Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crazy Love: Your Best Life. . . Later

To all my regular readers: today I’m posting a chapter review for the Bloom book club, focusing on chapter seven of Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. If you haven’t picked up this book yet, I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s easy to read and brings so much of life into focus… this review should give you a taste of what it’s about.

To all who are coming here for the first time: Welcome! :) I was so thrilled when Jess and Angie asked me to do this, and hope that sharing a bit of my life experience with you all will help in some way as you read the chapter. I feel so blessed and honored to have been asked to participate.


crazy love

By now you’ve probably realized you have a distinct choice to make: just let life happen, which is tantamount to serving God your leftovers, or actively run toward Christ.”                              ~ Francis Chan

Yep, Chan pretty much had me from the first sentence of this chapter. A few sentences later, he had me nodding my head at this:

Do you understand that it’s impossible to please God in any way other than wholehearted surrender?

It was a perfect way to hook us into a chapter that, in my opinion, gives us an excellent guidebook to being God’s servant … a lesson in living with the intentional view that our lives really aren’t about us at all. This is a lesson I learned not by choice, but by circumstances that have gradually led me to a place where I can’t imagine wanting anything other than the opportunity to serve Him.

When I was in my early college years, I was one of the most active, social people you could meet. I was working two jobs, tutoring some athletes in English, was involved in my church by leading music, lectoring, doing liturgy planning and leading retreats. I worked out every morning and usually had something social going on with friends nearly every night.

Oh, and I managed to study a little, too. [That sentence was for my parents, to put their minds at ease. :) ]

I was a good kid, didn’t get into trouble, did my best to be there for others and loved God. I was serving Him in many capacities in and out of the church, but in truth I was serving Him as *I* saw fit. I talked to Him and celebrated Him, but I never really slowed down long enough to listen. To find out what He needed from me, rather than what I was wanting to give Him.

And then I lost everything.

Over the course of the past 15 years, I have lost almost every gift I had to give. I have a disease that gradually took away my physical choices to the point where I am today: in constant physical pain, often sick, walking with a walker and completely homebound. Not only am I confined to my home, I can’t even open a window and have had to install a system to purify the air in my home so I can breathe. I’m basically the “Girl in the Condo” version of the “Boy in the Bubble.” :)

God had blessed me with so many gifts and talents, I couldn’t imagine there was a point to me being like this. I couldn’t believe there would be a way for me to still serve Him, or anyone else, while isolated and stripped of almost everything that made me, “me.”

But like Chan pointed out on page 114, people in the Bible who wholeheartedly followed God “were far from perfect, yet they had faith in a God who was able to come through in seemingly dire situations.” I always believed I had that faith… but mine was a faith of conditions. I had faith He would take care of me, but I assumed that meant I would be cared for with good health. I had faith that I would prosper, and assumed that meant my career would follow a good path. I had faith that He wanted the best for me, and assumed that meant my life would unfold in a way I envisioned.

But as the years progressed and I lost more and more of what I thought defined me, as I found myself in the hospital, unemployed and on disability, I realized that being a servant meant all or nothing. A line was drawn in the sand and I had to choose my fear, or I had to choose to completely trust Him. It had to be an all or nothing choice because one cannot exist if the other is true.

I chose to trust, and I’ve never looked back. I can be tired, I can be frustrated by my circumstances and exhausted from the pain, but I am never fearful of what is to come because I know that He is in control. I have faith that He will take care of me, and He has given me fortitude and peace in my heart as I face the challenges my body inflicts on me. I have faith that I will prosper, and I have been blessed with plentiful friends who walk this journey with me. I have faith that He wants the best for me, and He shows me that daily by using my life in ways that serve others… being there in small ways I would never have been able to if my life had unfolded the way I envisioned… and also by letting others serve me. That’s something I resisted my entire life, but now see that sometimes others need to feel the blessing of helping someone else, and I have to surrender my stubborn pride and be the helped.

Chan spoke on page 122 about the man who, when under financial strain, tithed more instead of less… and then was rewarded in his faithfulness. What I’ve come to realize in wholehearted surrender is that we are sometimes rewarded in ways we can overlook. We assume if we tithe more, our wealth will be blessed in the form of money. But it could be that our wealth is blessed in the form of security in our relationships, or in the form of peace in our hearts with the knowledge we have done right for right’s sake.

What I’ve come to learn, and what Chan expresses, is that to trust Him we must surrender everything… sometimes without knowing where we are going. “God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”

I can only tell you of my experience, but my life is filled with not knowing. I don’t know from one moment to the next how much pain I will be in, if I’ll be able to breathe or walk. I don’t know if I’ll have a migraine or be unable to type with my fingers. I never know where I am going, and I have never felt less in control in my entire life. And it is true freedom. I trust that He has it under control, and my job is to be open enough to walk where He leads… to not be distracted and miss the opportunity to be a servant to Him through the circumstances in my life.

Even Jesus came to Earth taking the nature of a servant, which begs the question: If Jesus was a servant, if he lost everything to come to Earth in the form of a baby who had nothing more than love to give, why would I assume to deserve more?

[Don’t forget about the great discussions always going on at the Ning site!]

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