Umbrella of Grace
Everyday we sit for hours and we learn a large amount of information at a pretty rapid pace. For a mama who was used to spending her time at home with her kids, the classroom setting is a dramatic change. Among other things, we are learning how to disciple others, how to learn language, how to plant churches, how to grieve the losses involved with moving, how to deal with culture shock, and how to protect ourselves from diseases overseas. We are spending hours studying the Bible, memorizing scripture, and practicing sharing the gospel with both other missionaries and with the lost out in the community.
As I have been adjusting over the past several weeks and as my mind has been finally wrapping itself around the magnitude of what we have been called to do, the teachings of Christ on what it means to be a follower of Jesus have been on my mind. These scriptures are pretty straight forward and a little hard to digest. I’ve quoted many of these scriptures in the past, but it wasn’t until I heard Him say follow me, and I actually chose to listen, that I internalized them. Living out these verses is not always easy, but it will most definitely be worth it….
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” ~Luke 9:61-62
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” ~Luke 9:57-60
A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” ~Mark 8:34-38
He who loves [and takes more pleasure in] father or mother more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves [and takes more pleasure in] son or daughter more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me; And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conforming wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also] is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his [lower] life will lose it [the higher life], and whoever loses his [lower] life on My account will find it [the higher life]. ~Matthew 10:37-39
I’ve been a little reluctant to open up my heart to these scriptures now that they have a deeper meaning, because there is pain involved. The Holy Spirit has been bringing them to mind in my moments of feeling desperately homesick or laying awake in the dark, entertaining anxiety-filled thoughts about our future. It wasn’t until a sister in Christ from back home messaged me and said that she felt very deeply led by the Holy Spirit to send those same verses to me, that I allowed the loving correction of the Lord lead me to facing them head on. As I read the same verses that had been running through my mind in the days prior, conviction pierced my heart. My actions have been following Jesus, but there are still parts of my heart that clutch so tightly to my life back home. I loved my old life – truly loved it. I guess by ignoring the challenging teachings of Christ on what it takes to really be a follower of Him, I was trying to make myself feel better about the occasional longing to be back home where I am most comfortable. But the Holy Spirit is ever-faithful and tenderly brought my focus back to the Word of God. These teachings of Jesus are joyful sorrow. They involve death, whether to your own way of life, or actual physical death for the sake of the gospel. But while they first involve death, they are the very road to Life, and so inexpressible joy draws my heart to truly desiring His plans over mine. Jesus says He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one comes to God except through Him – and so I must follow His way. His way is salvation through His sacrifice on the cross which purchased my soul from darkness and brought me into His Kingdom of Light. His way is also obedience to a life of following Him with a faithful and hope-filled heart, anywhere that He leads me.
As I continue on this precious journey of learning to live a life of following Jesus, I look forward with great expectancy! There are days that are harder than others, but there is so much excitement in my heart when I hear of the miracles happening when people boldly step out in faith to share the Good News with people all over the world! I want to be on the front lines of the battle for souls that is raging. I want to see sisters rescued and families restored. I want to see people healed and demonic strongholds broken. I want to see people who pray to a false god come to know the Living God! I want to see eyes glossed over with darkness come to life as they put their trust in Jesus! I don’t want to just hear about these stories, I want to live them. When that beautiful day comes – the day that I step into the Father’s glory – I do not want to be ashamed. I want to stand before Him in absolute confidence that I lived my life well and that I followed Him without wavering.
Yesterday, as I walked home from class on the dark, wet pavement with the baby on my hip, the heavens broke open and the rain poured down. My first instinct was to run, but as my hand gripped the umbrella which proved to be an impenetrable shield, I felt my spirit calm and relax into His grace. It’s as though He was telling me walk under My umbrella of grace, dear one. In that moment, my thoughts changed from just trying to run away from the storm which pelted down strong on the covering over me, to walking steadily, viewing the storm as a sweet and treasured time. There are many storms ahead with living in a foreign culture, learning language, and with the constant dying to self that precedes living fully alive in His beautiful plan. But no matter how dark the days ahead may be at times, or how ferocious the storms may rage, His grace will always be perfectly sufficient to intimately help me navigate forward in pursuit of the souls that are still waiting for salvation. When culture shock hits and doubts tempt me to question my calling, His grace will give me strength to choose to endure gracefully and dance in the rain!
“We say of rain and of grace, God is the sole Author of it…He moderates the force, so that it does not beat down or drown the tender herb. Grace comes in its own gentle way. Conviction, enlightenment, etc., are sent in due measure. He holds it in his power. Absolutely at his own will does God bestow either rain for the earth, or grace for the soul”
“The rain causes development. Grace also perfects grace. Buds of hope grow into strong faith. Buds of feeling expand into love. Buds of desire rise to resolve. Buds of confession come to open avowal. Buds of usefulness swell into fruit.”
“He directs each drop, and gives each blade of grass its own drop of dew, to every believer his portion of grace.”
My prayer for today is that I would not withdrawal when the storms of life hit. I want the cherished little ones entrusted to my care to see a courageous woman whose hope causes her to walk steadily and securely in the Lord. I never want my children to feel trapped in a false sense of security when there is an adventure with the Lord calling them forth out into the world. Rain or shine – joy or pain – choose to follow and walk under His intimate covering of grace.