In A Thousand Words Or Less (Pt. 3)

So I’ve managed to start writing this blog before midnight tonight (yay, improvement!).

Lately the Lord has been impressing upon me the importance of embracing the gifts I’ve been given, and tonight at church I was reminded yet again.

First of all,  it’s easy for me to get caught in a vicious cycle of self-improvement. I spend so much time working on my weaknesses that I exhaust myself because I’m not doing what I love and succeeding. Instead, my energy gets sucked into a void that only feeds the idea that I’m not enough.

This semester, I want to make a change. I want to focus on my gifts and grow them. I want to invest in things that I’m passionate about, instead of trying to become more passionate about things that aren’t necessarily important to me.

Second of all, I need to learn what having a true servant’s heart means. Loving, giving, and serving are a huge part of the Christian faith, and using my gifts to serve others is one of the most satisfying things ever.

But, this Scripture sticks with me, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

In other words, I’ve started to question why I am serving, and who. Yes, I am serving others, but it’s under the headship and direction of Christ. When I get caught up in the principle of self-sacrifice I lose sight of the beauty and purpose of the act of serving others. I’m serving others as a reflection of Christ.

If I start looking at sacrifice as something I’m doing for the good of others, my reward will be their response, or the impact of the service, rather than the act of serving itself as a means of following in Jesus’ footsteps.

I know this is a really slight difference, but it’s the difference between using your gifts and growing and using your gifts and becoming exhausted by them. Humans fail us: their responses and happiness will never be enough to fuel us.

Thirdly (Is that an actual word?) I’ve struggled with a deep fear and shame of my gifts. This also goes along with Galatians 1:10. I automatically assume that, if I’m using my gifts the way the Lord is asking me to, people will enjoy and encourage my gifting (or at least other Christians will). Time after time I have experienced quite the opposite. Not only is learning how to use your gifts confusing, messy, and filled with a lot of mistakes along the way, but it will (eventually) step on peoples’ toes.

Gift of mercy? People will criticize you for being an “enabler.”

Gift of exhortation? People will say you’re too harsh, critical, or (HEAVEN FORBID) judgemental.

Gift of faith? People will say you’re irresponsible and blind.

Gift of underwater basket-weaving? People will say your baskets are ugly.

Okay, obviously the last one is a joke, and of course there are times when we can be the worst of those things, but honestly, our gifts (even gifts of service) are not for the people we are serving. These gifts are not of this world, and as we grow in them they will draw us closer to our Creator and simultaneously cause us to stand out like a sore-thumb.

Do what you love and love what you do, even if no one understands the significance and importance of your actions.

Have a great Monday!

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Chim-Chim-Cheree

As I sit, doing some reading for one of my classes, a song gets stuck in my head, and i automatically open up youtube and play the Mary Poppins Soundtrack.

And what, you might ask, prompted this nostalgic trip into my musical-filled childhood? Ironically, it was a poem by William Blake, and for those of you who haven’t heard it, here it is:

______________________

The Chimney Sweeper

A little black thing among the snow

Crying ‘weep, ‘weep, in notes of woe!

Where are thy father & mother? say?

They are both gone up to the church to pray.

 

Because I was happy upon the heath,

And smil’d among the winter’s snow;

They clothed me in the clothes of death,

And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

 

And because I am happy, & dance &sing,

They think they have done me no injury,

And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King,

Who make up a heaven of our misery.

________________________________

As I finished writing my response to the poem, I realized I had finally gotten to “Chim- Chim-Cheree”, and, as I’m sure you can understand, it wasn’t quite the same as I remembered. As I read and began to understand what exactly a chimney-sweep’s life was like, and that they weren’t a well-choreographed group of young men, but mainly orphaned boys small enough to fit inside the chimneys starting at age 5 or 6, I was suddenly hit with a realization.

In the poem, the author commented several times on the passive attitude the church held, embodied by the nonchalant and cold tone the parents had towards the “little black thing” that was their son. When he was in need, they were “both gone up to the church to pray.” Later on in the poem, the boy says he was also ignored when he seemed to be doing well, “because I am happy, & dance & sing… [they have] gone to praise God & his Priest & King…”

Just like the church was “gone” when these young chimney sweeps were stuck in dangerous and unhealthy child labor, so the church is “gone” in many of the issues we are facing today– and not just the well-known issues like the Syrian refugee crisis.

I have to wonder, what are we missing right now, as we allow ourselves to be distracted by trivial things, and instead fall into the practice of easy/pretty church without actually “doing” church?

Of course, there are plenty of other things to be said of the poem, but I think it’s very telling that the most attention that chimney-sweeps have ever gotten has been through Mary Poppins, and it is nowhere near accurate. As a kid, I knew that it was obviously fictional, and of course the chimney sweeps couldn’t just take the chimney like an elevator up to the roof and have a dance party, but I had no idea that the job of a chimney sweep was less-than-favorable, let alone in many cases fatally dangerous.

How much are we missing?

Just a thought.

 

When God calls you to be Naked and Afraid.

I think America has it flip-flopped.

Abrupt, I know, but I’m diving right in for this one!

One of my most defining characteristics is my independent nature. For years I have accepted compliments concerning my self-sufficient core, and I used that knowledge of myself as a huge part of my foundation. This is not only one of my defining characteristics, but it’s one of America’s as well.

As I’ve been studying this week, I’ve realized that this trait, this ideal, actually does the opposite of what we think it will do. This self-sufficient, independent, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps attitude is suffocating America, and more specifically, the Church.

When Christians become so focused on being examples, so afraid of slipping up, our sights shift from pursuing the Lord to survival mode. Suddenly, we are no longer being continually filled with the Lord’s grace and power, and instead we’re running on battery energy. When we do things on our own, we’re actually doing less than we are empowered to do. Battery energy is great, and obviously we can’t spend every second of the day “plugged-in”, but why in times of low-battery-crisis-mode do Christians forget there’s a charger right there, totally available for our use!

God is literally right there, waiting for us to remember, “Oh, riiiiiight. That whole control thing? Not my job!”

As a side note, “Not my job” has become one of my favorite phrases, and everyone in a position of leadership needs to become better-acquainted with it.

Instead of fearing the Lord’s sovereignty, I’ve found myself thanking Him for it.

Thank you God for being the one who fixes people.

Thank you God for being the original and ultimate source of wisdom.

Thank you God for not expecting me to do Your job.

When the Lord called me to surrender my self-sufficient nature and my independence, I thought I was losing my mind. How could this, out of all of my interesting personality quirks, be something that needed to go?

And then I thought for awhile.

I allow my independence to fill holes that the Lord is desiring to fill:

The absence of my family

Single life

Fear of failure

Fear of rejection

These were all things I never thought I would have issues with, and never did, only because I covered over the holes with my own strength and confidence. And it worked for a very, very long time. But when the Lord called me to a deeper walk, a deeper surrender, it meant stripping that away so He could show me what was underneath, a truer version of myself: A heart deeply dependent and in love with the Lord in ways she never knew possible.

Being independent is great, and I love it, but this new bond I have with the Lord is so much more. I put so much pressure on myself to be me that I never realized the Lord was offering to take that burden in order to reveal a new part of me. He told me it was time to stop being everything for myself, and instead allow myself to be empty and trust Him to fill me.

“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”               – C.S. Lewis

“Never mistake vulnerability for weakness.” -Atticus

And that’s a wrap! I hope the first week of classes have been great for everyone, and I love feedback, so don’t be afraid to comment! 🙂