I’ve been trying to figure something out. You see, I used to see the idea of obeying God and serving others as a sort of duty in the Christian life. I knew as a follower of Christ that I should serve because Christ was the ultimate servant, and so, if I was to reflect Him in character, that was one thing that I should do. And I knew as a follower of Christ that I should obey scripture, otherwise I might as well walk around with a neon sticky note on my forehead that says hypocrite. So I would try to serve and obey, or at least make good attempts to. But, I didn’t necessarily do it out of joy. I would say it was more grudgingly like - well, I know I am supposed to, so.... - I can illustrate it for you in this example: The other day I asked Jayla to please pick up her room and to start by putting her books back on her shelf. She looked at me with those eyes that said Do I have to? and then gave me a deep sigh….and started putting the books back on her shelf just like I had asked. I imagine that her reason for obeying in that moment was because she knew that if she didn’t respond to my clear instructions she would be disciplined. And in some weird way, that’s how I used to feel about serving God early on in my walk with Him. Yet, as I started reading the new wave of books like Crazy Love, Forgotten God, and Adopted for Life, scripture opened up for me in a different way. I started to hear God urging me to take part in His service while I was still living and breathing in this world. Why? The Bible is CRYSTAL CLEAR that we CANNOT earn our salvation by doing good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). So what is the point of doing them?
Over the course of the last 2 years I’ve been able to come to answer the why quite easily. We should live out our faith in action to bring God glory, to point others to Jesus, to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, to be the instruments God uses to accomplish His will on earth as it is done in heaven, and maybe most simply because Christ commands us to love the way He loved us – by laying down our lives for the sake of others. So, I’ve learned why we should do good works. But here’s what has changed in me over the past 2 years. My heart is IN IT now. Before when I would serve, I was going through the motions. Like I said above, I had a grudgingly Jayla attitude – Do I have to? (Big sigh.) Ok, I will, but only because you say so. I am not saying this is necessarily a bad starting point. Obedience to God should ALWAYS trump our own personal feelings. But I am saying that inside of me now, I don’t feel that initial sigh. I don’t feel like I have to twist my arm to get myself into action because I should, or because it’s the right thing to do, or because the Bible says so. Now I find myself in complete anticipation and excitement, awaiting God to bring me another opportunity to do something for His Kingdom. Now, I really truly want to. What in me has changed? Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to pinpoint what ‘it’ is.
A few months back I was posting Jake’s journal entries from his last Ghana trip and there was a section that he had written that stopped me in my tracks. He wrote:
When I am here in Ghana I feel so much closer to God and I feel like every step I take here was purposely designed for me by the Lord. I guess my prayer for the day is how can I have this type of relationship with the Lord when I return to the United States where everything is dictated by the bottom line and the stresses of the world? Why do I get so distracted by the things that just don’t really matter?
As I read his words my heart skipped and I said to myself - That’s it!!! That is what I feel inside – put to words! What has changed inside of me is that these opportunities to serve and obey have stripped me of everything else that I was depending on. These feelings Jake was describing during his Ghana trip were actually what I felt consistently throughout our adoption process. We walked blindly step by step, not knowing how it was going to turn out. But through that something beautiful happened with my relationship with God. I would have never known the peace of having God be my Comforter, if I hadn’t been in a situation in which I needed to be comforted. I would have never known the power of God as Deliverer, if we hadn’t been in a situation in which we needed to be delivered. Through that I learned to rely on God, to depend on Him completely with no reservations, and in turn I have felt so close to Him. When our lives were stripped of all the other worldly things we were depending on (our money, our own strength, human effort) it was then that I saw Him show up in ways that I had never experienced before. And that was a great feeling. This is what I yearn for more of…..to be put into situations when my only choice is just to blindly trust God to come through. That’s when I feel Him leading and guiding so evidently.
Sometime later as I was reading the book Forgotten God I came across this Francis Chan comment that I’ve included in a post before:
And like our Savior, who poured out His life and blood so we have reason to rejoice, we were made to lay down our lives and give until it hurts. We are most alive when we are loving and actively giving of ourselves because we were made to do these things. It is when we live like this that the Spirit of God moves and acts in and through us in ways that on our own we are not capable of.
I can’t stop thinking about those words most alive. When I first read those two words they immediately jumped out at me and I thought - That’s it!!!! That is what I feel inside – put to words. I have found myself addicted to the intimacy level that I feel in my relationship with Jesus, and this addiction has become most pronounced when I am serving and laying down my selfish desires for others. You would think it would be the opposite. That when you give and give something inside of you is taken away. But I’ve noticed that for me it gets flipped….when I give and give and give I feel more alive than I ever have before. Even the personal sacrifices you must make in order to serve and obey become drowned out by the high of the Spirit of God working in and through you. And I will do anything it takes to keep feeling this high. Nothing else compares to it. Even sin is less attractive.
Then on a different day I came across this blog post: http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/2011_02_01_archive.html and as I read it I said - That’s it!!! That is what I feel inside - put to words!!! What has changed inside of me is that these opportunities to serve and obey have given me eyes to see Jesus in ways that I have never experienced before. And each time my heart has been filled to the brim and I am left crying Do it again, Lord! I want to see you more! Do it again!
Then just a few days ago a fellow adoptive mom left this comment on my blog:
The more I grow in sanctification the more I agree. The adoption question changed from - how could we? to - how could we not?
And I thought - That’s it!!!!! That is what I feel inside – put to words. God has opened up my eyes and shown me that people are hurting. Orphans. Widows. Neighbors. Friends. Families. Everywhere. There are people just down the street who are chasing after the world’s pleasures and finding themselves unfulfilled and broken and without hope. Not too long ago, that was me. How can I not share my faith with them? There are kids in Jake’s basketball program who go home each night and have to fight their 8 other siblings for a good portion of food. How can I not share my home and cook for them? There are kids and grownups in my life who don’t know that they were created by an awesome God for a purpose. They don’t even know why they are alive. I have the answer. How can I not tell them? God has opened up my eyes to the orphan crisis and given me a voice to advocate. How can I not act? Bottom line: knowing what I know now, how can I not ______?
And so, as I’ve been trying to pinpoint what in me has changed and given me an excitement to serve and obey, I’ve realized that it is really a combination of all these things. I am not saying that it isn’t still hard. There are times when I want to pull out my hair like when I find dried up toothpaste smeared all over my couch from junior high boys that pulled a prank on each other through the night. Or when I just get done explaining the awesomeness of the 7 days of creation to some kids and all they can think about is where dinosaurs fit into the picture. And then there are the really hard things, like entering into the deep emotional scars of my son that have been exposed through his adoption. And purposely walking through the valleys alongside those who are walking through the valleys - and sticking with them no matter what comes. And coming alongside those who are hurting....those who just need to know someone is there with them. But even all of these moments are outweighed by something so much greater. The intimacy with Christ. The aliveness. The times when it feels like God has orchestrated every moment of the day just for me. The moments when something happens and immediately I see Jesus working. The situations when I feel the Spirit working through me in ways that I know I am not capable of doing on my own. This is what I DESIRE. I desire this closeness and fellowship and intimacy in my relationship with God more than anything else in the whole world. I’ve tasted what it is like. And I can’t help but want more.