Saturday, August 9, 2008

What Does My Life Reflect?

A few weeks ago I wrote an email to International Justice Mission -- IJM. The point was to let the founder & CEO know that many years ago I had read his book The Good News About Injustice and that it had stayed with me in a huge way. It was born out of Gary Haugen's time as the director of the United Nations genocide investigation in Rwanda in 1994. (Click here for info about the struggle in Rwanda.) It stuck with me. As a result, when I started sponsoring one of two Compassion International children, I asked that one be from Rwanda.

I heard back from a couple staff at IJM. They thanked me for the email and told me that Gary had another book out in July that I might be interested in. It is called Just Courage. I ordered and picked it up the other night.

It is an unassuming little book. But when I started it last night, I realized that it will likely be all meat. And the meat begins the first page. He writes about reading John Stuart Mill's essay on "On Liberty" as a freshman in college. Here is a bit of what he said:

Writing in 1859, Mill was trying to explain the process by which words lose their meaning, and he casually offered that the best example of this phenomenon was Christians. Christians, he observed, seem to have the amazing ability to say the most wonderful things without actually believing them.

What became more disturbing was his list of things that Christians, like me, actually say -- like, blessed are the poor and humble; it's better to give than receive; judge not, lest you be judged; love your neighbor as yourself, etc. -- and examining one by one, how differently I would live my life if I actually believed such things. As Mill concluded, "The sayings of Christ co-exist passively in their minds, producing hardly any effect beyond what is caused by mere listening to words so amiable and bland."

And that is the jumping off point of the book. Do we live a life that reflects that we believe what Jesus said to be true? If we say that we believe, do our lives reflect it? The challenge is that we often stop short in truly following. We go as far as we feel safe or in control or to where the risks seem manageable.

God calls us to go farther -- to live a life totally dependent on Him. Yes, we are to go to our limits but then we give up and let God take us the rest of the way.

Does my life reflect that I truly believe and will act on what Jesus has called me to. Honestly, there are a couple of times that I can think of that might have that sense of utter dependence on God. But was it? I think of volunteering a number of years ago as a CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocate. I was trained to advocate for a child (or in my case, children) in the child welfare system. It was totally volunteer. We got exactly 40 hours of training on the system, the court process, child development, etc. Then we met with the child, the foster parents, the biological parents, the case worker, the therapist, etc. And we wrote court reports and testified in court.

Yes, this was a good thing to have done. But then I think about what Gary is saying. I look back and think of volunteering 40 hours a month of stress and strain over three years. But, I don't know that at any point it took me to that point beyond myself in total reliance on God. Yes, it was a good thing and reflected God's care for the helpless, but was their more to give? I was a natural observer. At that time I had studied Interpersonal Communication in undergrad. I communicated, perhaps at my best, in written form. But I had also trained with InterVarsity to do dialog teaching -- to think on my feet in the midst of a presentation. So, I kept my head when asked questions by both sides in the courtroom. When did I move beyond my own abilities? Did I?

But Gary is careful to make us realize that it is not just about the big things (or what the world tells us are big things) we attempt for God. It can be in other choices -- caring for aging parents, making ethical choices in a work place, giving when it doesn't feel like we can.

I think of people I've met here in blogland that I think are relying on God in those big ways. There's Lelia raising her granddaughter and trying to plumb the depths of a rebellious teen's heart. There's Nicki facing a young daughter's surgery. There's Renee planning and working toward the adoption of children from Ethiopia. There's Michelle facing the loss of a job. There's Beth who recently went on her first missions trip.

So, the question I am pondering and invite you to ponder is, "What does my life reflect? Does it reflect a sold out belief in my savior or that I find the words on the page of my Bible to be pleasing but not worth losing sleep over?" I hope that my life reflects a sold out belief in Jesus. But sometimes I suspect I live comfortably within my abilities rather than utter dependence. So, with some hesitation because it is likely one of those prayers that will cause an up turn in my life like praying for God to teach patience, I think I will cautiously pray that God show me what it means to live out a sold out belief in Jesus.



Zach Younkin said...

Thank you so very much for your post on Compassion International!

It is also great to see that you have a sponsored child widget in your blog!

I would like to invite you to check my blog to read about my experience with Compassion.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a compelling book. I'm too cheap to buy it new, but I've got it on my "to read" list and will pick it up as a used book. Thanks for the referral!