I went fourteen years once without crying. After the first decade of tearlessness it bothered me to the point that I began asking God to tenderize my heart.
Yesterday, after nine years in Sarajevo I said goodbye to dear friends, angels and rascals who became brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. I’m no longer tearless. Somewhere over the Atlantic I my put on my headphones, randomly chose a song by Rich Mullins, and found my heart dripping down my cheeks.
Now the plummer’s got a drip in his spigot
The mechanic’s got a clank in his car
And the preacher’s thinking thoughts that are wicked
And the lover’s got a lonely heart
My friends ain’t the way I wish they were
They are just the way they are.
And I will be my brother’s keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won’t despise him for his weakness
I won’t regard him for his strength
I won’t take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will, I will be my brother’s keeper
I’m missing them today… children, now grown into men, and men who are now standing before Jesus; friends who stood, and some who fell. They’ve enriched my life in ways only my heart can understand. I wish I could tally what I’ve left behind in Bosnia. There’s only One who can do that. But I do know that Bosnia has left something deep and rich in me. My tears tell me so.
Some of my friends have been mentioning their anger towards God lately. It’s something I understand, having been through a few episodes myself. For me those moments have ultimately been healthy and instructive, giving way to a deeper, more endearing revelation of the Father of Jesus. It invariably turns out the “God” I was angry at wasn’t the True God at all, but rather a twisted, ill-informed version of Him shaped by past experiences, shoddy teaching, and rigid legalism.
Jesus said “…no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matt. 11:27) And when Jesus chooses to reveal the Father to us, he does so by telling a story about an amazing Father and his delinquent son. The same Father who generously hands over the family inheritance and allows him to spend it at will is also the same Father who waits broken-hearted on the front porch for his son to return. And all in the hope of showering him once again with extravagant love. What’s a squandered inheritance worth compared to the treasure of a loving relationship between Father and son?
That’s not the sort of Father who invites my anger and fear. And when I find myself getting frustrated with “God” it’s a reminder that I need to step back and see if I’m not believing lies about who the true Father of Jesus is.
I’ve been thinking about three passages: “Be holy as I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:16) “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” (Matthew 5:48) and “Be compassionate as your Father in heaven is compassionate.” (Luke 6:36) And I’m wondering if maybe they’re not all saying the same thing. Some Bible commentators have even suggested that God’s holiness and perfection is completed in the compassion of Jesus.
If the most foundational thing about God is indeed the stunning love between Father, Son, and Spirit, and since the one way that Jesus suggested we would be known was by our love, (rather than by our moral perfection), and since the greatest commandment is to love God and love others, then I’m wondering if God’s holiness might be more expressed by loving inclusion and compassion than in spotless moral perfection. If that’s really the case, then I can say with all humility that I’m beginning to experience some personal growth in holiness. My heart is being enlarged towards others in ways that are fresh and exciting.
Had a spur-of-the-moment picnic on the mountain yesterday. As you can see from the photo, it’s beginning to cool off in Sarajevo. These friends are deeply loved by the Father. Some of them know it, and others haven’t realized it yet.
Been trying for an hour to think of something profound to say. Old habits die slowly. The past few days have been bouncy. I’ve had some wonderful connections with God and with people, and one major incident that left me hurt and confused. (Wish I could tell you about it, but I’m afraid it would only add to the confusion.)
Martin Luther said, “Where God builds a church, the enemy soon builds a chapel.” That’s probably the case. Bobo spent yesterday with me. I’ve known him since he was a ten year old kid, and now at nineteen he’s a gifted musician and worship leader with the tender heart of a servant. I’ll bet God sent him my way just to encourage me. He does things like that.
Last night we had a farewell party for Laura, a small gathering of old friends who have worked and played together since 1998. We’ve been through thick and thin, heaven and hell, and become like a family in the process. And this particular gathering felt especially sweet as we laughed and cried over the shared stories.
I can’t imagine the comraderie of soldiers in battle being any sweeter and tighter than the love among missionaries who serve together over the long haul. It’s one of the great rewards of serving the Kingdom in uncharted territory. And it’s sad to think of leaving such wonderful companions so soon.
Jenny, Merle, Dani, Laura, (Me), and Carolyn
“First you own things, and then things own you.” I started packing up my apartment this week, picking through letters, keepsakes, and balls of string while my friends are in town visiting over coffee. I REALLY want to be free from the tyranny of this stuff.
“Take care to keep yourselves free from the desire for property; for a man’s life is not made up of the number of things which he has.” (Luke 12:15)
I just did a little re-write of “Random Thoughts” (August 10). Too much attitude in the original post, and I’m not sure how accurately it portrayed the Father. Old stereotypes die slowly, and I suppose I’ll always be wrestling with that prideful know-it-all who’s forever trying to take over my body.
Some new and old friends at the dinner table.