Image

Mustard Seed

Mustard Seed

We are told to have faith like a child. I’d never really seen this put into practice until I met someone named Jake. Everything he does, he does with his entire self; When he became a Christian, this trait of whole-heartedness carried over. Jake’s faith in God, more complete than any child’s in Santa, is a constant challenge and encouragement to me.

Over spring break, a friend told me of how Jake had prayed for healing for a student in his youth group, and he was healed. My immediate response: skepticism. Oh, I’ve read the stories about healing in the Bible and heard about it, but God just doesn’t move in that obvious of ways anymore, right? My friend, the doubt evident upon my face, assured me of her similar initial reaction. But, later that week, seeing a hurting woman, Jake asked if he could pray for her (awkward right?). The next day, she saw him and, guess what, she was feeling better. Jake remarked that his faith was so small, his view of God so stunted, that he hadn’t really expected God to heal the woman; that his small faith had tried to put God in a box.

Compared to mine, Jake’s faith is immense. Through expectant and humble prayer and child-like faith in a colossal God, he eased suffering, showing those around him the incredible healing aspect of Jesus Christ.

Since late August of last year, I have been plagued by a persistent migraine; countless tests and several doctors led to no results and no relief. All that time, prayer for healing never occurred to me. Partially because of pride, but also because I doubted God’s ability and want to heal me. I didn’t think that God moved in the world like that, at least not in the U.S.

Sharing the story of Jake’s faithful prayers for healing with a friend caused her to wonder why we hadn’t done something as simple as praying for my healing. I attempted to brush it off to the side, dismissing the idea. Yet, she persisted. Giving in after a few days, I gave in, allowing for her and two others to pray for me. I thought of Jake’s prayers and decided to cling to the possibility that after seven months, God might alleviate the constant pain I had been in.

A month after that prayer, there have been four days when I have not been pain-free. He answered. Throughout the entirety of my pain, God was not withholding health from me for no reason; He waited until I understood something of paramount importance. Faith in Him, no matter how small, is essential for change and healing in not only our walk with the Lord, but also our life. No redemption, life-change, or healing will ever be accomplished by me personally, rather the Spirit, enabled by faith, working within me. All it took to end months of pain was a quiet but expectant prayer, done with as much faith as could be mustered. My faith was small, minuscule even, but Jesus said, “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Advertisements

Open Hand

I have an agenda.

I want certain things out of life, and, though I’ve no right to them, I feel somewhat entitled. When said out loud, the idea that God should give me certain things in life because I’ve “earned” them sounds incredibly foolish; yet, on some level, I believe it. Though with my mouth and head I can honestly say that I don’t think I deserve and expect God to give me a Godly man, career in missions, and, eventually, family. But, in my heart, that’s what I am holding out for.

These things I desire aren’t bad in and of themselves; they’re all good things. But the fact that this desire… No. Desire’s not the right word; expectation. The fact that this expectation exists inside me is evidence that I am not living my life with an open hand. I am treating God, to some extent, like a vending machine; I have put in time, service, and love, and I am hoping expectantly for my imagined future to tumble down the shoot towards me. Though I have tried and tried again to release this notion and lay down all the desires I have for my future at the foot of the throne, I can’t seem to be rid of it. 

In Daniel, three men are spoken of. The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into a fiery furnace without being so much as singed is rather incredible, but that is not what draws me to this passage. Prior to being tossed in the  flames, these are their words,

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Did you catch that? (I made it bold, so you should’ve.) They make clear what their Lord is capable of, but they also know God does not always behave in the way we want and expect him to. They wanted to be saved, you bet they did. But the one thing they wanted more than their own salvation was for God to be glorified. But if not, God is still the only God we will bow down in worship towards. But if not, He is still the only one worthy of praise. 

You see, we’re not always able to stop wanting something. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t stop wanting to live, they just made that desire secondary to God’s. Maybe I won’t be able to stop wanting certain things; but maybe those desires will lose ground in comparison to the desires of the Spirit. Living with an open hand doesn’t mean that you cease to want certain things, or that you suddenly stop liking the things placed within your hands already.

Open-handed living is a lifestyle where your desires are secondary; a lifestyle where recognition of God’s glory is the result of failure and success, of want and plenty, of disappointment and contentedness. It is a lifestyle where you understand the futility of all things apart from God, and the awesome ways of God never cease to amaze you even in disappointment. 

Quote

JOHN DONNE

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine own were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Aside

“Are you saying you want to be perfect more than wanting to be redeemed?”

A simple enough question, posed to me by a friend.  

Yet, it took my breath away (not in the good sense). I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach. How could I, in light of who Jesus is and what he’s done for me, want anything more than him and the mercy and grace he lavishes upon me?

I’ll tell you how. Pride.

Pride tells me to act strong, secure, and confident even when I am not. Pride tells me to fix my mistakes and flaws, and, if I can’t do that, at least hide them. Pride tells me I am right, though I know I am wrong. Pride tells me that I must do it on my own, even when I cannot. Pride tells me to fix myself up and clean myself off before approaching the throne of grace. I may want to do the right things, but, as Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Every time I fail, Pride tells me failure is shameful, and to hide it quickly before anyone sees. Pride tells me that because I cannot actually be the strong, confident, always-put-together Christian college girl, others should at least think I am. Pride speaks, and, for some foolish reason, I obey. 

Pride commands in a clear voice. It is never hard for me to hear. I do not have to sit in silence and meditate, or read a book and discern. Pride doesn’t make me ponder or wrestle with myself. Pride does not cause me to sacrifice things I want. Pride is easy. Jesus is not.

Jesus seldom commands me.

He doesn’t often raise his voice. He sits and waits for me to come to him, to dwell upon him. He waits for me to open the words he gave to me. He waits for me to discover more of him through hours spent in prayer and meditation. He opens my eyes to areas of my life in which I cause harm to myself and others. Instead of encouraging me to shamefully hide it, he asks me to set in on the table for us to work through together. Jesus expects from me the opposite of what my flesh desires. He watches me wrestle with myself and gently reminds me through doubt, pain, and sacrifice, that he is worth it. 

Jesus isn’t easy. He wants everything. In fact, it is one of his rare demands. He says he wants every last bit of me, or none of me. He doesn’t want my performance, my mask, or my pretending. He wants Jess. For exactly who she is, no strings attached. He wants to heal me and guide me into a better life and hope than my mind could ever comprehend. To a life of forgiveness and redemption. Where restoration replaces deterioration. Where a beautifully fragile thing called freedom replaces the bondage of so-called perfection. A life where an empty grave is a reality, instead of a nice story.

So, do I want perfection more than I want redemption?

Sometimes. But in those times, I listen. At first all I hear is Pride, ordering me about, inducing feelings of shamefulness, causing me to become downcast. But if I listen a little harder, a little more intently, I hear another voice. A voice whose words do not cause shame, but hope. A voice who gently asks if I will let him help me. As I slowly lift eyes to his, Pride’s voice begins to peter out. As I reach out my hand to accept the healing and forgiveness offered, Pride is silenced.