Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
My post-IF:Gathering days have been strange, hard, and fuzzy. I have yet to sleep completely through the night without being awakened multiply times for no apparent reason. I know God is waking me, but I don't know what to do with this awakening. I think I am little scared of what lies on the other side of obedience and transparency--so I roll over and fall back to sleep. But today, I just couldn't. I woke up and I wrote.
I told a friend in church yesterday when she asked how I was doing, "All I want to do is sleep. Thinking through all that I heard last weekend at IF:Gathering and knowing that I need to live out what I am called to has me secretly wishing I could just crawl under a rock...and sleep, and shut my brain and heart off." But to do so would be to disobey. And my mind and heart also know that option is not the one I want to take either. I believe that part of this desire to just sleep comes from the fact that God pointed something out to me very specifically this weekend--and quite frankly it felt uncomfortable to admit and to deal with.
David Platt posed the question, "When was the last time you cried over your own sin?"
And I wondered, when was that? Have I ever done that? What sins have I committed that are so treacherous they need tears? I just sat there and wondered, would I ever cry over my sins? (For the record, I am not a crier...unless I am trying to speak in front of a crowd of people about important things like Jesus or watching a sad movie--crying over my own life just isn't something I do.). I am certain my sleeplessness had to do with this question and also the challenge Platt called to us: just start with discipling one other person.
After a few days of these thoughts marinating and soaking in, I realized that I was about to cry over my sin, my sin of not seeking the hopeless, not seeking the lonely, not getting out of my comfort zone to choose to pursue a relationship with a person who clearly was on the fringe. A person who needs a friend, but on the surface it appears we would have nothing common. I have not followed the Great Commission, on a personal level, in my own city. I have not attempted to help this person find freedom in Christ. I have taken a little bit of time to consider life from her perspective, but I have done nothing to bring her Jesus. I have done nothing to build her up. I have done nothing to say, "I see you. I see you are hurting. How can I walk along side you in this." And in my pondering and waiting on the Lord what really got me were these questions: What if because of my choices to avoid and ignore, she has walked away from what she was called to? What if her kids are being loved less because I didn't reach out? What if her husband is being loved less because I didn't take the time to be a friend who could listen to her?
That is a big deal. That makes my heart hurt. That makes my eyes water (which for me, is about as dramatic as I get over here.). Like Andy Stanley says in his series "Ask It," Private decision have public consequences...and I was starting to just see how deep those consequences could be.
And then there is the other part of me that CANNOT get over the statistic that 2.8 billion people have not heard the gospel. If Christ comes back tomorrow, the Bible has made it very clearly as to their fate--my heart just sinks at this because sometimes I pray that he would just come back already--because I care so much about my life and getting away from my circumstances. You guys, I just cannot even handle that! My eyes are watering again as I consider that because not enough of us are going and not enough of us are giving to the mission to get the gospel in the hands of all people who have never in their lives heard of Jesus, they are dying without any chance at hope. No chance at all of heaven because no one told them. All while I sing in church, "Jesus is coming soon" as if it is a glorious thing. And it is, for those of us who know we are heading to heaven. But it isn't for those who don't even know there is a heaven or that they can go there.
My mind next jumps to this: if Jesus is going to wait around for all these people to hear the gospel before he returns (The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9), how much more pain and harm will be done in the meantime? How can we get this to move us to action: Jesus died so that all could know the hope of heaven, but what IF he can't come back until all have had the hope brought to them? How does this reality not have us all running with the gospel to those who haven't heard it (next door or around the globe)? If we want Jesus to come back soon, then we need to be bringing the gospel to our neighbor and the ends of the earth.
And I am certain there are thousands of answer to why we don't go, but they all seem so lame. And I am guilty of using some lame reasons for not bringing hope to others. And it makes me sad, numb and angry. It was a struggle yesterday just to sing praise and worship in church because I kept thinking, "Awesome we all love Jesus and praise him and sing these amazing songs of how he is our hope and our salvation, but what about the people who aren't here singing with us? What about the people who have no idea there is hope available for them? What are we doing today, in church, for these people? What am I going to do this week, in my life, for these people? What are we doing to seek out the out and meet the hopeless?"
I don't know. Really, I don't know. But my heart and thoughts are currently a wreck because I keep coming back to these things that were spoken at IF and I wonder if I will have the courage to speak them and live them:
And I toss and I turn and I wonder, "God, are you sure I am prepared for this? Show me what it looks like to sacrificially be your hands and feet in my relationships with others, intentionally. Can I really do your will? Show me how."
And I am brought back to something incredibly powerful that Angie Smith shared, "God will provide for himself the lamb, he said nothing about the ram (Genesis 22): Are your eyes on the thicket or the cross?" The answer to obedience in the calling of all of us to "go into all the world and make disciples"(Matthew 28:18-20) will look a million kinds of different. But all of them will start with looking to the cross. Because we each have a unique place and divinely appointed relationships with people in those places, seeking the hopeless in our unique places requires us to look to the lamb. To look to Christ, asking him to first give us eyes to see those he longs for us to bring hope. And then to look to him again to provide the strength and power to make our lives a living sacrifice to the glory of his name. To follow Christ means to look up to him, instead of looking around to evaluate my actions based on what I see others doing. To see the word of God is meant to point us to God, rather than for us to measure what is in it for me (Rebekah Lyons). I need to be like the woman at the well, "So the woman left the water jar"[John 4]. I don't need my bucket filled by others, he fills me up with living water (Lauren Chandler). I need to believe that there was purpose in the verse I have had written on our chalkboard for the last few months, "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls" (Hebrews 10:39). That I need to look up and trust and move forward in wisdom and power in at least a couple relationships in my life.
But to do so will come at a cost and will require laying things down that aren't needed to accomplish the simple purpose of bringing hope to the hopeless. It will require me to value other's freedom (true freedom in Christ) more than my comfort. It can't be about protecting myself or proving myself, because those will only keep me from freedom myself. As Jennie Allen said, When you have nothing to protect and nothing to prove you will find freedom. And it that is what it take for me to have freedom, that is what I need to learn how to give away to others. And that may require me to walk into another's suffering and as Rebekah Lyons point out with Larissa and Katherine's stories, Suffering forces the need for community: that is what community is designed for...when you enter into someone else's suffering, you see your own suffering differently . Isn't that exactly what Jesus did on the cross--entered into our suffering and took upon himself so that we could have eternal hope? If I am called to live like Jesus lived, his way of life should be more than a metaphor. It should be the way I think, pray and live.
And thus, the sleepless nights. Lord, give me the courage and strength to do what you have called me to do so that I can rest in peace knowing that IN YOU I am able to live out the call to go into all the world and make disciples. Show me what piece of the world you have for me. Give me eyes to see into the eyes of those people (be it 1 or 1,000) you desire to reach through me. Let me run with freedom and strength a race that is marked by a love for all people and gives glory to You. Let me not sleep when I am failing to remember to live out the simple purpose You have for me.
Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: