One of the things that I have been noticing is how difficult it can be for parent’s to figure out what it looks like to be on mission – especially with little ones. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Sheena Kramer – a CVC Missionary in Mexico. She shared a story with me and I asked her to write it down. Given the challenge from this pas week’s message, Sheena felt led that this is the time to share it with you all.
Have you ever been there? Sitting in church listening to a sermon, listening about how we are to be on mission. The pastor is begging us to go. Go talk to your neighbors. Go talk to your colleges. Go sign up for a mission’s trip. Go give relief where relief is needed. Go give money. Give of your time, talent, and treasure.
But have you ever just felt slightly overwhelmed (or really overwhelmed) with the weight of it all? Have you ever felt overcome by the amount of need there is? Have you ever felt like the responsibilities that you already have are overtaking your every last minute and every last sliver of energy? Have you ever felt guilty about not doing enough? Have you ever thought, how could I possibly add one more thing to my already full plate — ok let’s be honest — overflowing plate? Have you ever thought, I could never serve like him, or serve like her. Or have you ever just not known where to start?
I remember a time when I felt this way. It was 2011. I remember the exact year because I had just given birth to my son. My daughter was three years old and my husband had just started a new job after not working for three years to get his master’s degree. Because of the new job and because of the amount of student loans we were indebted to, he wasn’t able to take quite as much time off from work to help with the new baby. This baby demanded to be fed every hour. So I was awake every hour. And to add an extra special challenge, the week after my son was born we discovered that our apartment was infested with fleas. This is just a sampling of what was going on in my life at that time.
We went to church on Sunday, and I honestly don’t remember the topic of the sermon, but it had something to do with missions and serving. I remember coming back to the apartment, sitting on the couch thinking about my life and its demands and the season I was in. I remember sitting there feeding my infant son and just praying. I remember saying to the Lord, “God, you know all. You know my life right now, you know I have a three year old and a newborn. You know we really don’t have any extra money. You know that I can’t really go anywhere.” And I asked, “God, if there is something you would want me to do, please just let me know. Please just make it obviously clear what I can do for you.”
It was a very simple prayer.
Do you know what happened? Just two days later I got a note in my mailbox. It was a piece of college ruled notebook paper folded up. I wish I would have kept it. It was a note from my neighbor in an apartment just like ours. She and her husband were struggling to make ends meet. They were both working full time to support themselves and five children. The youngest was in Kindergarten and they were desperate. They had lost their voucher for daycare. My neighbor said in her note that she noticed that I was home every day with my kids and asked me if I would consider taking care of her son on the Kindergarten off days (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and putting the two youngest kids on the bus in the mornings and getting them off the bus in the afternoons.
I was stunned.
I asked the Lord, “Is this how I can serve you right now? Is this the thing you want me to do?” I showed the letter to my husband and talked with him about it. We didn’t even really know this family very well at all. In retrospect, it was quite obvious that yes, this was the answer. Yes, this was the answer to my simple prayer. I prayed again, and asked God if this was my answer. And although I didn’t hear an audible ‘yes’ from him, I knew in my spirit that this was it. So I took a step in obedience and in faith and said, YES, to this family.
And you know what? Not only did God use me to meet a need, but I was able to have a relationship with ALL of the kids. Not only was I serving God, but he arranged that these kids were to be a blessing to my own children’s lives. All of the sudden my son and daughter were blessed with more children to play with, learn with, and grow with.
Was it always easy? No. Did I always have the best attitude about trekking out to the bus stop in the snow when I otherwise didn’t have to? No. Was I excited about preparing extra meals, dealing out extra discipline, and cleaning the couch when someone had an accident while napping? No. I didn’t do this assignment perfectly. But I loved those kids liked God asked me. In this particular season God wasn’t calling me to go, he was calling me to stay. But I would have never known that if I hadn’t asked. I may have missed the blessing if I would have tried to create time in my schedule to go serve in the way my human mind thought I should go and serve. I may even have even harmed my kids in the process of trying to seek a ministry that would ease my guilty conscious about not doing enough.
Does it always work like that? Pray one day, and God drops a long term assignment into your lap two days later? No, it doesn’t always work like that. But the Lord has made promises to us. He says to ask anything according to His will and He will hear us. (1 John 5:15). We know that God’s will is for His people to go out and make disciples; so if we ask for instructions on how to go about doing that in our own personal lives, He will hear.
As dearly loved children, God has called us to serve him, follow Him, love Him and one another, and share the Good News. (Ephesians 5:1) However, he doesn’t have a cookie cutter way that we must do it. He has individual plans and assignments for us in every season of life that we are in, and he has created them in advance! (Ephesians 2:10) Each person is to have a personal relationship with the Father, and so his/her assignment is also going to be personal. (Ephesians 5:10)
If my two children came up to me and said, “Mom, Is there anything that we can do for you?” I would be thrilled. I may say to my son, please, can you GO across the street and take some of these cookies to our neighbor? Let’s say he does it. Obedience. Let’s say I said to my daughter, can you please stay here and clean up all the dirty dishes? Let’s say she does it. Who is being more obedient? Was my son being more obedient because I asked him to go? No. Was my daughter being less obedient because I asked her to stay? No. They both did what I asked them to do.
