We've made it to the last part of Chapter 9... finally. It feels like the days have dragged on these past few weeks... having a new baby will do that to you. But, as it ALWAYS is with God's timing, everything falls into place just perfectly (And I'll get to that in a moment). Chan focuses his last two testimonies around the people at his church. People like you and me... living in neighborhoods like us, paying bills and raising children. Yet, despite some apparent similarities, there are also some glaring differences.
I love how Chan describes Lucy as "somebody's innocent, dear grandmother," only to declare in a following sentence that she is an "ex-prostitute." As I read over this selection last night, a different light was cast upon the words as they stared back at me. As I read about Lucy... how she used to be a prostitute before giving her life to Christ, but, more importantly, how she now opens her house to those whose lives mirror hers so long ago... I can't help but think about the sin in my own life and the stories of so many others. What I find so fascinating about Lucy is the fact that she doesn't hide from her past... quite the opposite. Lucy uses her past experiences as a way to relate... connect... with others. Again, I can't help but think about my life... all the adversity that I have faced. How many times have we faced a hardship in life, only to hear someone say that God will use that experience to make us stronger... or, better yet, they just leave the statement open-ended: "God will use this experience." In Lucy's case, she allows God to use her past, a past that many would rather forget, as a way to show God's grace to others. As I sit here thinking about all the struggles God has seen me through, I'm embarrassed to admit that, in most cases, I have packed those painful memories in a rather dark and distant corner of my mind... hopeful that I will never have to think about them again. Maybe it's because of my insecurities, or maybe it's just too painful... maybe a little of both... but, regardless, by sweeping my mistakes, my pain, under the rug, I am grieving God's heart in a far worse way than I did with the actions themselves... for, you see, I am denying Him the glory in a life redeemed. Lucy obviously is focused on sharing her experiences with others in a hope to lead them to God. That leaves me wondering whether I'm more concerned with looking the part of a Christian... or living the life of a Christian... because there is a difference!
Cornerstone Community Church
Chan briefly talks about how the people at his church have made a decision to live a life in pursuit of God... through their stewardship as a church. With a commitment of giving 50% of their budget away, the church has made a "counter-intuitive" decision (by societies standards!) in how they would use the money given in honor of God. Instead of building a plush, mulit-million dollar facility, they opted for a non-descript amphitheater. Obviously, such a decision will be questioned on days with inclement weather; however, Chan is quick to remind us that in those cases, his congregation will be reminded that such an insignificant sacrifice helped to provide meals to the homeless, medicine for the sick... hope for the lost. So many times, I hear people refer to sacrificial living as individuals, or as a family, but I've never really thought about it as a church. I've been asked to give of my time... but that's not really sacrificial giving. Some might argue that it is, but honestly, giving an hour or two of my time each week isn't a sacrifice. It may be inconvenient, but that's a COMPLETELY different issue.
Over the past week, I've thought a lot about sacrifice. Right now, I'm sitting in an empty common room at the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital. This has been my home the past week, and will be my home for the next week, as well. My son, now almost 3-weeks-old, developed a bacterial blood infection that has altered the course of our lives... at least temporarily, but I dare say that it has altered the trajectory of our lives for the long haul, as well. In the first 24 hours of this journey, there were a lot of tears, a lot of prayers and a lot of questions. Our lives came to an abrupt halt. Our reality was turned on its ear. Sacrifices were having to be made on every level... by me, my husband, our children, our friends and family. I've only seen my older children once this past week. My husband is having to take time away from his job to play "Mr. Mom" at home and spend time at the hospital. I have only left the hospital once in the past seven days. I have slept very little. But, we all make these sacrifices without complaint, without a second glance, because of the love for our son. Our lives have essentially stopped, or at least have been put on hold, for him. But, when I ask myself to look at my sacrifice for Christ... well, I can't honestly say that I've shown the same willingness, the same determination.
My first night here is one that I will never forget. It was a dark time, especially when the curtain of night fell and silence set in. I was alone in the dark, holding a child that was just given to me... wondering if he would be taken away. I have never prayed so hard, so relentlessly, in my life. I prayed for the things that most parents would pray for: protection, healing, strength, understanding. But, as the night wore on, my prayers began to change. Somewhere along the journey, I began to pray for my love for Christ... for a transformation of my heart... for a closeness that I desperately wanted to experience in my everyday walk with Him. I realized that I was willing to sacrifice anything and everything for a child I barely knew, but wasn't sure if I could say the same for Christ. A palpable pain filled my heart as I cradled my son tightly to my chest. It was then and there that I realized the only remedy for my heartache was the one thing I wasn't sure I was capable of doing. Okay, that's not the truth. I'm capable, but I haven't been willing... living sacrificially for Christ, no exceptions, no excuses. As I conclude my blog over the next few days, I will share what God has revealed. Like I said... His timing is perfect.
This is the last video: