It started at Christmas-time. One of our pastors emailed a plan to youth leaders, challenging us to read the entire New Testament of the Bible for the month of December. I thought, “That’s a nice idea, we can read about Jesus and try not to get sucked in to the normal American commercialism of Christmas.” I had a lot more than that coming!
As I read through the Gospels, I was reminded from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that Jesus doesn’t want me to live the way I’m living. It’s not okay to go throughout my day like I have been: Wake up early and have a “quiet time” reading through Scripture and praying, live a normal, cushy, suburban life of excess, then end the day with a family Bible reading time and prayer, go to bed, repeat. Kind of living my life, plus a little Jesus tacked on.
Last night I saw myself with startling clarity as I looked at the tabs I had open on my computer: several blogs of missionaries we know, alongside a lighthearted online place that has recipes, decorating ideas, crafts, and more. I suddenly saw that these tabs represented my heart. Don’t get me wrong, surfing for recipes and decorating is really fun, and I don’t have a moral objection to it. But it stirred me to ask myself: How is it that I can cry as I read and be challenged by missionaries sacrificing all their comforts, by believers around the world risking their very lives to follow Jesus, meanwhile the tab next to those indulges my materialism and want for more stuff so I can impress people? What I saw is that I have a heart that is very drawn to material things and temporary pleasures of this world, while it is also drawn to Jesus.
Jesus requires so much more than I have been giving from anyone who would follow Him. I was blown away to be reminded again that Jesus wants this from me:
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Kind of radical. Not the life I have been living.)
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Again, I asked myself, why isn’t this me? Why does it seem that I have been grasping at comfort and safety for dear life?)
The tension that I’m feeling is trying to reconcile the life that I’m currently living with the life that Jesus is clearly calling all of His followers to. Eight years ago, our family felt the certain instruction from God to leave our home, sell everything, and move to Africa as missionaries. This was the most difficult and most wonderful thing I’ve done as a Christian. My white-knuckle death grip onto the stuff that I had accumulated through the years was in direct opposition to my joy and desire to let go of everything and follow God to a land and culture I knew nothing about.
After coming back to the States five years ago, I can’t help but wonder how I have slowly begun to feel more at home. It kind of scares me that I have gotten so comfortable and so okay with living the American dream. The dream that is completely out of line with Jesus’ instruction to anyone who would follow Him. It is a struggle, but I am glad to be feeling the struggle and tension, to feel my heart being tugged by the One who denied Himself, giving everything He had, so that I could live.