|Serving food to a community of migrant workers in Ciudad Juarez. (2008)|
As of today, both our visas have been approved. We expect them to arrive by tomorrow which will allow us to fly out as early as this coming Monday. But lately as we’ve been saying our goodbyes, I’ve been noticing the impact we’ve had on those around us. Everyone from the kid at our favorite coffee shop to the cashier at our local pharmacy has been in some way impacted by us.
It really hit me this morning when Michael and I received a thank you from one of the gals in our old leasing office. Before we broke our lease the assistant manager was adamant that we should see her one last time to say our goodbyes, but when we turned in our keys she had already gone for the day. So I left a little note, sharing how much we enjoyed living there and what a pleasure it’s been to know her. I wrote some contact information and set it on her desk. After we got back to our hotel, I went to their corporate website and left some positive feedback sharing how amazing the staff had been and we felt they should be recognized for their stellar service.
So this morning, when I read the response from her I was totally touched by it. It was incredibly personal and sweet. She thanked us for the feedback we sent to their corporate office and made it a point to say: “It really made my day and believe me, the feeling is mutual.” I suddenly had this moment where I realized how easily our life can have impact on someone else when we’re intentional about loving as we go.
Rivers, Dams, and Crash Diet Christianity
One unfortunate and natural consequence of the the church being institutionalized is that we compartmentalize our spiritual life from our “worldly” life. It’s kind of like crash dieting in that we set aside a fixed time period for intense, highly spiritualized ministry – but as soon as we’re done we go back to our normal routine and eventually put back on all those “pounds” (read: sin) we tried so hard to loose. But Jesus says in Luke that: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Being a disciple of Jesus means we live in a perpetual state of freely receiving love from the Father and freely sharing that love with others.
In John 7:38 Jesus describes this free-flowing lifestyle as having “rivers of living water.” Any river that gets dammed up automatically means it is not flowing freely. In fact, damming up a powerful river at designated intervals can be disastrous for the land that follows it’s course. Jesus then says in Matthew 6:24 that: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” So it is not only unnecessary to categorize our lives into neat boxes of “secular” and “religious”, but Jesus says it’s actually impossible for us to do that!
In the same ways that crash dieting is too extreme to be sustainable long-term, and damming up a strong river brings extremes of deluge or drought; compartmentalizing our walk with Jesus brings reoccuring “spiritual” highs and lows that stunt growth and can eventually lead to burn out.
A Recovering To-Do Lister
Michael and I pay bills, get coffee, check our mail, go out to eat, and shop for last-minute gifts just like anyone else. The only thing we may do differently is that we make certain allowances in our time because we put building a relationship above task completion. We go into all situations assuming we can make a friend and we value a lasting friendship more than a forty-minute dinner at Cheesecake Factory.
And all this is coming from yours truly, who by nature, is an extremely task-oriented individual! It isn’t easy for me to allow wiggle room when I’m in “the zone”. I view most relationships as an assignment to accomplish rather than a gift to enjoy. It sounds so mechanical and cold, but that’s just how my brain works! Of course I enjoy good conversation. It just needs to be scheduled and on my to-do list. It’s truly not my natural inclination to just go with the flow and allow for that unexpected chit-chat at the gas pump when I’ve got places to go and things to do!
But over time I’ve learned how to be more intentional in that area and I’ve allowed Jesus to shift my priorities around. On Jesus’ way to raise Lazarus from the dead (which by the way, Lazarus was someone he dearly loved and cared for) he took the time to “minister” to a women who had been bleeding for twelve years. Jesus was never too task-focused for a relationship-building opportunity. Can you imagine if Jesus had said to that woman, “Sorry, Friday night is when I do outreach, if you want to be healed of your ailment, come to me then.” If Jesus is the exact representation of God, and he made himself so available as to heal a woman (who by the way was acting unlawfully by touching a rabbi while being ceremonially unclean due to her bleeding) while on his way to raise his friend from death; what then does that say about our Heavenly Father?
God commands in Leviticus 6:13 that “Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.” The temple was a shadow of God grandeur design, but the symbolism here is so rich. God’s love, forgiveness, salvation, mercy, grace, goodness… All of who He is is always available to us. Always. And there is nothing you or I or anyone else can do to remove our High Priest (who is Jesus) from His temple (which is us)! He is always near to us and He will never stop loving us: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rm 38-39)
The God Who Made His Dwelling Place With Man
Traveling musicians in the Old Market
district of Omaha, Nebraska.
God designed us for Him, to have impact for Him, and to love with His big strong love. Our favorite response when someone asks us how we’ve been is to say, “Busy!” We’re simply “too busy” to get to know these people that we run in to day after day after day. They shouldn’t be a stranger to us, but since we believe that there are special times for taking interest in other people’s lives, we never think outside the box and reach out. We miss out on these incredible opportunities to connect and share the love of God.
That one human being that we don’t notice is the same one that God is completely and totally fixed upon. He is watching their every move. He’s in love. His heart is captivated by them. And His love for them is inside of our hearts too, if He is in fact dwelling in us. Let’s not dam up the “rivers of living water” that flow from the heart of God and though our hearts. And let’s also not preform a hyper-drive crash diet love that really only comes from our own limited efforts and cannot be sustained. Instead let’s just allow Jesus to live through us and give Him freedom to take genuine interest in the clerk at the pharmacy or the high school student at the coffee shop.
Jesus is enough. Every day, He is enough. Because of Him and through Him and for Him, we can have impact.