Well, I returned from Belem with no decision. What follows is some of where I’ve "been" over the past week or so. Primarily, I returned home with a real desire to walk into this next season with Bets. I have a tendency to become preoccupied with a decision, make the decision, and then look for her to join me. I am realizing the importance of us walking together and "owning" this decision jointly. We’ve had several good, long conversations, sharing our hearts and our fears and hopes, honestly.
I went to various "places" while in Belem, figuratively speaking. My heart was all over the place. I went from, "We’ll go anywhere, because people meeting Jesus is worth any cost, " to "Is any of this really worth the cost?" and "Are we actually doing anything of any real significance?" I can be strong and full of trust at times and so incredibly weak in trust at other times. Paul said he was the most screwed up person in the kingdom and I think that was only because he hadn’t met me. Yet Jesus knows me, every strength and weakness. And He has called me. He wants to use me for His purposes, as I am. It’s difficult for me to reconcile all of what I see inside me. There are so many conflicting motivations and desires. I’m convinced that He’s got it all factored in, but I sure wish I had more to offer Him. I am encouraged by the story of the loaves and the fishes. Jesus took what was available and fed many with just a little. Can it be the same with what I have to offer?
While out driving today, I was struck by several scenes of beauty and several scenes quite ugly, all within just a few moments. The jungle is also this way, with much beauty along with much danger, death and decay. I sensed God say to me that all of creation is this way. Inside me is the same. Why am I surprised to see the ugliness and weakness within me? The self-motivation, the confusion and uncertainty. I was again drawn to the One who loves me so dearly, to simply acknowledge my ugliness and to fix my eyes on Jesus, in whom lies true beauty. The decision will wait for a time. My focus will again be my priority.
I’m also reminded today that in the whole scheme of things, what I do will contribute but a little. And yet, I’m in a position where I GET TO contribute. If only my heart could stay in that place of freedom and light burden. What would He have me do? That is the question. Someone recently wrote in an email that I have been communicating that if we want to contribute well in the kingdom, that we must all become missionaries. If I ever implied this, I was wrong. I don’t think that what we do is nearly as important as going to Him and asking Him how He would have us contribute, wherever He has placed us.
It has also recently been communicated to me that it is entirely for selfish reasons that we are in Brasil and considering this next step. Also, that I am out to earn credit with God, at the expense of my wife and my kids. Selfish, yes, it’s in there, and one battle for me is to not allow self to be the reason for making this or any decision. "Earn credit with God" … I’m grateful that credit with God is completely a nonissue. Jesus settled that issue when He said, "It is finished". At that moment, we had all the credit with God we needed. There was a beautiful exchange. He took what was mine and gave me the "credit" that was His. We can never improve on that. Nothing I ever do will earn me more credit with Him. I HAVE His favor. He IS delighted in me and in you, totally. He loves us COMPLETELY. We have been freed from the need to please Him or earn His favor. He is pleased with us ALREADY. This is the Good News! I really want others, who don’t appreciate this, to know Him. That is my motivation, mixed with all the junk to be sure. The question is how would He have me do this, and where? It does hurt to be so misunderstood, but being challenged is good because the question forces me to reevaluate what motivates me. And what is inside matters far more than where we live and work. "At the expense of my wife and my kids" … this is probably the place of my deepest struggle. And it is here that the issue of trust becomes so weighty. As we relocate to areas of perhaps less comfort, do I trust in Jesus’ care for them? Or do I trust my own perception and understanding for what is best for them based on my American cultural sense of what is normal or good? Do I believe that our family is securely in His hands, no matter where we live? I have found rest in the fact that He loves them far more than I do and that He has promised that He won’t let me, anyone, or anything separate them from His love and care. He cares for each one, individually and profoundly. I think that whether Bets and my kids are loved or "sacrificed" by me has little to do with where we live, but rather has more to do with the priority they have in my life, day to day.
I hope this "journaling" is not burdensome for you for it helps me to process "with" you. I don’t want this to be a personal diary but I do hope that this sharing of my heart will help you to connect with me, where I am. It’s a battle in me for perspective while making a decision that will bring stretching and challenges. A battle to not choose based on things that matter little. I want to choose for kingdom reasons, for others’ benefit, and for Jesus’ pleasure. All that really matters is, "What are you telling me, Jesus?" But the voices of self, comfort, need, and pleasing man all scream loudly, making it difficult to hear the voice of the only One who knows tomorrow and who knows me (and Bets and each of our kids). Thanks so much for walking with us. I know you walk in similar places, so if you have any thoughts or input, please write. I’m reminded that in God’s kingdom, broken people, in a broken world can be to used to bring the Good News of God’s affection and favor to the hearts of broken people who haven’t heard. We all qualify, even you and me!