Sunday, April 30, 2017

My Next Journey, Part 1: Stepping into Courage (Terrified)

I was a late swimmer. I loved the pool, as long as I could sit on the steps and cling to the side, thank you very much. By the time I was in second or third grade, I still refused to put my face in the water most of the time. My mom did what any wise parent would do and enrolled me in my fourth 77th swimming class. Slowly but surely, her patience and that of the instructors began to pay off. I finally got to the point where I could hold my own in a shallow pool of water, but there was still one obstacle: The Diving Board of Terror. I refused to even touch it with my toe. I thought I would drown if I went near it. One day, I nearly did.

They tricked me. The instructors were determined to get me over this last hurdle, so they told me they would walk to the end with me and lower me into the deep water. I nervously agreed and took that slow, terrified trudge to the end of the board.

I waited to be gently lowered into the water. Instead, I was jolted by a rough shove. I didn't have time to even take a big breath, and suddenly I was under water. It was deep, and I couldn't tell which way was up and which was down. None of my limbs touched a solid surface, and I seriously wondered if I would ever feel the ground under my feet again.

Of course, I didn't drown. And they probably didn't shove me as maliciously as my childish mind deduced. I sputtered my way to the surface, and upon urgently filling my lungs with air, realized that I was stronger than I thought. I could swim! I could really swim! In the deep end!

I don't remember ever being afraid of the pool again.


I have alluded to big changes coming in my world, and I will share the specifics of those changes in due time. I have to go back a ways first, though, to that diving board moment so many years ago. You have to know this...As I continue to walk this journey out, it feels a little like walking to the end of that Diving Board of Terror and being pushed over the edge.

I want to be the one who looks up at the instructor with a grin before cannon-balling over the edge and glorying in the big splash that ripples from my weight hitting the water.

I want to be the one who is brave and fearless and full of gumption.

And maybe, just MAYBE I will get there one day. I pray my faith continues to increase as I come to know the Faithful One more intimately. But today.

Today I say, "I'm ready!" in a timid voice and inch my way to the end. Today, I squeeze my eyes shut and sometimes even imagine my demise. I know that when I get shoved off the end and take the plunge, I will briefly wonder which way is up and which way is down. I will wonder if I will make it.

But then I will swim.


My dad was one of the most courageous people I ever knew. He never moved across the world, or stepped into physical danger to save someone else, or really did anything particularly remarkable. What he did do, though, was live missionally and purposefully in his context. Day after day, year after year. He was mocked and dismissed and did not, by any means, live an extravagant life. He would frequently say to me, "Ab, just show up. Half the battle is just showing up." And he did. He showed up, again and again and again. He showed up and he loved and served relentlessly.

As I leap jump dive fall into this next season that God has for me, I think about my dad a lot. I hear those words in my head every step of the way: "Ab, just show up."

Then I pray over and over again:

"Jesus, help me to trust you. Help me to trust you. Thank you for giving me beautiful examples of courage and faith in the people who surround me. Oh, and help me to trust you."

Or something like that.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

When saying yes requires saying no....

This week, I have cried a lot of tears. My inner spirit has groaned as I have counted, over and over again, the cost of following Jesus into the unknown. This week, following Jesus is hard. While I would like to tell you I am handling it beautifully, I cannot hide the wrestling. So here it is...gut level honest. 
There was a point in Jesus' life and ministry when he was mobbed by crowds and crowds of people following him. Interestingly enough, Jesus turns to the crowds, and rather than cheering them on and congratulating them for picking a worthy leader, he says:
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). He goes on to say that unless a person bears the weight of his own cross, a literal instrument of torture, he cannot be a disciple of Jesus. 

Interesting tactic for growing a ministry, eh? It seems as if Jesus is actually discouraging the crowds from following him...raising the bar so high that most will never reach the level of devotion he is demanding. And yet, we read these words today and rarely give them pause. 

Today, I pause. 

Hate my family? Hate my own life? What does that mean?! How?! I've heard plenty of sermons where it has been said, "Well, he is just drawing a drastic comparison...your devotion to Jesus should be so great that every other relationship in your life looks like hate." Peachy. And also very, very aloof and ethereal. I've never really understood how this is supposed to actually look in real life. Until this week. 

This week, I feel like I am hating my family. I feel like I am choosing to follow Jesus and it means that I sacrifice. A lot. But it also means my family and my friends and my coworkers and my church and my community also sacrifice and grieve and experience loss...because of me. Not because of their choosing. And this weight, this grappling with grief and loss and change, feels like a beam strapped to my back. It feels heavy and hard and unwieldy. Frankly, I would love to just ditch it. I would love to stay in my comfortable little tents of ease and familiarity and steady income. But today, following Jesus means tearing those tents down and trusting that I will still remain under the dome of God's refuge. 

In order to say yes to Jesus, I have to say no to a lot of other people. The "no" hurts, but it is necessary for the "yes" to come. So this week I say "no" with tears and groaning and heartache, knowing that Jesus is good and never asks from me what he has not already done himself. I carry this weight, and I lock eyes with the One who carried the weight of the world's pain and brokenness on his back all the way to his death and my resurrected life. Today, I stand apart from my tents, choosing to trust that no matter how hard and costly it is to follow Jesus, it is good because Jesus is good. And that is enough.