Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sitting on a Barbed Wire Fence

I am a comfortable middle-aged woman living in a comfortable house in a comfortable, middle class neighborhood. I have a comfortable middle-of-the-road view on too many things--some that matter and some that don't. I go to a comfortable church in the middle of the comfortable county and wear comfortable clothes and engage in comfortable activities.

You'd think I'd be satisfied. But I'm not. I'm not content with the status quo. I feel a restlessness growing within my soul, a sense that I have--for far too long--ignored the parts of scripture that I'm just not comfortable with. Or I've been okay with waiting for others to take the initiative and invite me to join them in opportunities to get out of the lukewarm kettle of water I'm in.

For example, every week I go to church, but seldom do I make the effort to get to know people whose faces I don't recognize. Our congregation is almost 450 people strong, and some weeks I don't even see people I'm trying to see. But there are folks I've never met. I fear that they've been around for seven months (or seven years!) and I haven't noticed or bothered to get to know them. My fear of embarrassment holds me back. Pride is ugly. Humility would say, "So what? Show yourself friendly. Don't wait for someone to befriend you. You know how that feels. Be different. Get over yourself."

Three times a month I go to some kind of church-based, small group meeting where we talk about our walk as Christians, or we discuss the Sunday sermon, or express what's going on in our lives, where we need to improve ("grow"), how we identify with each other, and sometimes we pray at length. It's a good group and we do need each other. But lately I have been examining how many
needs OUTSIDE the group I'm aware of (or callously disregarding), how many hurting lives I'm touching rather than merely talking about. Not sure of any except those of other Christians, perhaps. (I am tempted to say "we aren't noticing" or "we aren't doing" or "we are myopic," but I am not responsible for "we." I can't change the group, or even one other person. Just me. If I am hearing God's voice, I don't need to wait for others to initiate or join me. I need to obey regardless.)

I feel I'm sitting right now on a barbed-wire fence. Itching, somewhat annoyed, kind of scared, afraid to move, but more afraid not to. If I move, the barb will put a hole in my jeans and maybe cut my hands; it could really hurt. But if I stay here and don't move, my muscles will atrophy and the fence will rust under me and I could die in my spiritual paralysis.

The devil wants me to stay put and be comfortable because I'm rather ineffective for the Lord as long as I'm just sittin' and hearin', not gettin' up and doin'. It won't be long before I lose my balance. For too long the "balance" has been comfortable. The balance, for me, has really been imbalance. I never leave my comfortable world. I go to a Christian church, have Christian friends, homeschool my youngest child in a Christian family and teach in a Christian co-op. Even when I worked, it was in a Christian school. I have not made choices to leave the Christian bubble at all. To my shame, I am spiritually fat and weak for lack of exercise.

I think God is starting to affect my equilibrium so that I tip and tilt and finally tumble--heart, mind, soul, and body--off the barbed wire fence and into His service in more ways than are comfortable. Uncomfortable service. Uncomfortable sacrifice. Uncomfortable living. Living that requires more faith, more hard work, and in two words, more love.

I want to love more, not just be loved more.
I want to serve more, not just be served more.
I want the will to get over myself and see the needs of the hurting and try to do something--anything--to help relieve their suffering.
I want help through prayer in this, and accountability. I am tempted to say I want a leader in this, but the truth is, that would be an easy excuse to procrastinate. I can't sit on any fences for other people; I can only make a choice about what to do with the barbed wire fence I'm being asked to get off.

God, help me to choose, today, like removing one finger at a time from this death-grip I have on my fence, one person to love more and serve more. Help me be a better servant in my home where the mundane services go unappreciated and unnoticed unless I fail to do them. Help me to do more than think about orphans, the homeless, the widows, the imprisoned, the enslaved, the cold, the lonely, the hungry. Cause me to pray more and do more to show "the least of these" Your love. Let me loosen my grip on the barbed wire fence, and plunge headlong into the rough pasture below. My soul is in green pastures, yes--you've been so kind to give me more comforts than I can count, but I have enjoyed them rather selfishly for too long. I want to feel for those who aren't living in comfortable green pastures, and then go beyond feeling to doing.


Rachelle said...

Beautiful hard words. We have grown so accustomed to meeting our own needs in the name of christianity. I heard a story of a young girl (Bulgaria, I think) that was in an orphanage across the street from a huge beautiful, ornate church building. She said she grew to resent the people that went there, while she went hungry. She wondered why none of them ever visited the children. And how they could spend so much money on beatiful stained glass windows and never provide the children even a slice of bread...
if we are not moved by the plight of the orphan, widow or those in need, then our faith is dead.
Gonna pray that you get off that fence; it may hurt a little. I pray I do too!

Karen said...

excellent post Zo! Praying for you and me.

Karen said...
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One More Equals Four said...

Amen! I have been so convicted in the last few months about my comfortable life and my closed eyes to the needs around me! I have been praying a very similar prayer for my heart to break for the lost and dying world and for a willingness to go.

Danielle said...

Excellent post. I've had a similar feeling in the sense that I've been reading "Tortured for Christ" and it's a hard read. I feel almost ashamed to have such ease as a Christian, not that I wish to experience such horror at all. I'm thankful I don't have to, but for all our comfort, it does make me feel almost no urgency to be bold. As the saying goes, it's harder to be faithful in plenty . . .