Thursday, September 15, 2011

Too full?

I cook almost every night.  I genuinely enjoy cooking for my family.  I like the excitement/nervousness of trying something new and the pleasure of seeing big smiles when I serve one of our favorites.  But let me tell you one thing I most certainly DO NOT like . . . when I'm "slaving over the stove" with just minutes left until the food is ready only to turn around and see Chad munching on a poptart or some other space-filler.  Frustrates me to no end!  Chad's response is usually to remind me that he has never not eaten my amazing food, even if he had a little snack beforehand.  To his credit, he is right.  Somehow Chad (and most men) have the ability to eat like bottomless pits.  Still, it irritates me.  For some reason I feel like the hunger should get the best food first . . . my food, not some random snack from the pantry.  My fear is that Chad will come to the table full and not be able to completely enjoy what I worked hard and delighted to put before him. 

Today as I was cleaning the floors, God brought this scenario to my mind. (Ava was painting so I was able to have deep thoughts and conversation with God as I mopped . . . thank you Jesus that "quiet times" don't have to be in solitude or quiet!)   The question He put before me was this . . .

Are you coming to My table already full?

I've continued to wrestle with this throughout the day.  Have I oriented things in my life, in my day so that I am too full for what my Lord desires to put before me?  Am I spending time "snacking" on things with no value, only to end up with a dull appetite when I come before the God of the universe who wants to feed me with more of Him?

I see this playing out in my life in a few different ways . . .

1.  Am I coming to God hungry for Him, to be fed from His Word, to be filled and surrendered to the Spirit?  Basically, am I desiring and seeking an intimate relationship with Him?  I've always struggled with consistent times with God.  I'm talking about more than just a quick prayer and reading a verse to make me feel like I can check that box off my to do list.  Deep times of prayer and true study in the Word. 

2.  Is my life full of the things God has called me to? Am I spending a majority of my day on things that offer no spiritual value or help me accomplish the mission I've been given?  Have I been doing things because they are good instead of asking God what is best?

I've been teaching a women's Sunday school class for the past two years.  In that time, we've studied Philippians, Colossians,  1 & 2 Corinthians, Ephesians and now we're in Romans.  Needless to say, I've been getting to know Paul much better than ever before!  The thing that strikes me about Paul is that his mission and purpose in life is clear . . . the advancement of the Gospel.  It was the foundation of his ministry, the fuel that kept him going, and the ultimate desire of his heart.  Phil. 1:21 sums it up well . . . "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."  We look at Paul's life and applaud his passion and purpose, while just as quickly dismissing the notion that our life should look anything like his.  The truth is, most of our lives probably won't look like Paul's . . . mission trips for months, even years at a time, traveling the world, enduring unspeakable hardships, being martyred for our faith.  But we forget that Paul writes in his letters for the recipients to imitate him, to put into practice what they have heard and seen in him.  He wasn't writing to people just like him. He was writing to people just like me, like you.  People in Philippi that had to go to work each day, take care of their family, serve the church and figure out how to do it all in such a way that the Gospel was the focus each and every moment.  Paul urges them to have the same passion and purpose as ministers of reconciliation that he does and to display it in all they do.

So is my life characterized by an extreme (Paul-like extreme) passion to advance the Gospel?  Or is my life already to full of other stuff, even good stuff, to participate in the ministry God has for me?

3.  People.  People are what matter.  People are who need the Gospel.  Is my life too full for the needs of others?  Is my life too full for a new friend who needs not only to hear about Jesus, but to SEE Him in me as I do life?

I know I can't be the only one who struggles with this.  You have someone new come to church.  This is incredible in itself because it is scary to come somewhere new even if you know Jesus, but if you don't know Him, it is flat out courageous!  So you see this person and say hi and maybe sit by them or invite them to your Sunday school class.  But what then?  If you let God give you eyes to see, you will see their need, not only for a Savior, but for a place to belong, for true community, for real friends.  That is where it gets hard.  Do you have room in your life for a new friend?  Do you have time for discipleship when they begin to follow Christ?  Even harder, are you even willing to be their friend when you realize that you don't really "click" or have a lot in common?

Having a life too full for other people happens easily and is very dangerous.  If someone is seeking to know more about Christ, they might come to church.  They expect to see Him in the people there that say they reflect Him, live to glorify Him.  So what message do they get when those same people have no time for them or won't let them fully into their lives?  Loud and clear they hear that we don't care and neither does Jesus.  And they walk away.  And we never even miss them.  We didn't really have room for them in the first place.  That is scary stuff.  Even scarier because it has an eternal impact.

If you're still reading this, thanks!  You've just endured me processing what God is speaking to my heart.  I'm heavy because asking these questions has not revealed a pretty picture in my own life.  I plan to do some serious evaluating in the days and weeks to come.  I invite you to do the same.  I'm praying I can post soon of how God has stripped away the "snacks and space-fillers" in my life to create abundant room for Him and others!  May we be filled with the Spirit, may we feast on His Word and His Presence each day, may we fill our time with living out the mission we've been given, and may we fill our lives with people who need Jesus!