Friday, August 25, 2017

"The Exhaustion of Unsatisfied Desires" + Grace & Kindness

After being in California for two weeks (where I had a fabulous time with our son and his family!), it was good to be in our home church Sunday. I'm loving our church more and more. It's exactly where we need to be right now; there are a number of folks who have already traveled the road we now find ourselves on: transitioning back to life in the U.S., and they've been a huge help as we navigate this portion of the journey. Beyond that, though, is the openness and vulnerability among this body of believers, such a high level of care and love, that is so refreshing and encouraging.

While I was gone, VSF began a new series entitled "God Through A Picket Fence", with different ones taking the pulpit each week, sharing how they see God at this juncture of their personal pilgrimage. This past Sunday Larry Crabb spoke. He and his family were a part of the VSF family when they lived here a number of years ago and the Crabbs have maintained close ties to the church ever since. At 73, and dealing with cancer, how Larry sees God at this particular moment in time is from the perspective of one who expects to meet Him before too much longer.

He discovered the phrase "the exhaustion of unsatisfied desires" in an old book from 1895, written by James Walker, with the catchy title: "The Blessed Dead in Paradise". As he put it, the book appealed to him since he will soon be joining those blessed dead in paradise.

He talked about how each of the Gospels approached Jesus' experience in Gethsemane a little differently, based on their slant: only John (who focused on Jesus as sovereign God) does not write about the turmoil Jesus was in, how he was wrestling with His impending death, while in Matthew 26 Jesus appealed to the Father's power, in Luke 22 to his Father's love and in Mark 14 to the Father's wisdom; that if there was any other way to provide salvation to mankind other than His own death, that the Father would spare Him. Have you ever wondered why Jesus even asked the question, knowing what the answer would be?

Larry said no greater challenge awaits us as we walk the narrow road to life, than to embrace "the exhaustion of unsatisfied desires" without expecting answers and no demand for relief. What I find interesting is that in Luke 22:43 an angel appears to strengthen Jesus; probably because Luke's focus is on Jesus the man, and as a man, he needed to be strengthened for what was about to come. How did the angel go about doing this? It's not clear. Was it something he said or merely his presence? What does this mean for us? How can we go about strengthening others?

One of the things God put on my heart several years ago was to be a 'safe' person, especially for other missionary wives or pastor's wives. It can be a lonely life, where you walk a thin line between ministering to, and being friends with, those in your sphere. It can also be lonely because of competitiveness ("their ministry is so much more successful") or making comparisons ("she's so good at everything and I can't do any of that"). Sad but true, we women especially can let our very human natures create conflict and be hurtful to our sisters in Christ.

How encouraging to see those who are taking a very different approach: to truly be there and support one another, to be encouragers rather than tearing down, to stand firm with rather than turn against other women. I'm appalled at the meanness I see displayed by so many believers on social media and television. Where is the grace?! 

You know what? We are never going to agree 100% with anyone about everything. E-V-E-R! So why get nit picky about things that DO NOT MATTER? Whatever happened to being known by our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ (I John 2:10:11)?

In this age of media saturation and instant communication, I think it's important to be even more thoughtful and intentional about what we say to -- and about -- others. The childhood ditty: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is blatantly untrue. Words do hurt; worse than a physical attack because they linger on and on, and can never be retracted. I loved the powerful illustration adoptive mom Amy Beth Gardner used to help her older daughter, entering middle school last year, understand the power of words. Gardner finished by saying, "Decide tonight that you are going to be a life-giver in middle school. Be known for your gentleness and compassion. Use your life to give life to a world that so desperately needs it. You will never, ever regret choosing kindness."

That should be true not only in middle school but throughout our lives. Looking back at my own regrets, it was always because I wasn't careful with my words. Every.Single.Time. I'll bet it's the same for you, am I right? So how about we work a little harder at choosing kindness? Will we get it right 100% of the time? No. Habits are formed by doing the same thing over and over again. So let's work at responding with kindness. It won't be easy, especially if you -- like me -- have become pretty cynical about other people's motives. But just hang in there! I think it's worth investing a couple months (or longer, if that's what it takes) into retraining our response to be one of kindness.


Mari said...

Wow! That sounds like a wonderful message. I so agree on not being nit picky and arguing about things that really don't matter. And your friends message to her daughter is right on and a good reminder. Thanks so much for this message today!

The Bug said...

What a fabulous message! I am a very snarky person, but also inherently kind (which creates quite a conundrum sometimes - ha!). I just need to remember to let kindness take the lead. Right now I'm really struggling with friends and family from the far left AND the far right because neither group is particularly kind. Lord, make me an instrument of your peace...

rita said...

Wow! Larry Crabb, and to think he's our age!
So so so so fed up with the MANY divisive messages on social media!!!
This morning we read that when gossip ceases so does quarreling.
Anyway, keep writing and spreading light, love and kindness!