Why am I so much more concerned about God taking care of me than I am about being broken bread and poured out wine? After being on the mission field (leaving it all, right?) for some time now, I have seen great evidences of God’s love and personal care in my life. Case in point: I am home with my Gram right now – an answer to the prayers of three generations of Christ-lovers that couldn’t have been planned better had I tried. And I didn’t. Grammy, when she saw me, said that I was an answer to her prayers - she has been going through a very hard time, withdrawing from sleeping medication, very anxious and in a dark joyless place. Five days ago, my other Grandma died, so Mom is in Wyoming with my Dad (where she belongs) for his mother’s funeral, and the only way that she could be there is if I were here, with Grammy around the clock. And I am. I, for my part, was desperate to come home, aching for the familiarity and unconditional love of my parents, and every time I prayed, wanting to escape the futility and easily-resistible effort of getting a Peruvian visa, I heard a small voice say “go home.” Home didn’t seem like it should be an option, but when I found the $383 base fare, Lima – Boston, round-trip, it suddenly became one. So here I am, amazed by God’s love and care in my life, my Mom’s life and my Gram’s life all at the same time.
Yet as I was reading Yancey’s book “The Jesus I Never Knew” yesterday, and even Edward’s “The Divine Romance,” their thoughts confirmed some of mine that have been niggling at my mind for over the last year: it strikes me that our goal isn’t just to be loved by God – it is to love God back, passionately and with abandon. Christ’s purpose in coming was not just to save us and make us happy, wealthy and wise. It would seem that when he left , he intended it to be a multiplication process: we are to be his very body here on this earth, to be “Jesus” in so many more places than he could be were he here in person still. If His heart was to listen to the Father in everything, to heal the sick, to love the poor, to reach out to the oppressed and downtrodden, to set the captives free, to lay his life down each day for others, to show the principalities and powers of this world, the traditions of men for the self-interested (and even violent) bullies that they are … then should not our heart beat to do the very same? To have Christ himself made manifest in our very bodies, words heart and actions? It would seem that His kingdom is not one based on politics, programs or ritualistic duties, but rather an up-side down, subversive kind of living where individuals are loved regardless of their past, truth is spoken without weighing the consequences to yourself and everyone is treated with respect, forgiveness and grace – even as they crucify you.
After five years on the “mission field,” I have seen Christ represented well, and represented poorly by those around me. I have seen brothers snubbed by brothers, sisters hurt and even abused by those who would call themselves “spiritual authorities.” I have also seen the poor housed, the sick healed and brothers and sisters walking in freedom they didn’t think possible. I have been lied to and slandered some of the time. I have also learned (some of the time)to proclaim the Truth to myself and walk in forgiveness. I have been sick, exhausted, out of a home and lived out of a backpack for long stretches of time. But never have I lacked a place to lay my head, food on a table, or clothes on my back – not even money in the bank. When confronted with un-grace and downright destructive actions around me, I have been told to take a break, to treat myself, to seek times of refreshing. I have been told to insist on my rights, and make my needs known… but if Christ is to be formed in me, and my hope is to be more like Him, then I have to admit that nowhere in the gospels do I see Jesus choosing himself over others. Even when he tried to retreat and people followed, he still loved them first. I guess I’m having a hard time with the seeming contradictions between the advice to “lose your life in order to gain everything,” to “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow…” and “withhold from serving them, because they don’t deserve it,” or “don’t let people walk all over you.” It also seems painfully clear to me that if we took better care of one another, we wouldn’t have to take such painstaking care of ourselves. May God have mercy on us all.
So, here I am, in beautiful Maine with only two days left to breathe the fresh piney air, hear the breeze rustle through the autumn-hued leaves, take hot showers, put my clothes in a washing machine, hear the sweet hum of non-blood-sucking insects outside… and see my family face to face that I love oh-so-very-very-dearly. God knew that I (and my Gram, and my mom and Dad) needed this, and He (only He!) provided. On Thursday morning at 6am I leave Boston airport to head back south, toward breathtaking combinations of humidity and heat, needs that I can’t meet both financially and emotionally, long days and short nights. Back to brown children whom I love, back to towering skies and starry nights. Back to an aching hunger for community, and great feelings of inadequacy. I am left without answers to so many of my questions, but I do know that God is always faithful. It is my heart’s cry that I will learn to love Him, to love others just as He loves (though I am petty) and loves (though I am whiny) and keeps on loving (though I am broken) …me. May we all be able to receive that in-exhaustible, unconditional and incomparable love of His for us today.