"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." - John 12:24-26
I was slightly distracted by his impressive balancing act, so I don't remember much of what he said in the first part of his sermon yesterday... something about jumping into ministry and being fully trained to do a routine, I think... but... Who puts a gymnastics balance beam on the platform of a church... and furthermore, how many pastors do you know who will take their shoes off and jump up on the balance beam, walking back and forth on it with ease while they preach? Well, besides this pastor, maybe Alan Malchuk would... yes, I can see Alan doing something like this... As I said, I was distracted.
But then he crouched down and slowly, carefully, laid down and wrapped his arms and legs around the beam, holding on for dear life and not moving. Distracting? Yes. But also intriguing. I leaned forward to find out what he would say. He said it was an illustration of the prayer that so many Christians pray: "God, here I am! I want to be used by you, but I want to be safe." Lying there, wrapped around that beam, the pastor explained the paradox of John 12... that when we cling to our lives, longing for earthly safety and security, we miss life as God intended it. Jesus said he came to give life more abundantly, but we live a safe, boring Christian life, and we wonder why we feel unfulfilled.
Am I living too safe? I wondered. I mean, here I am, a missionary in a new place... but I'm still in America, in a nice house, with modern conveniences, and in the most mild weather this "distant land of Indiana" can offer... I take for granted that I will leave this place before the first blast of winter air hits. I really believe this is where God wants me to be right now, but I need to be careful not to assume this is a short-term mission trip that I will leave and go back to safety and familiarity in August. I don't think this is meant to be a temporary time of feeling better about myself as a Christian because I get to do some cool things for the Kingdom... I think it's more like a step deeper into the will of God. And I don't want to back-petal.
If I go back to Winston-Salem, what is my calling there? What do I do and how then shall I live? And if I go somewhere else, or return to this place, what will his mission be for me? Not safe... not refined... reckless faith... risky ministry... What will this look like? I have no idea yet. I just know I don't want to cling to the balance beam. I don't want my physical weaknesses and limitations to become excuses to not go and love and serve people wherever and however God wants me to. I want to jump on my balance beam and do the very best, most amazing routine I can, so that when I dismount, my Judge will be able to enthusiastically say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"