The bible says that the church is the body of Christ and it has many members. (Romans 12:6-8) Therefore we all have a different function. I think sometimes we get confused and look at other parts of the body and think we need to be more like them. Some parts of the body are photographed more easily than others and we get tricked into thinking that we need to be more like that mouth or that foot or that hand that we see on Facebook or Instagram.
I think that one scheme of the enemy (Satan) is to whisper in our ear that if we are not a mouth, a hand, or a foot, somehow we are less than. (I actually believed this lie for quite some time; but that’s another blog post.) The TRUTH is that we are ALL needed in a vital way. (1 Corinthians 21) The church (the body) needs those less photographed lungs, kidneys and livers to do what God created them to do. Let’s combat those lies with the truth. The truth is that each and every one of us needs to first pray to the HEAD of the church and ask for our daily instructions. Without the Holy Spirit we can do nothing. We need to ask what HE would have us to do in service to Him and then do it with all of our hearts. (Colossians 3:23)
Don’t get me wrong if you are a mouth; please keep preaching in obedience to the Lord. If you are a foot, keep walking in obedience to the Lord. If you are a hand, keep doing what it is that the Lord has asked you to do. You are vital to the body!
After much prayer and listening, my husband and I determined that God was calling us to serve through Mexico Medical Missions in the Sierra Tarahumara in 2014. Inquiring minds often want to know what I am doing to contribute to this ministry. What do you do? Are you medical too? Do you stand next to my Eric in the operating room and assist? These are valid questions. But the truth is, that I am NOT side by side with my husband in the hospital. My job actually isn’t a whole lot different than it is in the United States. I am a wife and a mom. I cook dinner, I do the laundry, I clean. I take my kids to school, I bring them home again. I have two children that as far as I know are not yet Christians. I have been charged with bringing them up and disciplining them in the Lord first and foremost – but in a different country. Is my husband more obedient to the great commission because he goes out and shares the gospel with a cartel member that just ‘accidentally’ shot himself in the foot? No. We are both being obedient to the Lord with the personal assignment he has given each of us.
Obedience to God is an ongoing, every day, knees on the ground, (1 Thessalonians 5:17), learning to ask, and learning to listen process. We won’t always get it right every day. We stumble, we fall down, we miss opportunities, we say yes to things we should have said no to, we say no to the thing we should have said yes to. Praise the Lord of all grace and mercy that he can even use our mistakes and failures for good through his glorious might. (Romans 8:28)
But may I offer a little bit of encouragement? If you don’t know what part of the body you are, ask God. If you don’t know what your function is, ask God. If you don’t know what the Lord is calling you to do in this season, ask God. If you feel overwhelmed and can’t not even fathom how you are going to fit one more thing on your loaded plate, ask God. (Colossians 4:2, Ephesians 6:18, Romans 12:12) He knows your plate. Then read his Word and listen expectantly. He will answer.
Sometimes God will ask you to do things that do not make sense in our human wisdom. Sometimes he will ask you to do things that are uncomfortable. Sometimes he will ask you to do things that are inconvenient. This is illustrated beautifully in Luke chapter 5. It’s here that Jesus asks Simon Peter to go back into the deep water and lower his nets for a haul of fish. Peter answered that they had already worked really hard all night and caught nothing; and they were really tired. “BUT”, Peter said, “But on the ground of your word, I will lower the nets (again)”. On the ground of Your word. Going back out to the deep sea and casting out the nets again was uncomfortable (they were very tired), inconvenient (they had already started to clean up), and did not make sense (they had already tried fishing all night; by human wisdom, it would be pure foolishness to go back out again. ) But Peter heard the voice of Jesus, and obeyed. We don’t have Jesus’ word in the flesh coming out of his physical voice box today. But, we have His written word, the Bible. And we have something even better; the Holy Spirit. It is through studying God’s written word, and being filled by the Holy Spirit that it is possible for us to obey and to act on the ground of His word. And what was the result for Peter? The result was so amazing, that it was terrifying. They caught so many fish that the net was almost breaking, and they had to signal to another boat to come over to help with the number of fish that were caught. And then both boats began to sink.
I wonder what would have happened if Peter would have responded by saying, “Ok Jesus, I will put the nets out again, but instead of doing it here, I think it would make a whole lot more sense to go over there and do it. Or what would have happened if he said, “Sure Jesus, we’ll do it, but we’ll do it tomorrow, our nets are almost cleaned, we’re exhausted, it’ll be better if we do it tomorrow.” I think they would have probably missed the miracle.
If you love God and want to serve Him, but don’t know quite how to go about it, ask your Father God. As you study and fill yourself up with His word (the Bible), ask him to reveal to you what it is he would have you to do. Listen and wait expectantly. Ask Him to close doors that he would not have you walk through and open doors that He would have you walk through. Then pray again to verify with Him the plans he has for you, the works he has created you to do in advance. (Ephesians 2:10) Then take a step in obedience, and then another, and another. Then trust God with the result. God is so efficient. Our obedience is like a ripple in the pond. You never know how far reaching, or influential one step in obedience will be. He is trustworthy. And all glory and honor go to the Lord God our Creator, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Faithful is He Who is calling you (to Himself) and utterly trustworthy, and He will also do it (that is, fulfill His call by hallowing and keeping you.) 1 Thessalonians 5:24 AMP
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ESV