Have you ever thought you might be a little spoiled?
I have. This morning, as I was talking with the Lord and staring out of my kitchen window, I thought about how easy “American” Christianity is for me. What prompted such thinking? Actually, it came because I was feeling like it’s hard! As I shared in a post last week, I have come up against a bit of fear in my life. And as I stood over my sink, looking up into the sky, I sensed that whisper say to my heart…Vanessa, there are people in places like China who risk their very lives to know me. All you really risk is your pride or rejection from people.
There is a song by Hillsong called “Hosanna.” Check out my favorite part:
Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity
I want to say that is the prayer of my life. And I believe it is, but I sensed this morning that it’s so easy to say “oh, yes Lord break my heart for what breaks yours…use me…everything I am is for you” and not really understand what that means. See, this morning I considered how each step of knowing Jesus, of living for Him, can be scary at times but really I am blessed, we are blessed, beyond measure. Not just with physical provisions but spiritually. I am a part of a church in which I am free to worship God…whether that means head bowed and eyes closed or arms lifted high with tears streaming down. I have the most amazing music and teaching, a vast array of Bible versions, available at my fingertips. Here in America there is a church on every street corner. There are radio and tv stations that air Christian programming. There are Christian bookstores, concerts and conferences. Really we are inundated. Or…spoiled? I don’t sense God is disappointed with me…I sense Him answering that prayer above, actually. Opening my eyes. I don’t think I am spoiled in the “spoiled brat” sense…I think perhaps I am spoiled in the sense of living for Christ being so relatively easy that any discomfort for me seems like a true obstacle to overcome.
Fear…comfort…pride…complacency…my own ability…my lack of ability…selfishness…all things that get in the way of just loving people. Because if I am swimming out a little deeper into the waters of knowing God, it becomes more and more about loving people. As He has truly come to reside in and be the focus of my life I experience healing…in my emotions, the way I think, what I think I “need” from other people to be “happy.” But I realize more and more this happens as He strips me of the things that hinder me from knowing Him. And unless I let Him do that, I won’t experience knowing Him as much as I could…I won’t become all that He intends for me to be. And most certainly His purposes for all of us culminate in reaching out to hurting people so they can taste and know the freedom we have in Jesus. So, what about that stripping stuff? What about that freedom I keep writing about?
Judges 7: 2-5 (the message)
God said to Gideon, “You have too large an army with you. I can’t turn Midian over to them like this– they’ll take all the credit, saying, ‘I did it all myself,’ and forget about me. Make a public announcement: ‘Anyone afraid, anyone who has any qualms at all, may leave Mount Gilead now and go home.’ ” Twenty-two companies headed for home. Ten companies were left. God said to Gideon: “there are still too many. Take them down to the stream and I’ll make a final cut. When I say, ‘This one goes with you,’ he’ll go. When I say, ‘This one doesn’t go,’ he won’t go.” So Gideon took the troops down to the stream.
The situation here is that Gideon was basically a “nobody.” He wasn’t from the best tribe, he wasn’t strong, he had nothing in his own person to recommend him for leading Israel in battle against Midian. Which, of course, made him a prime candidate in God’s economy! Once Gideon finally accepts God’s call on his life, he and his 3,ooo men approach the camp of Midian for battle. The people of Israel had been dominated by Midian and after crying out to God, He called on Gideon to lead them. I believe God chose Gideon because he would know he must rely on God for victory. In The Message translation of Judges chapter 6 Gideon himself questions God’s choosing him and tells God he is the “runt of the litter.” When God wants to do the impossible He uses people who won’t get in the way with their own “qualifications.” And in the verses above God begins to “strip” Gideon and his army from around 3,000 to 300! God tells Gideon if He turns Midian over to the Israelites with their 3,000 men He knows they will take credit and forget about Him. And God knows when we forget Him, when we are so comfortable with our own abilities and our lives, we don’t seek Him. We lose out on knowing Him, on becoming all He made us to be and on reaching out to people around us. When we are comfortable that we can manage our lives on our own we tend to focus on ourselves and gladly take the credit for the goodness in our lives. But He wants so much more for us! In the end, Gideon and his 300 men were victorious over the Midianite army through God’s power!
So, if there is a hunger in my heart to become all God made me to be…if my prayer is for God to open my eyes and let my heart break for what breaks His…that all I am would be for Him…If I want to reach out to others, for my life to impact people with how much Jesus loves them…If I want people to see that God can heal your marriage and your heart…that He can take your past and your wounds and make them your ministry…then there will be a “stripping” that takes place. Why? Because I am so totally human. I am a dearly loved but very ordinary person who could never on my own accord live out this kind of purpose. I had my army of 3,000, my battle plan, for the life I wanted. My strategy included God but it also made room for the possibility of divorce. My strategy called for building walls around my heart so I wouldn’t be hurt by people I loved. My weapons were words, pronouncing judgement and requiring penance. But in God’s sweet mercy, He began to strip me of my army. He began to whittle away at that wall around my heart. He showed me that His love for me could fill me and free me and anchor me. He replaced my battle plan with His plan. Instead of unforgiveness He asked me to freely forgive. Instead of implementing my strategy and deploying the vast army of what were my “rights,” He made cut after cut after cut. And He still does. But in the end what it shows me, unequivocally, is that when there is less of my ability and plan there is so much more room for God to do what only He can do…the impossible.
I am blessed beyond what I can tell you. There are things I want and hope for, there are questions I have in my heart about the future. I don’t live in the clouds and we get grumpy around here like every other family sometimes, but having God strip me of what I thought I could do, my ways of handling my life, has in fact changed my life. It has changed the course of my marriage and family. I live in the miracle of a God-Victory. So much so that I grow more willing to let Him keep stripping me. So much so that my heart is almost aching with a desire to shake off the fear, the spoiled “it should feel easy” mentality I have as a Christian sometimes.
He doesn’t overwhelm me. He understands me. He doesn’t condemn me. He loves me. He doesn’t take all my defenses down at once. He calls them up, one by one. Step by step. A little taste of freedom…a glimpse of what God can do in your life…and He leads you further on. Laid bare before the King of Kings, stripped of the ugly rags we try to manage our battles in, and dressed out in this most spectacular life of purpose.