would come from a summer working at World Relief in Wheaton. So, with initial begrudging, I let the Lord do what He wanted to do. I should’ve expected this, but as it turned out, the last year has been so clearly the Lord; way better than any plan I had tried to concoct for myself.

I could take you through the successive, crazy, it-has-to-be-the-Lord-because-otherwise-it-doesn’t-make-sense chain of events that has followed since the summer (but let’s be real, He’s been moving in those kinds of themes for a lot longer than the winter of 2015). I struggle to find a starting place and would you even believe me if I tried? Maybe later I’ll start writing down some of those individual stories. They aren’t necessarily grand or exciting, just lots of little moments and random connections that the Lord likes to break through in.

I’m looking at my calendar and three trips overseas sit in front of me – trips that I didn’t plan or go looking for. Trips that scream the name of Jesus and the continual call to simply trust what He’s doing. A trip to Europe with friends, better friends than my lonely and scared freshman year self could’ve dreamt up, exploring the countries where a missions organization that I’m considering works. A trip to the British Isles with family, an unexpected blessing that has opened the door to potentially meet missionaries working with refugees in a context that I’ve been praying about for awhile. And a vision trip, to a country in the Middle East, where I’ll get to experience what the Lord is doing in refugee camps up close, and tangibly discern further what He’s leading me into long term.

I say all of this for two reasons:

  1. because I would love your prayer as I go on these trips and take the next eight months to really press in, pray, and discern not only what the Lord is doing in the moment, but what He may be leading me into long term. It’s all the normal prayers for direction that anyone with an impending graduation date (although mine is a little extended because of a master’s program) needs, with a little extra tacked on because if He’s asking me to raise support and move halfway around the world, that can feel just a little daunting. (If you want a prayer card to tuck in your bible or stick on your fridge, let me know!)
  2. because every story, be it stories of the details or the overarching narrative of the past year, points directly back to the trustworthiness and faithfulness of Christ! I don’t know where you are at in terms of believing the Lord or what you need Him to do; I don’t know what He’s doing in your life or what situations of dependance He’s put you in (or perhaps you are running from). But I know this – He is more gracious, powerful, and wise than we often give Him credit for.

My Dual Identity

It’s one thing to say that my identity is in the Lord. It’s another to actually walk in that. It’s yet another thing to begin fully grasping at what that exactly means. Jesus has been clear in these past few weeks that there are two pieces to who I am in Him. What’s more, I so easily confuse the two; it’s humbling and convicting to realize how much of what I perceive as my identity is actually deeply rooted and a little backwards

On one hand, I am (or strive to be) the good and faithful servant. It’s the Matthew 25 or Luke 19 principle, the master’s praise to the hard-working, mindful, selfless servant. There are countless verses and stories that detail our call to obedience: to love the hurting, feed the hungry, share the Gospel, shelter the homeless, fight against injustice. To do for the least of these and imitate Christ. After all Luke 12:48 makes it clear that if we’ve been given much, much will be expected. We are called to obedience, to follow the Lord into hard things, to love our neighbors and lay down our lives. My prayer becomes “Lord, let me be faithful in all that you’ve given me” – whether big or small (which, in and of itself is really just my hierarchical perception of what “big” and “small” even mean). I want to be found faithful in my commitment to the Lord and to loving His people, regardless of the cost. And that’s a good, biblical, God-glorifying thing.

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However, when I start or end with my identity as a good and faithful servant, while partially true, I err in terms of living into who God actually and fully says that I am.

Because first and last, I am the beloved. I am only able to love because He first loved me, irrespective of anything I’ve done or deserved. I’m called beautiful and whole by the one who’s very body was broken for my redemption. It’s the childhood truth of Jesus’ love for us that comes not by anything we preempted or for anything other than the fact that He simply loves us. Except it’s not simple, because this love is deeper and stronger than we will ever comprehend; no human love even comes close to measuring the love through which God sees us. The only reason I can even think about leaning into my identity as a faithful servant is because I’m doing it out of a place of being unequivocally loved by Faithfulness Himself.

