Saturday, July 21, 2018

Up From The Grave He Rose Again

Continuing with the challenge of speaking more deeply about my life, I want to share two lessons I've learned from my most recent adopted dog, Rachel. She was picked up off the street and probably came from an abusive home before, and she's been very slow to open up to anyone except me. She often shows her fear through growling and barking. She has less control of her bladder than my other dog, Penny, and is just an overall more needy and difficult dog. And all these things pile up, so sometimes I'm tempted to give her back. But I'm reminded that I made a commitment to take care of her, and that adopting her wasn't supposed to be for me, but for her. And that's the first lesson: it's not about me. Sometimes in ministry I'm tempted to drop a relationship because I'm not enjoying it, I'm not getting anything out of it, or this student is just a drain on my time and energy. But then I'm reminded that Jesus didn't enter into relationships to get anything out of it, but to give, and give without expectation of return. I'm sure that many of you have experienced that with your children: giving, giving, giving without much return. There's definitely lots of joy in there, and moments of excitement, but the relationship is not about how much your child can give back to you, because it's not about you. If we can go into relationships with the mindset of Christ: "honoring one another above yourselves" then we don't need to be worried or frustrated when we don't get anything in return. And if we go into relationships without expectation, then God will consistently surprise us with how he provides: close friends, life-giving friends that you never expected, energy-draining friends who become some of your greatest encouragers. He'll take care of our needs much better than we can, we just need to trust him. Which brings me to the second lesson: we need to trust that he'll take care of us. 

Rachel sleeping in her spot
Now I've only had Rachel for two months. Sometimes it feels like I've had her for a long time, but on the whole I really haven't. But with all her barking and disobedience, I finally had enough and had a dog trainer come and teach me how to teach Rachel to not bark anymore. But what he had me do was not anything that explicitly had to do with the barking, but rather to establish rules and trust in this relationship. He said that Rachel barks and has fear because she doesn't trust someone else to protect her. But by establishing rules, and making sure that she understands that she has to listen to me, I show her that I can be trusted to protect her, that when she listens to me she's better off for it, and that everything within my house is under my control. Nothing happens without my say-so. And through that I can then address the barking when I've established a trust relationship that I not only can protect her, I'm willing to protect her. It reminds me of two stories of Jesus: Mark 9 and Luke 5. In Mark 9, a man with a demon-possessed son says to Jesus, "'If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.'" and Jesus responds to him, "'If you can?'...'Everything is possible for one who believes .'" and the boy's father replies, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" And in Luke 5 a leper comes to Jesus asking to be healed and he prefaces it by saying, 'If you are willing..." These are the two things I'm trying to communicate to Rachel, that I can protect her and that I will protect her. 

With college roommate, Kash, for our annual date night
And that's why the second lesson is remembering that he'll take care of us. God has to remind us so many times that he's got it: that he can be trusted, that we're better off when we listen to him, and that everything in this universe is under his control. But so many of us, Christians and non-Christians alike of thinking that God is a judgmental God, a wrathful God, an aloof God. But if we believe that Jesus is the perfect representation of God, that the "mystery of God" is revealed through him, then what he is like is what we should believe God is like. We must remember that God is able to do things like transform lives, calm anxieties and overcome depression, to replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. And that God is willing to do all those things for us. That God is not high and mighty, but a God who stepped down into this world because he loved us so much. That he not only can heal your wounds, but wants to. That he's not sitting in his tower waiting for you to fess up to your mistakes and come home tail tucked between your legs, but he's running to you the moment he sees your face. That's our God. One who is able and willing to live and walk alongside us. 

With my favorite little buddy, Lauren
And I'm only able to realize these things because of your support in my mission here. Thank you all so much for supporting me. It has been a very fulfilling and amazing experience to work full-time for FOCUS and help build God's kingdom here in DFW. There's so much planning and changes coming up for the next school year, and I'll tell you all more about it when we get there! It's only because of your generosity that I get to do this, and I am so grateful to all of you for your financial gifts and your prayers. You all mean so much to me, and I hope that you know that you are a part of what we're doing out here no matter where in the US or the world you may be.