Wednesday, January 2, 2013

In the World but Not of It? Yes, but... How?

This morning, I was reading through some messages and found one I felt compelled to answer knowing all the while that I would want to post it here.  It's a good question, one we should all be asking.  I'm betting that some others are wondering the same thing especially with Christmas just behind us.  I hope so, and I hope what I've written here will help you in your walk with the Lord today.  For privacy's sake, I won't say who the letter is from, but I do want to share both the letter and it's response.  Here they are:      

"Hi Sherri. I feel so awkward emailing you, and I'm not really even sure why I am.  I have just been praying about something and long story short I happened upon your blog and found some of the answers.  I have listened to the show for years, and I mourned the loss of your sweet baby boy as so many others have. I'm not sure why I never read your blog before...I think it's just because I was supposed to read it now. Anyway after reading your blog and listening to Rick preach your baby's funeral I just have this burning question. I just wonder once you "get it" - once you know that nothing we do here matters unless it is for the kingdom- how do you find joy in all the other stuff? Do you forever feel guilty for spending money on something you know you don't really need but that you just want? Do you struggle with the activities that your kids do and the time they spend doing them? Do you feel led by the spirit to know when you are crossing those lines? I just feel the sincerity and wisdom in the words that you write. And I guess I am hoping you can impart some of that wisdom on me. I just struggle with that fine line between being in the world but not of the world. Anyway, I just want to say thank you for sharing your heart and for taking the time to write down the words that have become the answers to another's prayers! Thank you!"

No, I'm so glad you did. This is a great question, the best question, the thing all Christians should be asking, and the thing I have struggled with the most. After Bronner went to Heaven, I wanted to die... literally. I had no love for this world anymore. I found myself lying on the pool deck one day looking into the clouds wanting to fly up into them. I felt at that moment that I could, that I could just give up my spirit and rise up to Heaven with God and with Bronner. As I lay there, I closed my eyes as if to go, and then I heard the names of people I knew were not Christians and may never find the Lord if I weren't here to help show them the way. I stood up and the moment was gone.

I was never suicidal, never would I deliberately take my own life, but I felt that I could, if I desired, give up living. Even before I lost Bronner, I had felt this. When I was pregnant with him, I began to have a great fear of losing one of my children and had even discussed it with Rick. He and I both agreed that we couldn't go on living after something like that. I said that I would just crawl up in bed and die. We even joked about it a little agreeing that he would have to stay and take care of the other children. It was all hypothetical then.

Looking back, that seems almost idolatrous to me, and, in fact, it may have been. I have always loved the Lord, but He has taught me that I must love Him more than anything, even my children. God was drawing me nearer in the taking of my youngest son.

Brody was in first grade when Bronner went away, and I was having a real hard time living in the world. I expressed this to his sweet teacher one day when I was dropping him off. She told me to look at the world through the eyes of a first grader, that there was more for Brody in this world, and that I would have to be here for him through it all. Another mom I know who has lost a son said she struggled with the very same thing. She said that "the world had lost its luster" for her. She told me to just "do the next thing" and that I would find life again. So, yes, it is very hard to live in this world when your heart, treasure, baby, and God live elsewhere.

Then, we began to go on mission trips and see horrifying conditions of life in other places, and that made me want to help them. I stopped feeling so sorry for myself and began to want to help others. I always knew that I wanted to stay to raise my other children, and I knew that my role as a wife was to be a comfort to my husband through his pain and grief. So, leaving the world was never a real desire, just a fancy I guess. I know that there's something so much greater than what this world holds, but what I live for within it is the work God has given me to do. He wants me to raise my children in the fear and the admonition of the Lord. He wants me to love my husband and to be a helper to him. He wants me to write and speak and teach in His name. He wants me to give generously of my time, talents, and resources to further His kingdom. Those are the things I live for.