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I don’t know that the church has always done a good job at explaining the relationship between justification and sanctification, or our place as both faithful servant (sanctification) and child of God (justification). Believing that I’m simply the beloved seems to negate the command for obedience, for love of neighbor, and for service. It trivializes or minimizes everything I’ve ever done, sacrificed, or stepped into on account of the Lord. And if it doesn’t mean anything, I’m not super compelled to continue walking into costly obedience.

That’s the tension we are asked to navigate everyday – because being good and faithful servant does matter. It matters a whole lot. We please the heart of God when we walk in tandem with His Spirit. We are called to follow Him, to die to self, and care for others. However, the tension comes when we realize that we can never start with that. That can never be the whole foundation of our identity. Because if base who we are in being a good and faithful servant, we inevitably come back to a view of God’s love that makes sense, something that we control. “I know God loves me . . . after all, how could He not when I’m so clearly following Him?” It no longer becomes the whole, pervasive, inexplicable love of the Father but the kind of love we can earn, maintain, and understand. The kind of love that feels comfortable and makes us feel worthy.

I feel like the mental shift should be easy: I am beloved first, faithful servant second. Both necessitate one another. However, I think that this tension will likely take a lifetime to master. Because being beloved, for as beautiful and amazing as it is, carries with it some fearful connotations.

We know that perfect love casts out fear, but the fact of the matter is that my only concept for love is human love. For as much amazing human love as I’ve experienced, it has not been without failures, heartbreaks, and conditions. If I lean fully into the eternal, incomprehensible love of God for me, I inherently strip myself of any control. It becomes this wholehearted trust in the heart of God for me, that it will never fail or diminish. That none of how He sees me is contingent on what I do or don’t do. And even though my theology tells me that nothing can separate me from His love, the questions still seem to arise in my heart from my flawed, fleshly concept of love. Because what if I’m too messy? What if I lean into being beloved and then He gets disappointed in me? What if I’m not good enough for the Lord or He decides He doesn’t want me anymore? What does it mean if my obedience isn’t changing His view of me, isn’t earning me more favor in His sight?

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He’s pleased with me as His faithful servant, but He loves me as simply His daughter.

I think that’s a dichotomy worth wresting with, since it has everything to do with who we are, how we approach life, ministry, and the posture with which we go before God. I’ll probably be wrestling with it for the rest of my life.

A Deeper Kind of Trust

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I love the book of Daniel.

I’m not really sure when it started or how I ended up in a book that is full of end times graphics and mysterious prophecies, but somewhere along the line I came to love the stories and truth in this particular book of the Bible.

Also, as you’ve probably gathered, trust has been an overarching, preeminent theme in my life. Even just looking through old blog posts, it’s clear that trust is something that the Lord continues to put his finger on over and over again (see when I trust from the stroller, do you trust me?, something about trust). This post is just some recent prayer-time revelations about a deeper level of trust that Christ is calling us into.

One of my favorite stories in Daniel comes at the end of Daniel 3. It’s not about Daniel, but his fellow Jewish bro’s, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Long story short, Nebuchadnezzar erects a massive, golden statue of himself that he puts in the center of Dura. Then he asks everyone to bow down to it.

Naturally, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse, knowing the king is going to have them thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment. But that’s not even the part of the story that my soul finds so captivating and convicting.

Before sending the men to what should be their certain death, he asks them why – why didn’t they bow down? Who do they think is going to save them?

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

It’s one thing to trust that God is mighty enough to save you. To believe that He can heal and provide and show up in amazing, unexpected, supernatural ways is to trust who He is as God.

It’s another thing, a deeper thing, to trust in a God who can, but may not.

What’s amazing to me is that Jesus demonstrates this same kind of trust Jesus demonstrates on the cross. In Matthew 27, Jesus is hanging disfigured, bruised, and bloodied on the cross for our sins. The crowd and Pharisees begin jeering, asking Jesus to jump down and save Himself.

The thing is – they weren’t wrong. He could have saved Himself. If I were one of his disciples at the cross, I wonder if I wouldn’t be pleading for Him to jump down too. Show everyone who He is. Shut them up once and for all. End the grotesque torture and pain. Be the God He knows that He is.

“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Matthew 27:42-43

Jesus did trust God. He was God; His trust in the Father went beyond anything we could ever comprehend or imagine. It wasn’t merely the kind of trust that believes He could get off the cross. It was the kind of trust that knew He would still be God, would still be good, and would still be able, even if the plan said this was better.

I don’t just want the kind of trust that says “my God can do this.” I want my trust to be so deep, my relationship with Him to be so intimate, my love and reception of His love to be so penetrating, that my soul proclaims, “He can – but even if He does not, still I will praise Him. Still I will love Him. Still I will believe He is faithful.”

It doesn’t mean getting to that place in my soul is ever easy. Honestly, I wish trusting weren’t this hard. I wish this deeper level of trust didn’t require so much nitty gritty soul work. I almost wish trust wasn’t such a necessary part of walking with the Lord. I almost wish – because I’ve seen, at the end of the day, that trusting Him who is worthy of it leads to so many beautiful stories, souls, and an unparalleled closeness with our Savior. It’s more than the place of trusting His might – it’s trusting that His might can, even if His providence says no. We know He can save us, we know He is good, regardless of what the outcome is.

It’s the sacrifice of whatever it is that we are so hesitant to let go of. Because we know we may not get it back (or get it in the first place). It’s trusting that His plan is better because He is God and we are not. It doesn’t mean we always like the plan or are in full support of the outcome. Jesus Himself wasn’t the biggest fan of the whole crucifixion plan (Matthew 26:39). I’m sure Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not voting for the “die in the fiery furnace” option when they said that they’d never bow to Nebuchadnezzer. But this deeper level of trust seems to grasp more fully at what it means to truly trust Him with our lives.

Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself (and the Lord’s been asking me) for several months now: what are the things that I am sure about when it comes to the Lord? The promises I’m willing to bet my life on, whether or not I actually see them come to fruition? The unwavering places of trust that proclaim who God is, regardless of whether or not He meets my expectations and desires with what He allows to happen?

The Ordinary Life of Making Your Block

The other night, wrapped in one of my dad’s oversized sweaters, I had some much-needed introvert time. I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a peppermint mocha and some Christmas-themed worship music, flipping through old journals. I came across the following words from the middle of my senior year of highschool:

“One day, I’m going to sit in eternal fellowship in Heaven and I’m afraid I won’t have any glorious stories to tell.” February 23, 2013

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The truth that there won’t be any sin, crying, identity-issues, or comparison in Heaven (Revelation 22:3-6) didn’t stop my heart from questioning it’s worth before both the Lord and other believers. What was I doing and was it enough? Was I enough? Was I living in the fullness of the extraordinary life that everyone talks about having in Jesus? Because writing papers, meeting with middle schoolers at Starbucks once a week, and trying to keep up with a blog that no one really reads didn’t feel like enough. Depending on the Lord looked like my trusting him in small things and I just wasn’t convinced that a story of his faithfulness in having grace with my siblings or building new friendships was what someone was looking for on a testimony night.

But then I came across this article.

Have you ever heard of Bert Elliot? Me neither. He’s the brother of the missionary Jim Elliot. I was surprised that I’d never heard of Bert, given my admiration for Jim and Elizabeth Elliot. Honestly, there’s a chance I wouldn’t even be at Wheaton College if it hadn’t come up while I was reading The Journals of Jim Elliot the summer before my senior year. The Lord has used their stories and books to shape me in some pretty formative ways.

You can imagine I was pretty curious about this mysterious Elliot brother. Why had I never come across him? Because he was just an average guy who loved Jesus and his family and his neighbor. Nothing spectacular. Not the kind of thing they write books about or dramatize on the Big Screen. The article summed it up this way:

“In the kingdom of God, there is a great need for streaking meteors, but most of us won’t be that . . . There is a great need for people willing to stand in the midst of the boring, convinced that there is no such thing as ordinary when you follow an extraordinary God.”

 

So, after reading this article, I spent the next few days wrestling. I looked back on the posture of my heart in 2013 and found myself digging up remnants of the same insecurity, while trying to rest in the truth of Scripture and testimonies of faithful, unknown people like Bert Elliot. And then, with the most unlikely of analogies, something clicked.

You probably didn’t know this about me, but I played powderpuff football this year for our Junior Class. I was drafted (aka they had to find a spot on the team for me) as an offensive line-woman for the 2015 powderpuff football game.

Trying to recall everything my dad had taught me about football before our coach walked over, I realized pretty quickly that I knew nothing about the line. I knew they hit people, but that was about it. I could name quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Maybe even a few kickers or safeties. But I was drawing a blank when it came to the line. Honestly, what did they even do?

Yet as we ran drill after drill, I began to see the importance behind the job I’d been given. When the coaches called a pass play, if I didn’t hold the defense back, the quarterback would be at best under pressure and at worst, sacked. We were responsible for giving our QB the most valuable thing in the game: time. People weren’t there to watch us. No one would remember our blocks. We weren’t making tackles, throwing winning plays, or scoring touchdowns. Memorable plays don’t have the names of the offensive line attached, but you better believe they wouldn’t have happened it we hadn’t made our blocks.

That was our job: make our block. Block the girl in front of you. Don’t let her get to the QB.

Make your block. It wasn’t an extraordinary job. But it’s what we were asked to do. We were asked to do it faithfully, play after play.

I think this is exactly what Jesus calls us to do too.

 

photo courtesy of the Wheaton Media Team
photo courtesy of the Wheaton Media Team

It reminds me of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.

I’m reminded that the lot the Lord gives each of us looks different. Our stories will be different because the way Jesus is moving in each of our lives is different. We aren’t called to throw the football if we’ve been drafted for the line, just like Bert Elliot was not called to live the same life that his brother did. God’s faithfulness in my life may not look like thousands coming to Jesus or spectacular miracles, but that doesn’t make the stories any less about God’s faithfulness.

I don’t know where you are reading this.

Maybe you’re life looks a lot like playing quarterback or being a “Jim Elliot,” streaking meteor. Maybe God’s showing up in some pretty amazing ways and calling you to some radically transformative things. That’s amazing. We need your stories of dependance on the Lord and His provision in your life! Let the body of believers be encouraged by the stewardship of your talents.

But maybe that doesn’t describe your season, your calling, or your life. Maybe you are living a seemingly ordinary day-to-day faithfulness of dishes, homework, errands, laundry, phone calls, and deadlines. The life where taking the next step in obedience often goes unnoticed by those around you. But it doesn’t go unnoticed by the Lord. It isn’t insignificant to Him. Your life of dependance is amazing too. We need your stories. When His faithfulness looks like getting you out of bed in the morning with a smile or letting a dying car make it to the next appointment, it’s still His faithfulness. We can’t let our fear of not having “amazing stories” keep us from telling what are ultimately just the Lord’s stories.

He calls us to make the block that He’s put in front of us, that’s it. When we do, regardless of what it looks like or who saw it, the Lord smiles and whispers yet again to our hearts, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Five Non-Cliche Truths You Need To Hear Today

One thing that I’ve learned in my mere twenty years on this earth is that if I’m not preaching to myself and letting Jesus speak His truth over me, then something else is going to. It’s like my heart wakes up every morning searching for something to cling onto. And to be totally transparent, the… Read more. . .

Don’t forget: the faithfulness of the Lord

Rereading through my journals as the semester winds down, I am amazed at how many times “remember” or “don’t forget” show up between entries. And yet, for as often as Jesus reminds me of the necessity of remembrance, I forget so quickly. Things like doubt, confusion, stress, worry, fear, all usually in the context of… Read more. . .