He executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, he lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves those who live justly. The LORD watches over the immigrant and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. -Psalm 146:7-9

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Perfect Endings - Sabbatical Meditations

I love a good chick flick!  The kind of movies that are predictable from the beginning to the end. Movies that you know will end with the good guys coming out on top. Movies that we like to call, "perfect". We love those movies because they tend to help us to forget (at least for a little while)  the reality of whats really going on around us and even in our very own hearts. Movies that we like to use as an escape from the devastating affects of a world fallen.

I've been wondering lately, how much in my heart have I expected this journey into inner city ministry to be just like what I've witnessed in my favorite films. It's so easy to fall for a romanticized view of inner city ministry. A view that believes that everything will be "perfect" and work out just as YOU have planned.

Things are far from perfect here. My days are long. Conflict is served on a regular, backbiting, entitlement, slander, you will be used, you will be disrespected, you will be cursed out, relationships with your neighbors will change and some may even end. As I mentioned above, I love chick flicks because they are so predictable. What made ministry difficult for me at times was that I couldn't predictcontrol (real heart of the matter) what was happening around me. For a moment, I began to hold onto things that I believed would be true about living in the hood, things that I may not have realized I was saying to myself subconsciously, such as:

  • you going to get along with everyone ALL the time
  • the kids you minister to will hear the message of the gospel and their lives will change...not immediately... but real soon
  • your neighbors will always have nothing but good to say about you, they won't do you any harm
  • you wont be used or taken for granted
  • people are going to taste and see that the Lord is good and be hooked, they won't turn back to their destructive lifestyles
  • the kids you minister too will always think your cool and fun to be around

Some of these things may sound real ridiculous to you, but based off of how I was responding to certain situations, it was evident these lies had become my truth. No where at anytime, at any point in this calling did the LORD promise me any of these things. The Lord never said, to any of us, that when we preached the gospel to those who are sick that they would 1. Hear the message or 2. Repent. We preach out of HOPE, we preach because of the goodness and mercy that we have experienced, we preach because the message is just too good to keep to ourselves, we preach leaving the results to the LORD and trusting him to bring growth to the seeds we've planted. 

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were discussing the gospel and  its responses as we reflected on our years in ministry, the passage he brought to my remembrance was Isaiah 6:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go and tell this people “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding,be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not to sure if I would have been quick to say, "send me, I'll GO". That puts a whole new spin on Lecrae famous song and that passage for that matter. Isaiah was warned by God that almost no one would hear his message, dude didn't care. He still went and with much boldness. I'm having to come to the realization that much of my preaching the gospel was for selfish reasons-my own glory. Why else would I get frustrated or weary when I wasn't seeing the results I wanted to see?

So much of our unhappiness in our circumstances come from us believing that God has promised us something when He hasn't. This life we live , this message we preach has every bit to do with HIM and HIS kingdom. He loves us, no doubt, but Ive realized that the very things that would make me happy have nothing to do with Jesus, but have every bit to do with my own comfort, affirmation, and what I believe would bring me fulfillment. Believing those lies has had me on some serious sinking sand and desperately wanting more.

After this sabbatical, I sense the Lord sending me back into my hood with new and revived expectations. Expectations that are found from the promises that  God has clearly laid out in his word.

Promise 1: God brings the increase ultimately to the seeds we plant.. results are HIS! 

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. -1 Corinthians 3

Promise 2: As I tread onto enemy territory, God will be with me every step of the way. I don't have to worry about my neighbors or myself.

 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9

Promise 3: I don't have to be in control, as a matter of fact, I'm NOT in control. God is in control and His plans will always prevail. He knows exactly what He's doing in Washington Park. No matter how things may look or seem, I must remember that He got this.

8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. 9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. - Isaiah 55

For me, this isn't a Hollywood story, and yet I DO KNOW the REAL ending of this one and it's where the King of Glory has the victory. And one of the dopest things to me, is that God would use this crooked stick to be apart of it. Grace is so amazing.