I recently took my children on a surprise trip to New York City for Christmas, and I had a good time. I really did. But, it's not really my thing. I didn't do it for me. I did it for them because there is still a wonder in them that has gone away for me. There's a song by one of my favorite artists, Kristyn Getty, about that very thing. She asks, in the song, for God to not let her lose her wonder. I do find wonder in some things, things like flowers and birds and babies. I love to see the excitement and wonder of my children about almost anything. They were so excited about our trip. Brooks said the best part was the surprise. They thought they were going to our farm to take Christmas pictures, and when they protested that "this isn't the way to the farm," I pulled out a gift for them to open. It was the tickets to the shows we were going to see.

"Are we going to see a play?" Brooks said.

"Keep reading."

"New York City, New York!!!"

And, I agree. The surprise was the best part. He had worked so hard studying for finals, and this was just the thrill he needed to start his holiday break off right!

It was fun and a memory he'll always have, I hope. I gave him this gift because I love him and because I knew he would enjoy it. There is nothing wrong with that. God, Himself, wants to lavish us with good gifts, and He will one day. We do want to give good things to the ones we love if we can. I would give the whole world a trip to New York City if I could. But I am called to raise my children. And I am.

I haven't always felt this way. I know exactly what you're feeling. I have so felt buyers regret. I don't really anymore. I buy things because I love people. I buy things to make my home more lovely and comfortable for my family. I buy things to look nice for my husband. I think this is good. God calls us to be hospitable, and He has also created women to love beautiful things. The women I met in India were fascinated by my diamond wedding band. They had never seen diamonds. I mentioned this to the man who ran the ministry we worked with there commenting that "women everywhere are the same." And he said, almost a little accusingly, "Oh, how so?" And I said, "We all love beautiful things." He was a little taken aback and had no reply. I think he thought that maybe I was right. Those women had nothing, but they wore beautiful clothing. They wore the same sari everyday, but it was one that was very ornate and lovely. That's part of being a woman, I think.

For me, though, the difference is priority. If I were given a choice between sponsoring a missionary or buying a new dress, it would always be the sponsorship. If we keep our lives in balance, with God right in the center of everything we do, then it's okay. I have begun to ask the Lord about purchases and activities. He always confirms me in my spirit. If I feel wrong in my spirit about something, I know it's not the right choice, but if God gives me overwhelming peace about something, as He has many times, then I know it is His will. For instance, I took my parents on a trip to Ireland a couple of years ago, not for a mission trip but just to give them a good gift, and I felt not one ounce of regret about it. The Lord wanted me to do this good thing for them out of love. We did the same thing for Rick's parents, taking them to London the following year.  Now, we all treasure those moments together so much. Because it's not about how much we spend or what we do, it's a way to express our love for one another. Yes, I sponsor missionaries and children in Africa and ministries in great number, my church, etc., but the people who get the most of me are the people I love the most, my family, my friends.

That's what it all boils down to... love and peace. If you love someone and God gives you peace to give them a great gift, then do it. We do live in this world, and we have to make the best of it. We follow the Lord's leading in all things. He's right there inside of you to give approval or disapproval to everything you do. If you'll listen to that nudging of the Spirit, you'll know.

Another aspect is trust. Some people worry that if I do this or that, I may run out of money. I don't really ever worry about that. I don't worry that Rick will lose His job or that I have to save tons of money for the future. I feel that God will always provide for me no matter what. If the economy fails, if Rick loses his job, if America... whatever! God speaks of this very plainly in Matthew 6:19-34: "Do not lay up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also... Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value that they? ...Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' ...your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

I really think that is why I am at peace with my life... I seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He knows this and has provided abundantly more than I could ever think or imagine. I look forward to my life in Heaven very, very much, but I know there is work left for me here in this world.

I will... that is my answer to God. Yes, Lord, I will do all that you ask or require of me. Yes, this, and more will I do, because I LOVE YOU... more than I love this world... more than anything, Lord, do I love YOU.