Sunday, January 12, 2014

God's Missionary

            (Reprinted from my other blog,
            I wish that the message of letting God interrupt our plans was given during more graduation speeches.  I think it’s so important for people to hear, especially as they set out into the great wide open, with all their grand plans about how they are going to use their education.  And since I will probably never be asked to give a graduation speech, I’m going to share the message that I wish I had heard at my graduation. 
            Pretend right now that you are in the audience in your cap and gown.  And you are graduating from the School of Life, where we train you to go out into the “real world” to do great things for God.  And I step up to the microphone, take a deep breath, and deliver the speech that I want to send you off with:

            “My Dear Graduates, first let me thank you for voting me valedictorian and ‘best looking.’  You’re too kind.  Really.  Now, I know that many of you have great plans about how you are going to serve God and use your degrees.  You’ve gotten a great education, and you’re ready to go out and conquer the world for Christ.  But as you go about your plans, store this message in your heart:  Be willing to let God interrupt your great plans of what you’re going to do for Him with what He wants you to do.
            You plan on getting a job in a certain line of work, but maybe God will call you to a different position.  Will you follow?  Maybe you find yourself working with people you don’t care for, but God says, “I put you here.  Glorify Me!”  Maybe you will be called to care for an aging parent or a child with special needs.  Maybe your life will detour greatly because of a chronic illness or accident.  Maybe you’ve planned on marriage and children, but God will call you to be single or childless.  Or maybe, as many of you will be called to, you’ll find your great plans for your career and life interrupted simply by having children.  Let God interrupt!  Let God interrupt your plans with what He wants you to do.  And for many of you, that will be nothing more glorious than just raising children or going to the same unglamorous job every day.
            Where you end up may not be what you planned on.  Those great things you wanted to do may be replaced by small, tedious, daily tasks.  But be willing to follow God in obedience, doing your best wherever He plants you . . . working for Him and for His glory!  You may feel like you’re wasting your education or your time, but remember that God doesn’t waste anything.  If you will present all that you have to Him and if your main goal is to glorify Him, He will use you for His great purposes.  Through your faithfulness and obedience in the small things.  Wherever He plants you.  Let God interrupt!”
            I wish that I had heard this message when I was graduating with my master’s degree.  I had planned on working and using my degree and paying down loans.  And then, I got pregnant four months after getting married.  I remember half-joking with Jason that he could stay home and raise the children while I went to work.  Because, after all, I had worked so long to get my degree.  Not to stay home and raise kids. 
            But I had to learn to follow where God leads.  To grow where I was planted.  Now, to be honest, this doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with negative feelings from time to time, with the dissatisfaction that comes with life’s detours.  In fact, not too long ago, I realized that I was becoming very bitter because I was feeling unappreciated at home.  I felt like I was working my hardest, but it was not getting acknowledged.  There was no thanks and no sense of getting anything accomplished.  No vacation!  Only a whole bunch of things that I couldn’t get done while I was doing the things that I could do.  And then, I would get to wake up the next day and do it again.  Is this all there is to life?  Am I going to slave away in my little kitchen until I dry up into a lifeless heap, breaking my arms to pat my own back?  Because no one else will?
            Boy, I was ruminating on these thoughts one day as I did the dishes.  I was going over them again and again, getting more and more angry at the unfairness of life, at the lowly role that I had to live with.  I just wanted a “thank you”!  And I wanted to be cut a little slack for things I couldn’t get around to doing.  Was this too much to ask for?  With all I do around here? 
            (Now to be fair, I’m sure that my husband has his own way of showing appreciation and love.  And I do know that there is a lot about me that he does overlook and put up with.  But as is typical among two different people, we don’t always “hear” the way that someone else “tells” us that they love and appreciate us.  Oh, if only we all spoke the same “love language.”)
            Well, as I angrily scrubbed dirty plates, I began to work my way through these thoughts and feelings.  I realized that I couldn’t keep feeling the way that I was and still enjoy my life or marriage.  And I knew that I couldn’t change my husband or demand to be appreciated more.  How satisfying would “forced appreciation” be? 
            Now, at this point, I believe a lot of people go wrong by thinking something like this (or by being advised this by others):  “Well, I can’t change them and I can’t keep living like this.  So maybe divorce is the only option?”  Well, for me, divorce was not an option.  It never was!  But neither was feeling that way for the rest of my life.  But I knew that if something didn’t change, somewhere down the line I might be tempted to think that divorce sounded pretty good.   
            So I had a choice to make.  To keep feeling bitter and angry would be choosing to walk down that path to potential divorce.  And I didn’t want that.  So I had to get off that path now.  But how?  And I asked God this.  “How, Lord?  How can I stay in this and yet enjoy my life and my marriage?  And if things never change, could I be okay with that?”
