For the first week of April I took a vacation to Houghton, New York. As you know my alma mater and many good friends are way up there, tucked away in the isolated but charming hills of western New York!
I spent hours with good friends like Heather, Brittany, David, Marissa, Shannon, Bethany, Keith, Bryan, Jon, Sally, Chris, another Chris, Gordon, Stewart, the Spurlings, the Cookes, and others. Plus 3 precious minutes with Alyssa and a half hour on Skype with our dear mama-to-be-any-day-now Alex.
Last year on Palm Sunday Brittany and I went to Mt. Irenaeus . It is a beautiful place radiating peace and fellowship. Houghton is surrounded by hills and trees but Mt. Irenaeus is a Franciscan retreat center that is completely rural. This year Brittany and I went again and it was, as always, restful.
During his short message Father Dennis spoke on sacrifice and how Jesus is capable of teaching us – really capable. He’s part of the Trinity and we recognize Him as holy, but we forget He is also Rabbi. As one of the readings said, Jesus has the “tongue of a teacher.” Father Dennis also recounted how some Christians (in the Philippines, actually) display their sacrifice by going through the same physical sacrifice as Christ, from the crown of thorns to spending some time hanging on a cross.
“That is very great zeal, but that’s not true sacrifice.”
Father Dennis’s words resonated in me me. He went on to say how that kind of action wasn’t really sacrifice – it still smacks of selfishness. True sacrifice is pouring ourselves out for others even when we don’t want to. Even when we’d rather do something ourselves and focus on our own actions and how it’s personal sacrifice.
Yet that inward focus prevents true sacrifice…which should pour into others above our own desires. That’s what Jesus Christ did in redeeming us and inviting us to live in Heaven with Him. Hallelujah!
Occasionally I struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I think most of us do. But ever since Ireland was delayed, I’ve struggled with chronic inadequacy. I think Satan knows this is the perfect time to try & convince me that I’m still working towards strength and victory…but the truth is, I’m already strong and victorious in Christ. Every Christian is – that’s our birthright as children of God! But I forget sometimes. I still need to claim what’s mine.
God has given me a precious gift…a burden for a special part of the world, a calling to western Europe that is second only to the great calling I have to His own heart, and one that ties with another gift: my burden for justice. I am choosing to trust that He didn’t give this to me only to abandon me, to tear it away, or merely to put me through an emotional wringer. Forgive me if I repeat that often but I insist on consistently reminding myself.
Ever since the delay for Ireland, there have been quite a few other heart issues to hound me. Issues you wouldn’t expect God to stir up in a person months before they begin training for missions work. Issues you’d figure would be settled or mostly settled. My good and wise friend Emily Smith suggested these may be part of God exercising my commitment to what He’s asked me to do.
Many Christians respond to their friend’s hardships with “Oh, well, God must have a reason. He’s good, all the time! Must be to make you stronger! Must be to make you better!”
Maybe that’s true, in a way, but so much of the time that kind of dismissive optimism can wound each other more than help. Still, in my case, I think my friend Emily S. is right. While I was in Houghton God gave me the chance to consider how much He really means to me. He gave me the grace to say, with truth, “I love You more. I want to be with You more than any of the other things I want on this earth.”
Friend, hold me accountable. I meant that prayer with all my heart but I am still so devastatingly human.
While I was driving to New Jersey this weekend to visit Brittany, I thought of inadequacy again. I thought of the ways relationships have made me feel inadequate. Several specific conversations came to my mind. One of them popped into my head – it was a “letting-you-down-easy” conversation, if you know what I mean. When it happened I’d been humiliated, yet grateful, and a little angry. The other person probably never meant to make me feel like less, but he did. Maybe he hadn’t meant to come across as more mature and somehow smarter, but he did. He didn’t mean to act in ways that gave me certain impressions in the first place, but he did. That happened. It’s a fact.
As I thought of it in the car over a year later, I was suddenly furious. The fury was unexpected; whenever I’ve been wronged or disappointed (though in this case it really wasn’t a direct slight) in a relationship or potential relationship, I’ve always had the impression that I wasn’t allowed anger. I was given the impression that I’d made the mistake and should be ashamed, meek, or apologetic. But not now. I was angry. Who was he, to make me feel inadequate? Whether or not he meant it, it happened. Who were all the relationships in the past, to hurt me with telling me that I wasn’t enough, that I was doing everything wrong, or that I was silly for thinking what I’d thought?
Before you think I’m just going to rant about boys and being unlucky in like/love, I want to explain why I brought this up. That anger was actually the beginning of a healing thing. I realized – I’m not inadequate in this way. Yes, I’ve had my own part in the sourness of those relationships (or, fake-out of a relationship…or, unreciprocated like!), but these people had no right to make me feel less. I AM enough. My feelings for someone ARE legitimate. I SHOULD be loved in return. I should NOT feel mousy, ashamed or apologetic! In human relationships, I am not stupid or less. In heavenly relationships, I am made adequate because of my Savior.
I have been feeling inadequacy so often but I am strong already in Jesus. I want to know that better than I do now. I’m strong enough to genuinely sacrifice! Not simply to go through dramatic motions of missions that will appear as obedience and zeal, but to fill myself with the Holy Spirit, to dedicate all of it to others…always for the sake of the glory of the one, true, and holy God. There are none others like Him and no other way to find real love, redemption, or Heaven. My soul believes that completely.
Thank you for reading. : ) Next time, pictures and the haps on what Britt & I were up to at the book fair. And fundraising updates coming soon. Thanks for your patience…you are awesome!