One thing I loved about being on the mission field was the feeling that I could BREATHE. Really breathe. We were focused on the major points of life, people need the Lord Jesus Christ. They needed to hear about him, they needed to have the Words of Life brought to them, taught, lived out. They needed to hear that the relentless depression they felt in spite of burning more incense and more offerings was a result of not having true light, the light of Jesus, spread in their heart.
It was all the years God had prepared us with countless Sunday school lessons, good books, faithful instruction…all of it hitting the road. Like shaking up a can of paint, full of different colors, and starting to paint. It makes you alive, your faith working in such an evident way. Seeing God working through you and seeing the paint cover stroke after stroke. And realizing you are nothing but a tool in the Master’s hand.
In a strange way I experience the same thing when teaching really intersects my life in crucial and exhausting struggles with Calvin. I feel alive. I can breathe. It’s like a permission slip to put off form and appearances and to care for only the essentials. I don’t care about how I appear or what people think of me; I thirst like I’ve never thirsted before for Christ. For his consolation, for his nearness. And that’s all that matters.
When we were with other missionaries it was vibrant fellowship. Vibrant in the way that we talked about real things, encouraged each other with the Word…it wasn’t perfect by any means but the Gospel united us in a very real and powerful way. We were united usually only by the Gospel, we all came from very different backgrounds.W
It doesn’t matter how well you’re dressed, who sits where, and how well you’ve got it all together. The truth is we’re a bunch of hurting sinners needing fresh manna. Mom and dads hurting from kids who are only in the bench because they have to be there. Or maybe mom and dads sitting together with piles of tension between them. I see elderly people settling into the bench, needing hope the week in as the twilight sets. Or some just sitting in the bench because that’s what they’ve done all their life.
We find consolation in our forms, customs, the way we’ve always done things. But are we breathing? Are we alive? Or are we just filling our bench because that’s what we do. We listen to the sermon, we act a certain way, say the right thing and then file out. CHECK. Duty done. Order and form have their place. But I’m perplexed, when do order and form hinder the gospel?
Do people look at us and want to join? Are we poor representations of the very Hope we represent? Are we alive? Not only on an individual level but on a church level? Do people see real and authentic faith overflowing in our lives, saturating us with real joy and real sorrow? Do I even have good works flowing out? What does Jesus think of us?
Maybe I need to just go with the flow and not challenge the status quo. Maybe I’m the problem, not the status quo, admittedly very possible. Why do I want I want to get back to the mission field when it’s obvious God has called us here? Why do I struggle with our sub-culture and feel like I don’t fit? Is it a personal problem or a sin issue? I’m struggling these days with such questions.