Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sacrifice & Fullness of Joy

I have long elevated the sacrifice of missionaries and I have long wanted to be one. I actually wanted the dirty, the poor and the harder way. I have tasted it in small sums and my heart overflowed with the emotion of feeling like “This! This is what we were created for. This is was I was created for!” I do not doubt this truth yet God is opening my eyes to the different ways He asks different hearts to sacrifice. In an attempt to make God’s will more easily understood, I have long reduced God’s will for my own life to His collective will for His people - to make disciples of all nations. To share the love of Christ with those who have not yet heard His name: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus - the only hope for salvation. This call IS God’s will for me and I am confident of that. But my finite mind has pictured it so small - in a single package, in a certain life that if not carried out precisely as I’ve imagined it so (or others have projected), I’d somehow be missing God’s will and living in disobedience. My heart longs to live in a foreign land, away from the America I often disdain, with beautiful people who live and love despite poverty unimagined in the Western world - this picture is where I long to thrive. 

I thought that this picture would be my sacrifice - sacrifice of home, family, country, native language and native worldview. True, these things would be still my sacrifice but in my heart, they would be my JOY. These days I have come to recognize the illuminating truth that my life here and now, this is my sacrifice.  Why? Because everything inside of me cries, “Father, if there is another way, let it be. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” I have questioned over and over that if my desire is to go preach the gospel on a foreign mission field, then why am I stuck here? Isn’t that a worthy desire, Lord? A longing YOU placed in my bones? 

As I had no idea how to confront or answer these questions, I found myself wanting to reject this life that the hand of God has built for me. Yes, my choices led me here, but He paved for the way and I have had to repent as I have forgotten these truths in my darkest of days - failing to be grateful. In this life, our life, we have recently received confirmation after confirmation that we are where God wants us. This is a big pill for my stubborn heart to swallow because I have not wanted it...I have not wanted it in comparison to life I think I want, which has always been the life I thought God wanted for me too.  Full time ministry in the church, the Western church, has been more difficult and painful than I could have ever imagined, as I’ve described some in my last post: Revelations & Words of Honey . This reality - the sincere and harsh disappointment that ministry was worse than I expected - only made the staying all the more difficult. I thought this was the easy the route. I thought that God was preparing us for something harder and even “greater” still - this was where He was easing us into full time service for Him - among believers in our own culture, where it is “easy.” 

Going to the field would not be my sacrifice as it would be for others...maybe as it even would be for my for now, staying is my sacrifice. Accepting this life with gratitude and trusting is my sacrifice. Continuing to hope and look for daily opportunities to engage in the mission of God in my current context, this is my sacrifice. Allowing God to dismantle and transform my perspective regarding what it means to carry out His mission, yes, this is my sacrifice. Then, as it all collides, these sacrifices in the life I live today do become joy! They become my joy as the Spirit whispers a gentle reminder: 

“You make known to me the path of life; 
in your presence there is fullness of joy; 
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” 
Psalm 16:11 

No matter where I live, at times more sacrificially than others, I live in the presence of God where there is fullness of joy. 

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