From the time I was young I’ve always enjoyed helping others. I would share easily and was quick to hand over anything that would make another person feel uplifted or cared for. This continued on through adulthood and giving just seemed like the right thing to do.
But something changed in me over the last year when it became about more than just throwing money over the wall to help a good cause. God put change in my heart and concealed it. And I had to seek it out.
It wasn’t until this past summer during a family vacation and then shortly after that at a conference, that I realized feeding His sheep wasn’t about money. At least not all about that. I missed the mark big time on this one.
It started to dawn on me that what Jesus was really asking of Peter was for him to literally feed his sheep and tend the flock. To care for them. That encompasses everything from providing food and necessity right down to spiritually feeding them the milk from which they would grow in their faith and love for Christ.
In the course of this time I asked God to use me in such a way that I might greatly impact another life. To feed sheep.
Yet with my already overwhelmed schedule, it didn’t seem to make a lot of sense that God would put something else on my heart…nor on my plate.
It’s taken me so many months to process through the feeling of “now what?” that I let it trump my desire to access God’s peace. My words on the page were coming from places of hurt, because these changes just didn’t seem to be agreeing with me. I’ve had moments that felt as though my identity had been stripped from me.
I’d walk around in a fog, exchanging pleasantries and smiling to the best of my ability, but I just kept wondering if I’d ever see the old me again.
It seems a little unbelievable to admit it, but I don’t really miss myself now. I find that the more confident I become in Who He is, the more confident I become in myself. Stumbling onto truth has allowed me to let go of the lies that I’ve believed for so long that have held me in bondage.
The last few weeks have felt like a bit of a triumph for me. I shared my heart during a prayer with my accountability group that exposed my fear of not having enough confidence in myself or, really, in God. Not that He can’t do it – but the thought of achieving “even greater things” after so many years of staying away from anything risky that might expose a fault or a weakness – it seemed unrealistic to me that I would ever overcome that fear.
At the advice of a friend, I asked God to give me more time with Him. That He would hand over extra minutes in the day that would allow me to read and pray and rest in Him.
I saw the results from that prayer immediately. It forced me to take a step back and look at what caused so much of the anxiety. I started to realize that saying YES to God might not mean that He’s going to put me to work immediately.
Sometimes He’s got to teach me things first.
Sometimes He’s got to allow me to be obedient in my “every day.”
Sometimes He’s got to expose my weaknesses that need to be addressed.
Sometimes He’s just asking me to rest in Who He is so that I don’t miss His glory…
All the while He’s controlling the incline on that treadmill of life so that I slow my pace enough to hang back. I might not be running ahead of the game as I’d like, but I’m building the endurance I need for the race to come.
And each day, be it ever so slowly, I throw off the covers to climb out of bed a little more transformed than I was the day before.
It was part of this earlier transformation that led me to Stephen…
He’s the child that I recently chose to sponsor through Compassion International. I say that “I” sponsor him not because I didn’t want to involve my family. We sponsor several children (together) through various organizations, however Stephen is my first child sponsored through Compassion.
He symbolizes something big for me. He reminds me of the changes God has laid upon my heart and how important it is to make Stephen’s name and Stephen’s story known to our blind, First World eyes.
I didn’t feel this with the others. And that’s a shameful sentence to type, but it’s true. I was always more than eager to help them, but I helped them with a heart unrealized to understanding the situation they are in and with a mind that was too busy to really care.
I know how callous that must sound. And let me just say that this post is not an avenue to publicly lament over the fact that I spent years being oblivious. Instead, this is a declaration of praise to God for removing the blinders that were firmly set upon my eyes for so long.
The truth is, poverty in the US looks a lot different than it does in Third World countries. It’s so, so much worse on foreign soil. That’s a fact! But, sadly, it’s not a widely known fact.
I can almost see my grandmother’s finger as she shook it in frustration while she uttered these words: “We ought to be taking care of our own over here instead of always worrying about what’s going on over there. Let their government deal with it!”
It sounded logical, even reasonable at the time, but it’s just simply not true. Had Jesus wanted only to save a select few of us He wouldn’t have met Saul on the road to Damascus that day. Saul would not have become Paul – the greatest missionary to ever have lived. He was a man of high stature who followed Jewish law to the utmost degree. He thought he had it all.
Paul knew that everything was permissible but not necessarily beneficial to our lives. And he was ready to give up everything else in order to pursue Christ for Who He is. The bread of life.
I once listened to Shaun Groves give a moving speech to a room full of women. I was captivated by his words but if nothing else the memory of his speech that stands out to me the most is this, “Sometimes God gives you what you always wanted so that you can realize that it’s not what you really need.”
It’s a tough place to be. To live in a society that gives me nearly everything I want whenever I want it. The hard question inevitably followed…
“What does this abundance do for you, Jennifer?”
I didn’t like the answer. Abundance strips me of the very essence of what faith and discipleship and following Christ should truly look like.
It’s no accident that America is rich in talents. And our Master has entrusted us to do something with those talents. I know that I want to be able to say that, upon His return, He receives everything He gave me back with interest.
But we Americans get awfully busy burying that investment so deeply that we’re unable to find it again.
There was a song that I heard earlier this year by the band We As Human. If you’d like to listen I’ve embedded the link below. Otherwise a few of the lyrics are posted beneath the video.
The worlds on fire but we’re all smiling
Though it’s all our fault
But life is short so we resort to laughing through it all
It’s the battle within the good and the sin
With both sides standing strong
It’s the permanent scars
How broken we are
It’s the things that hurt us all
But isn’t it beautiful
The way we fall apart
It’s magical and tragic all the ways we break our hearts
We’re comfortably miserable
We think we’re invincible
And maybe we are
Isn’t it beautiful
The way we all fall apart
Are we “comfortably miserable?” It’s nothing short of a beautiful mess how we turn our back on the very things Jesus spent His ministry on.
So what is our response? Do we bury those talents for safe keeping or do we put them to work as we demonstrate just how remarkable the hands and feet of Jesus can really be?
I hope that you’ll join me as I use this space to occasionally outline Stephen and his surroundings more closely.
Because in the words of Winston Churchill: “Occasionally he stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.”
It’s time that we rid ourselves of the mindset that nothing has happened. It’s here. It’s now. And as the body of Christ it’s our responsibility to feed the sheep.
Today I’m linking up with the following authors to share my story: