Friday, May 11, 2012

Love Your Enemies

Each time we’ve invited someone new into our home it’s been like a mirror has gone up in front of me. I get to see who I really am. One by one God uses THEM to sanctify and refine ME, and it gets pretty eye-opening. I realize how selfish I am with my time and my things and my relationships. Sin issues are brought out into the light more than ever before. Through these experiences I’ve seen that I love people so conditionally, that I vent my anger like a fool, and that I too quickly forget that I also was once (and still am) a wretched sinner in need of grace.

Until this Rosebud hosting experience came around, we have never hosted someone in our home who has so boldly refused God. Others who we’ve hosted in our home have had some sort of base knowledge or belief in God to start from, and were either interested, thirsting, or at least open to being taught more about Him. Our host student made it clear from the beginning of this journey that she rejected the Lord and our family’s fear of Him. At first we made our family devotionals mandatory for her to attend, but over time, in prayer, we decided that Jesus never begged anyone to follow Him, and we shouldn’t do so either. Her decision to reject was not based on lack of knowledge of the concepts of faith, or because she didn’t understand the scriptures. She is a very smart girl, and conveyed time and again that she had full comprehension of the basics of the Bible and salvation. Rather her heart just said no to God. I am not sure that I have ever encountered someone who has full understanding of the knowledge of Jesus, but has chosen to outrightly say no to the only way of salvation - in order to proceed down the path of destruction so happily. And yet, God has not designed us as robots. He’s given us each the free will to choose to submit to Him, or not. As mind-boggling as it was, Jake and I knew that we needed to allow our host student the freedom to reject. Our hope in that was that someday she would begin to understand and care about the consequences of her choice, and that Jesus would melt her heart of stone.

For me, sharing the gospel with the hope that God will lead a heart towards repentance and belief in His Son is honestly the only reason that I ever open up my home for these experiences. Hosting students for me is not about offering someone a great educational opportunity, the rich experience of learning a new culture, or the challenge of helping a young adult turn their life around. Those things are just additional benefits in my mind to the main purpose: sharing the hope of Christ. That purpose is eternal and the most important. Everything else is just temporary. Therefore, for me, the past two semesters of this hosting experience have been an intense spiritual battle. When I personally came to the realization that our host student was stiff-arming God, not even allowing the chance for Him to do a work in her heart, it became very, very hard for me to want to lay down my life for her. I found it difficult to smile at her in the mornings before school, or to even want to entertain conversations with her. It became a burden for me to give her rides to events, or to go out of my way to show her kindness. As she separated herself apart from Christ, I started to feel the battle lines being drawn. In fact, when I looked at her I saw my enemy. I know that sounds like a harsh word to use, but I was feeling the fullness of what Jesus says in Matthew 12:30, “He who is not with me is against me.” Every day began to feel like war.

I believe the Lord’s desire in this hosting experience was to teach me to love my enemies. I came to this revelation earlier this year. I wish I could say that realizing what God was trying to do in me changed my heart and therefore actions towards our host student. It didn’t. I am sure it would have spoken volumes to our host student if amidst our struggles I would have been the ‘aroma of Christ’ and the ‘fragrance of life’ to her. But unfortunately, I fought this process of sanctification that the Lord was desiring to work in me. I’ll be honest - I began counting down the days until this hosting experience would be over.

In Luke Chapter 6 Jesus says…

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you….If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:27-28, 32-36).

I went into this hosting experience hoping to play a part in God transforming a life. Our family was offering this particular host student a second chance at being part of this program, and because of that I expected to see a spark in her, a change of heart from her time in the program last school year, a grasping for opportunity, an appreciation of the second chance being offered. But instead I watched a gift of grace be tossed aside, and that made me angry.

But I am also thankful. These past two semesters God used this hosting opportunity to teach me to be a more submissive wife (because parenting strategies don’t always match up when you are in the middle of conflict), to teach me self-control over my emotions, to humble my prideful heart, to open my eyes to just how spiritual of a world we live in, to show me the importance of being prepared to give an answer for the hope that I have in Christ (and doing so with patience and careful instruction) and to teach me to show mercy – something very unfamiliar to my nature.

My expectation going into this experience was wrong – I thought God wanted to do a transforming work in our host student’s heart, but it turns out He wanted to do the greater work in mine. Although this outcome was not what we had hoped for or expected for our host student, God has exposed the ugly areas of my heart that need to be rooted out. And for that I am thankful.

Do not resist or run from the difficulties in your life. These problems are not random mistakes; they are hand-tailored blessings designed for your benefit and growth. Embrace all the circumstances that I allow in your life, trusting Me to bring good out of them. View problems as opportunities to rely more fully on Me. When you start to feel stressed, let those feelings alert you to your need for Me. Thus, your needs become doorways to deep dependence on Me and increasing intimacy between us. Although self-sufficiency is acclaimed in the world, reliance on Me produces abundant living in My kingdom. Thank Me for the difficulties in your life, since they provide protection from the idolatry of self-reliance. ~Jesus Calling~


Jody said...

Anyone God brings into our lives, especially those closest to us will be used as instruments of grace in our lives...sometimes our spouse or our children. I've had this same experience many times. Being in ministry since college I'm always thinking "how can I help this person", etc. Most of the time it's about what God wants to do in ME..and many times it is humbling and painful. Press on in your pursuit of the lover of your soul.

MatthewandJennifer Pitkin said...

Thank you for posting this. Truly beautiful and something I am learning right alongside you! Love to you and the family. God bless ~ Jenny

Shonya said...

Oh, this is so true! I appreciate your transparency so much in this. All too often we pridefully think of what God can do THROUGH us when He is focused on what He can do IN us. I share this moment with you as He has taught me this lesson again and again (I'm not good at getting it the first time!) Blessings to you.