"Shift your heart and mind as it concerns stewardship. Rather than thinking, What of my stuff should I give back to God? I invite you to think, Everything I own belongs to God." -Eugene Cho, Overrated
There's a paradigm shift happening in me. I'm not going to lie: it sucks sometimes. It sucks what feels like life right out of me. But the truth is, it's sucking the death out of me and bringing me back to life. But it hurts, much like Eustace's dragon skin coming off, it hurts. It pains me when I can't buy my son an ice cream cone, or when I just want to get out of the house but know if I go anywhere it will cost me money. When the selfish thoughts come and say, "You deserve a dishwasher," sometimes I don't silence them right away. Sometimes I listen, and the more I do, the more I breathe death rather than life.
Am I being too dramatic? Too overspiritual? Just stop reading if you think so. Because for me, life is heart, soul, mind, and strength. Which means there's a piece of each of those in all we do, and they all intertwine.
So even my desire for a nicer kitchen can (and is) corrupt. Why? Because I desire it for no other reason than to have a nicer kitchen! Everyone else around me does. So why can't I have one? When you break that down, it sounds like a little toddler tantrum that I'm shouting at my Father about, doesn't it? "We choose sin because we want to be alive," says the executive pastor at my church Teri Furr. Yes, we believe the lie that sin will make us more alive. Look at Eve. Look at the Garden. The temptation was to be more alive. "You will not surely die," the serpent says. But we were born with death in us, and if we don't actively fight that death, we follow it to perdition. "We choose gossip because there's something dead in us," says Teri. Yes, and I choose to compare for the same reason. Instead of thinking this house is beautiful, this house is sufficient, this house is enough as it is. I say, this house is nice, but it has so much potential. Just imagine it with a staircase where that wall is, with a new kitchen, with a dishwasher, with an organized laundry room. Sometimes our imaginations are the prosperity gospel and we don't even realize it. We have to cast down those vain imaginations. It's not that we don't know how to dream; it's that we don't want to align our dreams to His kingdom come. Because that means we have to do what Cho said. We have to start looking at all of our stuff as if it were His. We have to stop seeing it as ours. We have to stop possessing it.
And we must start to see things as tools for His kingdom rather than just things. When you use social media as a tool for a greater purpose (like staying in touch with friends who are far away or promoting a cause, etc.) it can bring more abundance to life. But the moment it stops being a tool and starts being a necessity to life is the moment its grabbed the heart. The same goes for our things. "We all like toys, cards, stuff, and gadgets. I don't want to knock it and say that we can't enjoy life, but at what point do we say, 'Enough is enough'?" says Cho again in Overrated.
God raises the dead in us. Which means he desires us to not be dead. Duh, right? Well, when Teri spoke on this topic last week it sunk in my heart because of the realization that our weak flesh loves death. Our weak flesh loves death. My flesh daily likes to compare my life to others: death. My flesh likes to convince me that what is death is life. My flesh likes to remind me of my accolades and tells me I deserve more than I have: death. My flesh likes to tell me that when I have an issue with someone else to just not talk to them: death. My spirit reminds me that humble conflict can bring restoration, that salvation was gained by nothing I did, that abundant life comes by quickly killing the death in me. My spirit reminds me of Galatians 6:4-5:
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. (MSG)
Isn't it ironic, yes a little too ironic that the missionary wife who lived in a house for over four years with a kitchen that was merely a frig, a stove, a sink, and a table has been struggling the whole time she's been living in her state-side house with her kitchen that has much more than that house had. Yes. Dios mio, enough is enough.
"As Lord over life and Lord over death, God can take our pain and our brokenness and transform it into something beautiful." -Craig Greenfield, Subversive Jesus.
At the end of Greenfield's book, he talks about the famous dry bones story found in Ezekiel 37. "Out of the place of death and destruction, God works a miracle, raising up a mighty army from among the dead and discarded."
Andrew and I have been back in North Carolina for over two years since our time as missionaries in Mexico. I may be repeating myself, but again I say that one of the most consistently difficult things for us has been not having vision. We didn't have a vision when we first went to Mexico, except to go. Then after seven months of what felt like an eternity of whiny middleschoolers and Speedy Gonzalez Spanish speakers that drained us mentally and emotionally, we got the vision for our purpose there. That was February 2010. By November, we had opened our coffee shop ministry, El Buho.
For a long time I've been thinking we haven't had "the" vision since we returned from Mexico. But this past week as I was weeping out to God one morning, I realized that we do have vision, we just need to see past our circumstances to trust that God will merge our vision(s) with the resources needed to live them out on his watch. For a long time I've been staring at our economic circumstances and thinking, "We're never going to get out of this." For a long time I've been speeding down the road where dreams die and visions disappear. For a long time I've been dying. Because if we aren't intentional about living, the earth will intentionally and eventually help us die.
There have been thunderclouds above for a long time. Eventually the skies will break, but even if they don't, my attitude must. So I've decided to stop looking at my circumstantial doom. And I've decided to be one of the violent ones that take the kingdom by force. Yes I have a vision for better economic circumstances, but not for the sole purpose of gaining a dishwasher and a nicer kitchen. It is because there is a desire, even so, a calling within my family to foster, and then adopt, and we cannot do that when we are dependent on the U.S. government. And yes we have a vision for better economic circumstances, but not for the sole purpose of getting off welfare ... but rather for the purpose of opening another coffee shop ministry here where we live. There is nothing new under my thunderclouds, but there is much beyond them; and in order to see beyond, I must stop looking at the fact that I feel like a bent-up, rusty nail with no life left in me. Because if I believe that God can make beautiful things out of the dust, then I must believe that He is an artist who is able to reclaim old, dried up, rusty, dirty things and breathe life into them. The seed must die before it can bring forth life. It's highly likely that my metamorphosis from missionary status to stay-at-home-mom status is exactly the type of transformation I needed to be reminded that my accomplishments amount to rubble, and my death amounts to greatness.
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."