It’s been a real blessing to have a few days here in the States to get aclimatized and process what we’ve experienced. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll head out of here for the wild blue yonder. It means the world to me that so many of you have read these posts, commented and prayed for me. I hope you’ll continue to do so.
I’m still not to the point that I can communicate exactly what happened, what I experienced and what God has taught me. (However, if you want to buy me lunch, I’ll probably tell you more than you want to hear.) Here’s a few takeaways.
1. God is God of the whole world. The Bible teaches that when God created the world, and he think’s it’s good. He created man in his own image. He sent Jesus for the sake of the world. In the States we often focus on our individual spirituality. How many times have you heard “read John 3:16 and replace the world with your name.” It’s a nice thought, but it’s not the words that John used. But when you hear Indian Orphans, who haven’t had water for days, sing praises to Jesus, it gives you pause. When you meet an old Bobby from Scotland Yard who has dedicated his life to providing Bibles to the underground Chinese Church, it makes you think that there’s something bigger going on here. When have an eight inch rusty knife drawn on you by a desperate teenager, in a country whose economy has been manipulated by the U.S. government for 100 years, you have to realize that our country, our way of doing religion, our way of life is not the best or only way to follow Jesus.
2. Take time to thank God for everything. I almost don’t want to mention this because it’s so cliche. But I can’t get past the cook at our orphanage in India, who you could hear say under her breath “Thank you Jesus” everytime she stood up and everytime she sat down. Why? Because she was thankful for the ability to stand up and sit down. Am I?
3. You don’t need much. I’ve lived our of a suitcase for two months. That suitcase contained more than the combined possessions of many people I met. Now, I’ve never been one to collect a lot of material possessions. I’ll be thinking two or three times before I make any future purchases.
4. There is such a thing as “thinking too much.” This is probably the most important thing I learned in France. The place is full of history that predates the Romans and restaurants that contain the greatest art of all time. For the most part, France is Godless and therefore hopeless. It’s really hard for me to say this, because there isn’t much other than Jesus I love more than history, art and culture. The greatest accomplishments of Western Culture are scattered throughout France….but so what?
5. Some systems are better than others. We do have a lot to be thankful for here in the U.S. Running water, a functioning electrical grid, a comparitively uncorrupt government. Compared to many countries, our systems work better than others. But before you get too proud, keep in mind there are a lot of things we do poorly. When I asked an American missionary in Nicaragua what she missed about central America when she came home, she said “having time for people.” Our functioning electrical grid allows us to watch TV all night long, and surf the internet more than needed. It’s relegated our communications to the 140 twitter characters or the emoticons we can fit in a txt mssge. In other cultures, you wake up with the sun, work hard all day, gather for meals, and go to sleep when it gets dark. In many ways the systems we are so proud of also creating the problems we suffer from. We have a lot to teach other countries, but they also have a lot to teach us.
6. Seek and Ye Shall Find. I don’t have any magical formula for spiritual growth. But I know that Jesus called us to follow him. It’s not that I am any holier for having gone on this pilgrimage. But I have found an undeniable link between becoming transformed to be like Christ and movement. If you want to be more like Jesus you’re going to have to get up, move around, stretch your muscles, and try something new. We fool ourselves when we think that we are seeking Christ when our lives are static. You want to find God, get up, get off your couch and seek him. Go find an orphan to feed-or better off, adopt one. Go find a lost person and tell them about Jesus. Go meet your next door neighbor, and find out what they need. You’ll find Jesus is at work when you look into the hungry faces of the poor and existential miseries of the rich. You’ll learn that he loves them, and if you start to love them, you’ll start looking more like Jesus. Just get up and start seeking.