We get asked a lot, “Does this ever get hard?”
Our thoughts are usually something like, “Yes. Better question is, when does it get easy?”
Driving around the country is not easy. Walking up to strangers is not easy. Loving on people who are satisfied with where they are is so far from easy. At times we think, “Well, eventually it will get easier. We will come up with a system and everything will fall into place...easy.”
Its been a year.
We find ourselves with more questions than answers. The more we learn about the person of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that we are so far from having it all together. So far from knowing it all. So far from encompassing what it means to drop our nets and follow Him. There is still so much wisdom and knowledge to gain...
In our very first blog we talked about our desire to take off in our van and spread the name of Christ. We said we wanted to flip this world upside down with the love of our savior.
We have yet to flip anything upside down.
Everything that has been flipped over or even budged in people’s lives has been done only through God. He has simply invited us to join him...to watch him...to stand in awe of the work that he has been doing for a very very long time...even before our creation.
In “When Helping Hurts,” the author describes it as a “god-complex.” It’s when we feel like we can just burst into people’s lives with all the right tools to help them. We think that if we pour enough of our money, our time, and our other resources into people’s lives then eventually they will be saved...and through it all, we get to feel better about how awesome we are for helping. We left as if we were something superior to the poor and needy. We left with the intentions of teaching them a thing or two....
We are in California now. Many states later. And we can honestly say that we have learned more from these “poor and needy” people than we could have ever have taught them. Its not about walking up to somebody as if we are greater than them...as if we have the ability to fix their problems with our valuable gifts. It is about walking beside them...knowing that we have just as much a need for God as they do...knowing that we are just as dependent upon Jesus as they are. As the saying goes, “Christianity is just one beggar telling another beggar where the bread is.”
Some people think that what we are doing is ineffective. They would say that change is only possible in a person if you stick with them for years. There are so many layers built up around people’s hearts from years of hurt and disappointment...there is no way that 2 random girls could knock them all down in just a few weeks. Then again some would say that standing on a corner and proclaiming the name of God with hell-fire and brimstone is the best way too. The argument is so old...yet so hard to wrestle with after devoting our entire lives to this short-term traveling style.
We met a girl last night who lived in China for 2 years. She poured and poured and poured into these people and saw very little fruit. She said, “The darkness brings with it a sense of hopelessness.” During her last month in China a group from her American home church came to work alongside of her. 4 people got saved! She said she could not believe it. She poured 2 years into the Chinese people and saw nothing...after only a few days of being with them, her church friends led them to Christ.
Maybe there is not a set style of doing this thing. Maybe there is no formula. Maybe if there were, Jesus would have laid it out for us in Scripture. He would have said, “Short-term is better...” or “Long term is better.” Instead he says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” And maybe one is not better than the other.
It would have been very easy for this girl to get frustrated with God...knowing that she poured so much into their lives...and never saw any fruit. Just as sometimes it can get very frustrating for us. It is our American way of thinking that much work should produce much fruit....for the one who did the work. But Paul says, “God gives the growth.” Only God saves. We just get to play a role. And our work is not so that we can gain anything but so that Christ can be made famous (as he so deserves). Sometimes that is planting...sometimes that is watering...sometimes that is spending years doing something...sometimes that is spending a moment doing a good deed. But knowing that God uses the entire body and all of its uses for his much bigger purpose. It is not our place to say what is better. It is simply our job to be obedient to what God has called us each individually to do...trusting that our individual role will ultimately play a picture in the big scene. “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” We rejoice in what God does through each part of the body...not comparing ourselves to one another...why should the ear say, “Well, Crap, I’m not a foot?” Why should the person that God has called to stay say, “Why can’t I be the one who goes?” Why should the person that is going say, “The one who stays sees more fruit?” We produce the fruit together. No one person does anything...”Lest any man should boast.”
See, God used both the long term missionary in China and the short term people to accomplish his goal. He plans it all out perfectly. It is him who does the work....we stand in awe.
Does it get hard when we see little fruit? Yes. Does it get frustrating to trust that God has people both before and after us? Often. Does it bring us greater joy than anything this world has ever offered us....by far. by far. This is why Paul considered it pure joy to face trials...because he knew that in the end he would know that much more about God’s patient, enduring, loving character. No, it doesn’t get easy...but it remains fulfilling.