Saying 'I do' to a Godly life...and forsaking all comfort?
Lately, God has been guiding me to out of my comfort zone. And although I haven't actually taken any physical action to leave my comfort zone, God seems to be preparing my mind and my soul for some kind of big life change. And that both excites me and scares me.
My latest lesson came last night as I read the Scriptures. I am currently working through the book of Luke and this verse made me stop short:
"And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all." -Luke 6:19
Have you ever been jostled in a crowd? Maybe it was at a concert, a great sale event at your favorite store or simply making your way through a crowded room. Even if you're not claustrophobic, the pressure begins to get to you quickly and eventually you just want to get step out and get some fresh air away from people. Uncomfortable is an understatement in those situations, right?
Now, take it to another level. Have you ever planned an event or maybe was left in charge of a huge project with a looming deadline at work? If you have, then you know the feeling of always being on, until it gets to that point where if one more person asks you a question, you may explode. You just get mentally and physically exhausted of people constantly wanting something from you - there seems to always be a question to be answered, an issue to be dealt with or a whiny employee to console.
And combine those two and you pretty much get Jesus' every day life on Earth. Multiple times the Bible says that wherever Jesus went, so did dozens, hundreds and even thousands of people. In Luke chapter 5, Jesus is even forced to stand in a boat a few feet from shore just to get some space from the "multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God."
Jesus had something special, everyone knew it and many people wanted a part of it. I imagine that as a human, that was incredibly uncomfortable - constantly being on and giving from dawn to sunset and beyond (all while being persecuted and tested at every turn by the nay-sayers). And we do see evidence that Jesus often needed to recharge as He would escape into the desert or mountains to pray and fast.
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about missionary life. According to popular opinion, giving your life to serving in the mission field is the ultimate form of sacrifice and Christian living. As I read testimonies of missionaries, I am amazed by their work and the things I can see God doing through them every day. But mostly, I just think of how uncomfortable it must be. From living in impoverished areas to constantly giving and still not seeing an end to the needs of the people around you. It's a 24/7 job that doesn't necessarily provide a steady paycheck.
And most missionaries don't hide this fact. They will be the first to admit that their life can be hard, exhausting, uncomfortable and frustrating. And then comes the big B word... "BUT..." The words that follow vary, but usually go something like, "I love Jesus and this is how I express my love for Him." Furthermore, if suddenly they were paid to do their missionary work, most missionary workers would refuse the compensation.
Recently, I read an anecdote about Mother Teresa. A journalist was shadowing her and watched as she gently washed the feet of a leper. In amazement, he commented that he wouldn't do that if someone paid him a million dollars. In return, Mother Teresa answered, "Neither would I." So, it's not about the physical or monetary rewards, but about storing up treasures in heaven as Jesus instructed. This may seem incredibly obvious to many people, but let me bring my point full circle and conclude that as Christians, we should expect to live uncomfortable and challenged lives that are constantly loving, giving and caring with no expectation of compensation, rewards or recognition.
Before he left this Earth, Jesus instructed His disciples..
And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food... - Matthew 10:8-10
In reply to this verse, both and I millions of other Christians today, smile with a proud nod and maybe even slight envy of how special these disciples are to have such high callings! We translate this calling directly to missionaries - the "special" Christians. After all, not everyone can be a missionary right?
Isaiah 58:10 says, "If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noon day."
I donate canned goods to my local food pantry sometimes or volunteer at the soup kitchen occasionally, but that does "extend my soul to the hungry?" To me, extending my soul means giving a part of myself emotionally - it's painful and uncomfortable, but in the greater scheme of things it makes me better off. Is my annual donation to a drug rehab facility or crisis nursery satisfying the afflicted soul? Or when I see my friend struggling with an eating disorder, yet after I asked her twice and she denies it, I simply give up and move on with my life...does that satisfy her soul? No.
Money doesn't extend your soul or satisfy the afflicted soul. Love does - unconditional Jesus love. This kind of love is uncomfortable, often physically and emotionally exhausting, selfless and is ALWAYS giving. But, it's also powerful enough to change lives, it's contagious, spiritually enriching and Godly.
Every single Christian is called to live the life of a missionary. I am called to live the life of a missionary. Maybe it's in Africa, or maybe it's right here in my small hometown. One small caring act at a time, will grow into a lifestyle that much like Jesus' time on this Earth, will always be giving, preaching and caring. And the draining discomfort? A momentary human emotion that will pass when I lift my eyes to the heavens, renewing my strength in God, only to keep giving even more to the people in my world.
I have a lot to learn from this post myself. Last night, only minutes after reading that first verse from Luke mentioned above, God gave me an opportunity to live it out. A friend needed a last-minute baby-sitter so she could rush to the hospital with her brother-in-law. But, it was midnight and I had to be at work by 7:30. Sacrificing a night of sleep to baby-sit would leave me exhausted the next day and this week is already becoming too busy, so I would need my rest. It was selfish of me to not step up at that moment. And I pray next time, the loss of my personal comfort won't stop me from doing what I am called to do - loving unconditionally.