            I think all of us who yearn for more or better in our lives or marriages feel like it will all be okay “if only . . . !”  But I knew that I couldn’t let my feelings and the success of my marriage depend on “if only . . .”  Because what if “if only” never happened?  What if things never changed?  I had to learn to accept that possibility and to be okay with the way things were (and to flourish with it), if I was going to avoid that bitter path that couldn’t end with anything good.
            But how could I do that?  How could I be okay with it?  How could I love my home life – the life and the role that I poured every bit of myself into - when I was feeling so taken for granted and unappreciated?  And as I prayed about it and let God speak to my heart, He revealed the key to a proper perspective.  And this is it:
            “Change your employer!  You should not be working for your husband or for your own satisfaction.  You should be working for Me.  But as long as you continue to work for approval and appreciation from him, you will be unsatisfied.  Because you are letting your sense of worth and fulfillment rest on someone else - on another imperfect human being - when it should be resting on Me.  Another human being will always let you down at some time, so you are setting yourself up for disappointment if you let your feelings rest on what they do or don’t do.  Do your best in the role I gave you . . . because I am watching.  Work for Me.  I see all that you are doing, and it matters to Me.  And your rewards will be in Heaven, as long as you do your best for My glory.”
            I tell ya, that message got to me.  And once I switched employers - once I realized Who I should be working for and where my rewards should be - I was able to relax.  I was able to work harder at those daily tasks because Someone was watching and appreciated it.  And I was able to love my husband in a way that I couldn’t when I was letting my sense of satisfaction rest on what he did or didn’t do for me or say to me.
            It wasn’t about working my hardest and doing my best because I wanted to hear “thank you” or because I needed to be appreciated or because I needed anything from anybody else.  It was about working my hardest and doing my best because God is watching, and because what I do and how I do it mattered to Him.
            And interestingly enough, this knowledge freed me up to love my husband in a way that didn’t hinge on whether or not I felt appreciated.  I was free to love him for who he is, and not for what he did for me or my idea of who he should be.  (And I was free to see the ways that he did show his appreciation, instead of only noticing how he wasn’t meeting my definition of “showing appreciation.”)
            Now, I wondered if I should share such a personal story as this.  After all, I don’t like sharing such deep, personal, “marriage” things.  (Honey, you know I love you!  We’re in this thing called ‘life’ together.)  But I also don’t want to present some false, polished front.  And I really believe that the message that I got from God is not meant just for me.
            So many people out there need to hear that same message: people who struggle with their marriages, with their self-esteem, with their role in life, with their parents, or with jobs and bosses they don’t like.  Marriages are falling apart left and right.  And they don’t need to be.  We need to learn ways to cope with the way things are - in our homes, in our jobs, in our lives.  (I am not saying this to people who are being abused, though.  If you are in that kind of marriage, you need to get help.  It needs to change.)
            And so this is what I want to share with you:  If you feel like you can’t go on with the way things are, try switching your employer and where you store your rewards.  (Which is really what we should all be doing anyway.  It’s just that sometimes it takes a trial to figure that out.)  You are not just serving your family; you are serving God by caring for your family.  You are not just working for your boss; you are doing the job that God gave you, for His glory.  You are not just a family member or friend or employee; you are a representative to others of God’s love and grace and mercy.  You have a mission field, wherever God plants you.  You are a missionary!  Are you living like one?  You are here to work for Him, to glorify Him, and to spread His message.  And the only rewards that matter are the ones that will be waiting for you in Heaven.
            Now, I do have to point out something.  I believe that the sense of peace and contentment that I felt and the unconditional love that I felt for my husband and my place in life was released in me by the Holy Spirit because I set my heart on doing the right thing.  I knew that if I continued on the path of negative thinking that I was on, I might encounter the dim possibility of a divorce somewhere off in the distant future.  And so I firmly decided in my heart that “Divorce is NOT an option.”  And this was a crucial turning point.
            I believe that at some point in all of our decisions and struggles, we have the choice to flirt with the possibility of sin or a less-than-godly choice.  And if we allow ourselves to flirt with that or to tinker with it or to covet it in our hearts and minds, the Holy Spirit is blocked from fully working in and through us.  And we will not feel the complete joy, peace, freedom, and love that come from Him . . . because we have allowed an ungodly idea or fantasy to take root in our hearts and minds.  Or maybe we have become bitter about a change that God brought into our life, about the role He gave us.  And this shuts the door to Him.  But if we will set our hearts and minds on doing the right thing and on following where He leads - even if our feelings are not there yet - our hearts are more fully open to the Holy Spirit and His work.
            I may not be serving God as the counselor I had planned to be, but I can choose to work hard at being the best mother and wife and friend that I can be.  Because it brings Him glory when I do!  And I think that He is just as proud!  And as an unexpected blessing, when I let God choose my mission field (which in this case is just my home) and when I made Him my Employer, I found an incredible peace and joy and satisfaction, knowing that I was right where God wanted me and that He noticed all I was doing!  And that’s what really mattered.