Tag Archives: loneliness

Is God Enough?

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About a month ago I heard a sermon about the woman at the well (John 4)  and I can’t stop thinking about her.  Jesus takes time to talk to a woman who was really messing up her life, and I identified with her… not in the exact same way, I mean, I haven’t had a string of husbands and adulterous relationships.  Jesus met her at the well during the heat of noon when thirst was a natural conversation starter.  He pointed out the fact that her life was like a dry, empty well.  She had a deep, emptiness in her that she was trying to fill with relationships.  That’s what caught my attention.

One night while sitting on my balcony watching the city lights, the Lord started to speak to me about that gaping emptiness inside of me too.  Sometimes I feel loneliness as a tangible force.  Like the woman at the well, I throw things into the yawning abyss to try to satisfy the ache.  I circle around Facebook searching for “human” connection.  I browse the internet reading blogs and news articles just killing time until I can sleep because it’s better than sitting here listening to the beating of my own heart.  Distractions.  For some people the distractions take the form of music, work, sports, TV, video games, going out night after night, or worse vices like addictions.  We all have an ache we can’t fill.  We all should be able to identify with the woman at the well.

As I pondered what the Lord was showing me, I felt him say, “Let me fill you.”  He said that to the woman too.  “Let me fill you with Living Water so that you will never again thirst spiritually.”  I hesitated.  He asked me, “What are you afraid of?”

“Lord, I’m afraid that you won’t be enough.”  I have not found anything yet that is enough.  So I felt like if I give up my stop-gap measures, the dam will break and nothingness will come rushing in like a vacuum- sucking me down like a black hole.  I looked up at the stars.  Somehow by pondering the bigness of the Universe and the smallness of me, everything was put in perspective.  I am small.  My emptiness, though it feels big to me, is nothing to God.  I am guilty of constructing a very small view of God.

Things in the Universe are so far away, so large yet so spread out through the vastness of space, that we use something called a Light Year to talk about distances.  A Light Year is how far light can travel in one Earth year.  The magic number is 5.88 trillion miles per year- that is a Light Year.  Scientists have calculated that the edge of the “known” Universe is 98 billion Light Years away from Earth.  So if you could travel at the speed of Light for 98 billion years, then you would come to the edge of the what we think we “know” of the Universe… and it most certainly expands farther than that.  Feeling small yet?

Think about this, the Bible says that God holds the whole Universe in his hand- that he measures the sky with the palm of his hand.  So if you could travel 5.88 trillion miles per year for 98 billion years… you might reach the edge of God’s hand.  “Do you still think I’m not enough?”  God asked me.  I lay down my arguments in humble awe of His Greatness.  Like Job, I am speechless in response to His Majesty.

If you want more awe inspiring thoughts about our Universe, watch this YouTube video of Christian speaker Louie Giglio.

Pause, Young Wannabe-Leader, Pause

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“I had coffee with a guy this week who just graduated college and wanted to know how he could prepare himself for being in ministry and becoming a better leader. He could feel the tension between the raw gifts and ambitions God had given him to lead and how he should refine them. The derailment of many young leaders is impatience, a premature demand to take the reins before the character or gifts are ready.”

I read this opening paragraph in an article “What’s Your Next Move, Young Leader?” on line last week.  The article continues with 5-6 points of advice that I myself have given young people who are eager to find what God has planned for their lives.  However, I would like to revise my advice from all those years ago.

Today if this young person who just graduated from college were sitting across from me, sipping coffee and asking for advice; I would say something quite different.  I would say “Pause.”  How can you prepare yourself for ministry and becoming a leader?  Pause.  How about 40 days in the wilderness fasting.  How about 40 YEARS in the wilderness leading stupid sheep.  How about loads of silence, and how about a crushing sense of being forgotten in a prison cell.  How about being a servant when God has given you the vision of being a great leader.

“Pause your life.”  You aren’t ready to begin yet.

Young people are always eager for their purpose to appear and for their life to start having meaning.  I remember I was eager at that age too.  “Just tell me what I’m going to do and I’ll be happy to get on with it!”  was how I thought back then.  But over and over in the Bible we see God preparing men for greatness by isolating them and breaking them down FIRST.  Those are steps that NO college graduate wants to take.

Think about it.  David didn’t become King over night.  He spent years running for his life from a jealous King Saul.  Moses was super eager to begin leading the Israelites.  So eager, in fact, that he jumped the gun and killed a guy.  Then he spent the next 40 years hiding on the back side of the desert with a bunch of sheep.  Joseph had dreams and visions of his future greatness at a very early age.  But when his brothers sold him into slavery and his slave master threw him in jail, I’m sure Joseph wondered if his dreams would ever come true.  Jesus himself fasted in the wilderness for 40 days before beginning his public ministry.  But there were 30 years behind those 40 days!

God plants the seeds of greatness in Isolation.  Young Wannabe-Leader, get alone with God.  Let God isolate you and break you open before he impregnates your heart with vision.  In the quiet, in the dark, all alone a seed dies in the dirt before it grows up into the sunshine.

My advice for young leaders is to Pause before you rush out into the spotlight with your ears full of your own voice, and your eyes full of your own visions, and your mind full of your own ideas.  Pause.  Wait on God.  Wait a long, long time if you have to.  Great men of God are made in isolation.

My Tribe

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I used to think that “Kindred Spirits” were rare kinds of friends, few and far between.  

The other night I was thinking back over our 18 years in ministry.  There was a time in my life when I didn’t have any real friends.  I had co-workers in ministry, but I didn’t share my inner most thoughts with anyone at all.  No one took the time to get close to me, and I opened up to no one.  I blamed it on a lack of time.  I blamed it on my need for strength and my fear of weakness.  I blamed it on a need for confidentiality between pastors and congregations.  I blamed it on the fact that I saw no one around me who was exactly like me… as if that were really the only kind of person that I would enjoy being friends with.  I was very busy, but when I slowed down I was deeply lonely.  I didn’t like slowing down.

I remember the night that we “graduated” from School of Missions and we were commissioned to become missionaries.  My parents were standing somewhere in the crowd behind us, supportive, conflicted, and tearful. I was so excited to finally be in the group of people that I had longed to be a part of ever since I was 10 years old.  I was finally “in” the tribe that I had admired for so long.  Then I turned around and saw the sad-proud looks on my parents’s faces and I realized in one sinking moment that they were not coming with me.  They were not joining the club.  I was leaving one tribe to be a member of another tribe.  Yes my family would always love me like only family can, but the people who would UNDERSTAND me were other missionaries. My family was left standing on the outside, separated by more than the physical distance between counties.

More than 8 years later I have reached a new, fresh level of life in ministry.  Here overseas I have made more life-long friendships than I ever had in full time ministry in the States.  Here I have nothing but time on my side.  I have shed that old, tight friendless skin and have embraced a softer, more flexible and friendly  sort of skin.  The friendships I have here are deep and satisfying, giving and being filled up at the same time.

I can honestly say that the change probably occurred when I was pummeled into tenderness during our time at Language school.  But that time of trial and transformation is yet another point of connection that I have in common with my tribe mates and fellow missionaries.  (So I don’t begrudge one moment of the beating.)  I have never felt such deep camaraderie in ministry as I feel with My Tribe.  My cup overfloweth with friends.

Language School graduation, surrounded by our Tribe who knows “what it’s like”.