contented to go lower still
"Discipleship is built entirely on the supernatural grace of God. Walking on the water is easy to impulsive pluck, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is a different thing. Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, but he followed Him afar off on the land. We do not need the grace of God to stand crises - human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strain magnificently; but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes."
Oswald Chambers get me every time.
Today I did what, to me, was a brave thing. An outside-my-comfort-zone thing, for the sake of the gospel. I felt the pressing of the Spirit to do the thing and I obeyed, through fear and trembling. I want to do more of this and I sense He is making a way for that to happen. But it also makes me feel a little dread.
You see, I am not good at so many things.
I am not good at small talk or baking and I can err on the stingy side. I can be snarky and sassy with people I dearly love. I am poor when I do these things.
I have also proclaimed, for years, that I am not good at strangers. Meeting the needs of people I do not know or who are very different from me is very hard for me. I feel ill-equipped to enter into different economic worlds or different value worlds and extend the hand of Christ in those places. The "mean streets" Chambers writes about are fearful places to me. Today, I saw the hand of God reach through my heart and my arms and I felt His great pleasure in that.
I don't want to boast. The reality is that I am horrified at some of my own thoughts and the poverty of my heart when I entered into the ordinary thing, but I pray that God uses that to create in me a heart of grace and sympathy. I see in this act the natural tendency to be noticed and the power of the flesh to ensure I am noticed. And I see in His grace that He will be working out in me this reality of "an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus".
A few weeks ago, on a Five-Minute Friday post, I posed a question we often ask in our house: if you never get anything out of it, would you still obey God?
Because this is where contentment factors in, you guys.
Am I going to be content being obedient to God's requests on my life, my time, my energies, my pocketbook, my family if it really means an ordinary, ignored existence?
We say yes. Or we say, "I know the right answer is yes, but it would really be nice to have my day in the sun. My five minutes of fame. My book deal from all of the magical blogging I will do about it."
But the thing is that God does not ask obedience in exchange for something. He does not work that way.
Sometimes, I believe there are good, wonderful gifts that come as a result of our obedience. He asks us to trust Him for a Really Big Thing and when we choose to trust and obey, perhaps His loving response includes a good gift - one that we see as very good. But often, God is asking us to obey for the sake of obeying. And often, I obey and then grumble in discontent, because wasn't I supposed to get something for that? I become discontent, as if God owes me something for my incredible act of obedience.
Before the Man who gave His very life for me, this seems so insolent.
A few months ago, I was introduced to a band I would have probably never listened to of my own volition: My Epic. My husband has been the speaker at a student camp for the last several summers and one of the camp counselors played this song for us - Lower Still. The music wasn't the sort I normally listen to and at first, some of the imagery seemed harsh to me. But by the end of the song, I was in tears. It tells a vivid picture of how low Jesus the Christ had to go in obedience to the Father, to ransom the children of God. The start of the song describes the birth of the Christ, then the last supper and the crucifixion...
Look now - He's kneeling, He's washing their feet, though they're all filthy fishermen, traitors, and thieves. Now He's pouring His heart out and they're falling asleep - but He has to go lower still...
The last part of the song describes the resurrection and the day in which "every knee will bow"...
The Earth explodes - she cannot hold him! And all therein is placed beneath Him. and death itself no longer reigns, it cannot keep the ones He gave himself to save! And as the universe shatters, the darkness dissolves, He alone will be honored, we will bathe in his splendor, as all heads bow lower still. All heads bow lower still...
Am I content to obey for the sake of obedience?
Am I content be ordinary and ignored, in "mean streets among mean people"?
Am I the sort who lets the indwelling Spirit of God have His way so much that I can freely give away all I've received because of Him? Surely this is my glory - if there is any to be had. Having the attitude of Christ who died for me, can I not even now die to my preferences and my fears and my drudgery, for the sake of His work through me?
Will I be content to go lower still?