As I start off on yet another “radical” (I actually don’t think it is that radical, but plenty of others think so…so I’ll go with it) adventure serving the refugee community in Dallas, I’m yet again faced with the underlying fear that constantly lurks in the background of my always-processing introverted mind: “You’re of little value.”
This fear seems to surface when I’m experiencing something with money, so it would make sense to feel some perceived loss of worth as I’m raising funds for the work of Free City International.
Much of my life has been spent trying to quiet this voice with high achievement in any and all areas of life: academics, sports, health, finances…trying to “prove” to myself that I am valuable to someone, to society, to God.
The problem is, none of these things can actually provide true, lasting worth. If we’re not more than the sum of our achievements…if we’re not more inherently valuable in our “being” rather than our “doing,” then we’re stuck on the roller coaster of highs and lows: self-esteem and shame.
Back to my job. I remember a time in seminary that someone understood my career ambitions as “she wants to help people” (their words). I remember feeling degraded – “helping people” sounds so much less dignified than business executive or lawyer or doctor or professor. “Helping people” is something everyone can do, while the rest of the professionals “earn their keep” through multi-layered degrees, titles, and high salaries.
But the funny thing is, now that I’m actually in the profession of “helping people,” I couldn’t think of a more worthy identity. Sure, I’m of more value in God’s sight than what I do to help people, (PREACH!) but putting that aside, I can think of nothing more worthy of giving my life to.
When I die, if my gravestone reads: “She helped people,” I feel assured that this is the “well done good and faithful servant” I strive for. If this was Jesus’s work while he walked this earth, why would I be tricked into thinking that it is an unworthy ambition?
Friends, I urge you to be faithful in the little things and simply love God and your neighbor. What does it look like to leave your co-worker’s world a bit brighter than before you came? What does it look like to listen deeply to another’s story of pain? What does it look like to make your ambition helping the people that God has put in your path?
I know that may strike most of you as…well…strange. But as soon as I opened them, I was immediately reminded of the tremendous love of our Father this year. Here goes nothing.
Most of you know that 2013 marked our first full year “on support.” David left the fire department at the end of 2013 to support raise full time (for 2 ministry jobs, may I add!) while I continued as a full time graduate student. We were not allowed to withdraw any salary until we got close to 100% of our salary raised. It took us 10 months, and we are still not at our true ‘100%.’ We planned for 5-6 months, worst-case scenario.
7 months in, I got a part-time job…but still have been getting paid less than I ever did (for the same job) prior to seminary. It is not much – let’s put it this way: his W-2 from October – December was the same amount as mine from July – December. We didn’t pull a paycheck for David’s work until October.
In addition to living expenses, we have been paying off my school tuition as we go so we don’t incur any debt from it. And we have had some pretty momentous medical bills along the way.
You guys, our W-2’s were collectively $22,000. I’m pretty sure we were, by America’s standards, below the poverty line. I cannot believe that number.
Yet we never went without, in the truest sense of the word. In fact, I would say we’ve lived abundantly. We never stopped our charitable giving, even when we weren’t getting paid a cent. We have treated to meals and gifts. And minus one car repair that is still being paid off, we are out of debt. I don’t say any of this to boast, except to boast in Our Heavenly Father who is true to His word. We have been transformed by the idea of “seeking first the kingdom of God” and trusting Him for the rest. I wouldn’t run my life any other way. That was our aim, and He delivered abundantly. By all Biblical standards, I would call it a miracle.
I know the details of all this aren’t important, but hopefully they illustrate the magnitude of the God we serve. My prayer is that our testimony of this past year spurs YOU on to step out into the unknown. To seek the opportunity that brings the fullness of joy in His presence. I urge you, seek first the kingdom of God! We have a long way to go to truly doing that in the fullest sense, but God has honored our small steps in that direction. He takes the little courage and trust that we have (that He works in us!) and works miracles. Taste the joy that is waiting for you in His presence, seeing Him work modern day miracles.
Lilies are my favorite flower. David has bought me Stargazer Lilies throughout our relationship, marking significant days such as our engagement, wedding and various birthdays and dates. They remind me of God’s creative and delicate hand forming and fashioning His creation in ways that reflect Him.
Little did I know, in placing a love for lilies in my heart, God has given me a promise for times such as this: a time of growing, stretching, trusting, seeing my need like never before. Lilies, in this season, are becoming a reminder of God’s faithfulness and care.
We are standing face to face with a decision that can easily provoke anxiety in the most courageous person. We are willingly giving up financial “security” (and a car, health insurance, etc. among other things) to follow Jesus. In the West, we hold tightly to the promises we think that money, a “secure” job, a career make to us. This master’s voice is seductive, but it is not trustworthy. After all, you cannot serve two masters: the Lord and money (Matt 6:24). But if I’m honest, money comforts me in times of trouble and helps me to sleep at night.
I’ll admit, it is scary. Now that the time has come to follow through with the decision, second-guessing comes naturally, but we both know that it is what we’re supposed to do to follow in the Lord’s footsteps. So, we will follow Him.
In Matthew 6, Jesus reveals the root of all anxiety: unbelief. He graciously gives many promises to strengthen the believer’s faith. Jesus could simply have said, “You fools, do you not get it by now?” but instead, he graciously approaches His followers by elaborately using promises and metaphors that pointed them back to His character. He knows that we are but dust, He knows that we need His reminders. This book is full of reminders.
“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Soloman in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”
John Piper adds, “Compared to the flowers of the field you are a much higher priority for God, because you will live forever and can thus bring him eternal praise. Nevertheless, God has such an overflow of creative energy and care, he lavishes it on flowers that last only a matter of days. So he will certainly take that same energy and creative skill and use it to care for his children who will last forever.”
So, we throw ourselves at the feet of a faithful, caring and powerful Master. One that doesn’t fail in His promises, one whose voice we can trust. The seduction of His voice lies in His proven faithfulness. We pray with confidence, knowing that our Master knows our needs and cares for us. We pray, More of You and less of me, Your will be done, be glorified, let us worship you.