Sometimes the Spirit brings a face to my mind during the day—the man who broke his leg, the girl going off to college for the first time, the family packing to spend another term overseas.
Other times, the person is right in front of me, quietly sharing a need (or shouting it at the top of their lungs if they are under 3 feet tall).
I often respond to a little people need without giving it much thought.
Or I’ll spend a moment praying for the person God brought to mind, and possibly shoot them a text.
But other times, when caring about someone takes more time than I’d planned—a phone conversation, a time of instruction and discipline, or trying everything from celery to teething rings to calm a fussy baby–I find myself wanting to argue with God.
It’s as if the Father is saying, “My daughter, will you do this for me?”
And I respond, “But Father, look at all these other good things that I’d like to do for you. Can’t you just change my circumstances so that I can do them instead? What happened to serving from my gifts or trying to work efficiently and effectively?”
If I’m lucky, the Spirit’s truth gently pushes through my other thoughts with something like, “Who’s in charge over every scrap of the universe anyway? Who works all things together for your benefit and my glorious before-time-began rescue plan? Who gives people the gift of faith and draws them through life until their sure hope becomes a reality on my eternal New Earth?”
Pretty much all I can say to that is, “Oh. Right.”
Otherwise, I just keep trying to work hard in my own strength, forgetting the beauty of the gospel and the God who ordained it.
I forget what success means in His kingdom as I snatch at significance and results I can measure on this earth.
I forget the importance of taking time to enjoy Jesus and letting His Word change my thoughts that stubbornly want to keep slogging through the same trenches of worldly success.
I look to my accomplishments to bring the satisfaction that only Jesus can.
Instead, I need saints of old like Charles Spurgeon to remind me of truths like, “Remember this: had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, Divine Love would have put you there.”
At our conference of Mennonite churches this year, the speaker and his wife shared stories of what God is doing in churches all around the world. They encouraged us to echo the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am. Send me.”
But they also shared the story from the book of Acts, about Cornelius going to the home of the apostle Peter, and bringing Peter back to his family to share the good news of the gospel. God didn’t just send Peter out to preach the good news. He sent people to Peter (Acts 10).
The theme of the conference was Discipleship, and the speaker challenged us to not only say, “Here I am. Send me,” but also, “Here I am. Send them (to me.)”
As my heart continues to struggle with desiring earthly recognition and success, here are two things that the Spirit has used to refocus my mind on His perspective.
- Asking God to help me recognize who He is sending to me.
I often have my own ideas about who I want God to send me—people ready to ask, “Can you show me how to surrender my life to Jesus?” I need to be reminded that when Jesus was on earth, He met people’s needs, sharing the truth as He listened and loved.
- Asking God who He wants to love through me today.
When I’m concerned with the tasks I think God wants me to do for Him, my work can feel like one long to-do list. Joy dissolves, and people are added to the list of laundry, meals, and diapers.
But when I take time to receive the Father’s love and ask for His love to flow through me onto others, it takes the pressure off having something tangible to show for my time. It allows me to relax and enjoy the reflections of His image all around me.
When the work becomes all about people, the household tasks and life details become a way to love my family and those He’s placed in my life.
So what do I do with my goals and dreams?
First, as my mentor Natalie reminded me, I need to recognize that what I think is hunger for accomplishment really is hunger for God.
When I’m concerned with trusting God in what He wants to do through me, rather than focusing on pleasing God through my actions, it opens the way for God to graciously change my motives.
Maybe I won’t have the chance to publish a novel while my kids are still young.
But as I was reminded by Betsy Childs Howard in her talk on Walking By Faith When Dreams Are Delayed, God hasn’t given us the grace to face everything that could happen in the future. He gives grace for today.
And today, it’s okay that the potty training, grocery list, nursing, and time to email a friend filled up the 24 hour slot of today, rather than my writing.
Who has the Spirit placed right in front of you to share His love?
What circumstance is He inviting you to receive today as part of His gracious plan?