26 February 2017

coming up empty, coming down mighty

After months of visitors, tons of hospitality, homeschooling, Matt traveling, teaching, preaching, parenting, illnesses, baby teething, etc., etc., etc., (and fill in all your own things if you understand) this past week I was feeling pretty rock bottom.  

Pretty holding-it-together-by-a-string.  Pretty exhausted.

Susie Sunshine doesn't get to the bottom of herself easily...I can almost always push a little harder, dig a little deeper, hike a little further, even dragging along my family with a chipper attitude, if need be.  It is both a great strength and a great weakness.

But I've been out of Susie Sunshine.

I'd cried myself to sleep Wednesday night with Sharon...cried myself through coffee with Emily Thursday.  I could almost smell the burnt coming off myself.

Then Friday, waiting for Matt to come home, I was up to preach in chapel, and needed to pack, needed to get all five of us ready to leave for the Dominican Republic the next morning at 6:30 am for our OMS Haiti team retreat 7 hours away.

This trip was to require a spirit of enthusiasm, adventure and flexibility, but when I even thought of those things, when I reminded myself it would be a long weekend with 14 hours on the road and 2 sick kids (one of them still not sleeping well) in a one-room hotel for 4 nights...yeah.  I started to cry again.

I searched all around at the bottom of my well for enthusiasm, adventure and flexibility, and there was no debating it...They simply Were. Not. There.

Not there.  

There was nothing there but a prayer.  

That prayer turned chapel into a gift, though it was not my most eloquent attempt at sharing the Word.

I put painter's tape down the middle of the chapel, and had everyone stand and divide themselves by world-divisions.  Men and women.  Married and single.  Young and old.  Foreigners and natives.  Pastors and other-ministy-ers.  Soccer players and soccer fans.

We talked about who it is making those divisions...and it's not God.  Left and Right, Black and White, Male and Female...those are ALL man-made divisions, divisions that do not stand before the Lord, the Lord who sees only "All have sinned and fallen short"...then...by His rich-in-mercy and great-in-Love, a new and ONLY division...those who are IN Christ, and those who are NOT.

We poured all over the Scriptures, we talked about our job as Christ-followers first to be reconciled with each other, growing together as God's dwelling place, and second, to be reconciling the world to God.

And it was good.  And they got it.  And we all refocused on the one and only division God makes, making sure we're not building up our own kingdoms on our own divisions, making sure we're at peace with other believers, making sure we're full of mercy for the lost, as ones once lost.

But more than all that, as I was speaking, looking into my widely diverse brothers and sisters eyes, I was just totally overcome with a great love for them, a great desire to lay down my life for Him for them, a strong urgency to renew my prayers for them, these beloved ones, battling to follow Christ and to stand firm and to lay down their own lives.  There was something very Act-sy...as everyone headed out to be Light during a particularly dark Carnival season....together....apart.  

Something very powerful in understanding that they are not my student brothers and sisters, not my Haitian brothers and sisters, but my brothers and sisters.  Something powerful in remembering  that the only true division is between those who have been found, and those who continue to be lost.

Matt got back safely, and when he saw we couldn't do it all, he made the call.

We wouldn't be doing it all.

So he took the Edler's to the bus pick up at 6:30 am, and came home.  

And we've been resting.  And spa-ing with the girls.  And reading them books.  And drinking coffee.  And playing outside.  And going to church.  And sitting by the pool in the next town over.  And I've been being with Jesus.

And this is the power He met me with today (Yes, I am finally getting to my point.  One day, I will tell a story in less than a billion words.  Maybe.)

Digging deep, scraping bottom, and then this.

Jesus doesn't bring anything up from the wells of human nature--He brings them down from above.  

We impoverish and weaken His ministry in us the moment we forget He is almighty.  The impoverishment is in US, not in Him.  

The reason we are such poor examples of Christianity is that we have failed to recognize that Christ is almighty.  We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is NO abandonment or surrender to Jesus.  

We struggle to reach the bottom of our own well, trying to get water for ourselves.

The well of your incompleteness runs deep, but make the effort to look away from yourself and to look toward him.  

There was something so freeing in Oswald reminding me that it's not about what I can bring up...but about what He is pouring down.  It's not about what He can find deep within me to use...it's about what is deep within Him, given me freely.  It's not about what I'm bringing to the table.  It's about what He's graciously serving up.  Living water.  Bread of life.

Doesn't matter what I've got left.  Don't need to dig deep.  Don't need to be able to find it.  Don't have to have enthusiasm, or even a sense of adventure.  

I just gotta stop striving, sit my butt down and look toward Him.  HE is not lacking ANYTHING.  That's just me.

This weekend, that has meant a lot of quieting my heart and sitting still, a lot of sitting outside in the sunshine, watching the girlies whirl their bikes and letting Him wash love over me, letting Him remind me who He is, being impoverished.  Being weak.  And asking Him to pour down from above.

NOT trying to get water for myself.  NOT trying to reach the bottom of my well.  
SO, join me.  Even if you've got work tomorrow, even if life is crazy, even if it's a dark empty time where you need to be "x" and you're just. not. finding. it.  Especially then.

Be the beggar lady on the bridge, the wrinkled old woman I see often, folded up on the ground with a handkerchief on her head and with her thin brown arm outstretched, tiny tin cup in hand and heavenward.

Hold your impoverished cup heavenward with me and don't worry about the "nothing" He will find.  He's not looking to find anything useful in us, not looking for us to be some kind of fresh-water spring, bubbling up our own water.  

Recognize our deep incompleteness with me, and hold that dented tin cup of our lives up to Him...and watch Him pour out overflowing, almighty overflowing.

How great His love, how deep His well, how sweet His water, how rich His grace, all free and waiting for us to stop digging for something and to start outstretching empty.

So grateful for THAT kind of God, for THAT kind of almighty.

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