Do you ever get that itch? The one that tells you there's more? I've been moving from sort of having a little itch that needs scratched to being itchy all over - like the kind that comes from rolling around in a blueberry patch and getting chigger bites all over. No amount of pink calomine lotion is easing this craziness!
So what's the itch all about? It's about the fact that Jesus is RADICAL...everything about Him. And I am NOT. The more I get to REALLY know the God I serve the more I realize that my life doesn't look very much like Him. My life looks pretty safe. Pretty comfortable. Pretty self focused. Pretty much like everyone else's around me. I go to church on Sunday. I read my Bible (sometimes). I lead a small group. I go to work. I love my kids and my husband. It's sort of like...Lather. Rinse. Repeat. All of this stuff is good - don't get me wrong! Part of what God asks of me is to be the wife, mother and friend that He has created me to be. And that's not something I take lightly.
But, something's missing. The Gospel at its core requires that I walk a different, more narrow road than the rest of the world. AND that I be willing to obey God regardless of what the rest of the world may say. That's hard, people!! The truth is that I care about what the rest of the world thinks and says about me. I don't want to, but I do. What is the result of that? My life doesn't look radical like my Savior's. When I put the things this world cares about before the things God does then I am holding myself back from living the full and abundant life that Jesus came to bring me. I become my own worst enemy.
So, back to the itch. I'm wanting to live differently. I'm sensing Him whispering that there's more if I would choose to live radically. But what in the world does that really look like? I believe that first of all for me it means putting to death the American dream and chasing after God's dream. I personally do not think that I can pursue both. Richards Stearns (President of World Vision) says in his book "The Hole in Our Gospel" that the American Dream is defined as "A life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S.". Doesn't sound too bad, huh? No wonder we're all pursuing it like crazy. I don't think I know a single person who doesn't want personal happiness and material comfort.
What I'm realizing as a result of my time in Uganda and what God has been working in my heart is that my personal happiness comes when I give my life away to other people. And while I might gain momentary pleasure from my material possessions - they are not the things that comfort my heart and bring life to my spirit. They can, in fact, be the very things that suck the life out of me when I focus on the pursuit of "stuff" instead of the pursuit of God.
I think too that I'm realizing more deeply that the God I want to pursue isn't just the God who loves me and is full of grace and mercy. He's the God of the following words:
"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." - Matthew 10:39
"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." - Luke 16:13
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." - Matthew 16:24
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? He will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." - Matthew 25: 31-46
Sound radical? Um, yeah. Is it even possible to live this way? YES. I made a new friend this week who is living radically right here in the U.S. Here's an excerpt from an email she sent me last night:
Most people think I'm a little, "off". I am a complete dork for Christ. I bring strange women home from Africa on a whim, I stop if I get that weird feeling in my gut when I see someone on the street. I minister in bars, I put my family's groceries back on the shelf if I see someone that can't pay at the check out and pay for theirs instead. I pick up hitchhikers because I used to be one, I'll buy a prostitute's time to simply talk because I used to be one.
She embodies why I'm itchy. She's doing what Jesus would be doing if He walked this earth today. She's radically embracing Jesus and the things He calls all of us to. AND SO CAN I. I can tell you that her life is not easy, but it is full. Only Jesus could call us to give our entire lives away in pursuit of Him and the things He cares about and in return give us life to the fullest. I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss out anymore.