If I Don’t, Who Will?

It’s the little things like a man saying he’s discipling a young woman because no one else is qualified.

Or an exhausted and spiritually bruised Bible teacher not stepping aside for a time because “no one else is capable to teach.” A lot of people see those actions as noble, spiritual and admirable. I understand that, I really do. But honestly, it’s also the most prideful.

I almost gave up my livelihood yesterday. A deaf man I’ve come to care for asked me to give up everything in order to help him get back on his feet. I almost agreed to it not because I felt as if it was God’s call on my life, but because I liked the feeling and power of thinking I was indispensible.

I could almost hear my pious sigh as I mentally prayed, Dear Jesus, if I don’t, who will? I just as quickly heard God whisper, The person I have given that task to in the first place. You take this position, you take the blessing away from someone you don’t even know. This isn’t your job.

So many times, we as Christians are told to step up and take responsibility. Often we’re told not to waste our gifts. I couldn’t agree more. However, there comes a point where we become so enthralled with being so deeply  needed, we forget the bigger picture.

The fact is, God uses us because He wants to; not because He needs to. We aren’t indispensable to God’s plan. There’s just as much wisdom in knowing when to say no as there is in the courage to say yes.

Truthfully, it goes deeper than a question of pride. It’s a question of trust. 

Can I trust God to fulfill His plan without me? … Can I trust God to use someone else just as well as He’s used me?

Lesson Behind Bars

The man walked into the jail with a swagger I had come to know well and love even more. One look at my friend and most everyone knows his story of his sold innocence. 

Drug dealer. Anyone who has spent even an hour around someone who wears that authority knows what to look for. The six-foot, 265 pound giant wears the identity with a secure pride; even while in stripes.

“Hi, Sweetheart,” he mumbled as he leaned in for his typical half handshake, half hug and pat on the back. I’ve known him for two years, but because of the tears we’ve shared over his choices, I feel like I’ve known him all my life. 

He knows how to play with people, but early on he shockingly exclaimed that he felt I was better at his game than he was. I’ve never figured out what to do with that proclamation, but his misconception of my “skill” has led him to a blunt, raw honesty he doesn’t seem to give too many people. You watch your back when you’re incarcerated. You trust no one.

“Have they sentenced you yet, Bud?”

“I know I’m serving 20 years. Don’t know when they’ll send me down State. I’m here for a while, Doll. I’m just ready to get my answers.”

He half-heartedly traced the words Holy Bible on the book he held in front of him. I knew he was thinking about his kids. 20 years was long enough to be written out of his kids’ lives. 

“Does that Book mean anything to you, Bud? Or is this just a quick fix to get good behavior written on your record and five years erased off of prison time?” I choked back tears as I asked the question.  In the last two years, I’d seen a change in the man that took my breath away, but I also knew the attractiveness of saying the right things to pull the right strings. I wasn’t stupid enough to take his proclamation of faith in Jesus blindly. The realization that he could possibly still be playing me like a fiddle comes to mind every time I sit down to talk with him.

“Cass, I’m good at drug dealin’. The guy I learned my stuff from used to tell me the Golden Rule was to ‘Sell, Don’t Consume.’ I got blastedly good at knowing enough to sell my stuff and get my money, but I rarely took a hit. Jesus is different, though. I have to consume Him before I can ‘sell’ Him to someone else. This Book means everything to me; it gives me Jesus.”

It’s a humbling thing to be convicted by something a prisoner says. How many times do I try and, as my friend put it, ‘sell’ (share) Jesus to a nonbeliever yet forget to ‘consume’ His truths, love and intimacy for myself? How many times do I try my hardest to impact people like this gentleman with the Gospel without first letting the Gospel impact me?

Oh, may it never be.

 

A Warrior’s Worry

“Don’t step up if you can’t keep up.”

At first, that phrase was cute and teasing. After several months, though, that phrase was said as the man cracked a beer, lit a cigarette and proceeded to belittle every thought and insight I had which didn’t leave him feeling in control. In not so many words, he was reminding me I was worthless without him. I couldn’t think without him. I couldn’t do anything without him or without his permission. 

Don’t step up if you can’t keep up. 

I was his puppet on a string; only there for his entertainment. The day God finally gave me the strength to step up to His standards and not this man’s standards both scared and freed me. 

It didn’t matter how I felt, though. The lie had been trampled and I was no longer worthless. 

Recently, I was faced with a mind-numbing situation where for several moments, I heard Satan cackle, “Don’t step up if you can’t keep up, you worthless warrior of God. Warrior? More like roach. Jehovah has called you to fight for Him in battle and you’re not strong, wise or ready enough. Let me remind you who you really are. Don’t ever step up again, you little wretch. You’ll never be able to keep up.”

With more authority than I felt, I smiled at my Enemy’s words. My heart raced, my skin grew cold, but I smiled anyway. I was being called to fight a spiritual battle I did not feel prepared for, and that petrified me. When my fear was just about ready to kill me, I heard my heart whisper back,

“No. Don’t step up if you can’t keep up. Jesus — I may not be able to step up, but He can. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

I learned a valuable lesson that night. When my value faulters, my God remains strong. When my ability to fight disappears, my God hides me in His wings. I am nothing when Satan calls me out for a fight. The Lord within me is everything.

Love that Outlives Memory

I can’t remember the last time I had shed tears over someone whose name I could never remember.

Her eyes were bright, but her legs were no longer obedient enough to bear her weight. Her tongue no longer understood the need to form words. Her thoughts seemed captive as she observed her surroundings; she was the only one that comprehended her reality. She only responded to one command, “Don’t leave the counter when the door opens, sweetheart.”

To that, she always stuck out her tongue, slowly maneauvering her wheel-chair to try and escape anyway. 

At her feet laid a baby doll I would have labeled a toddler’s toy if I wasn’t in a nursing home. As she and I made eye contact, she immediately glanced at her baby doll, picked it up and coddled the doll, soothing away nonexistant fears. I couldn’t tell if she knew the baby wasn’t real… no one jumped to inform her of a different reality, though.

“I’m so glad I’m not like that,” The grandma beside me muttered. The scene occurred often within the walls of the nursing home. I had learned those still lucid enough to count it as odd also use it as a personal inventory for the faculties of their own they still possess. 

At the comment, I silently replayed the times I know the grandma next to me had struggled to remember events which had occurred a mere ten minutes before. I teared up remembering the times she told me she wasn’t quite sure if I was her daughter or granddaughter. To tell her I was neither always felt cruel, so she just got entitled Grandma. 

As “Grandma” and I continued in silence, I fought back tears as I wondered what the future held. I was no stranger to Alzheimer’s and Dementia… but it never gets easier with time. Jesus, Jesus… does she face the threat of losing her memory of You? Will the day come where she struggles with her mind like the woman with the baby doll? … Jesus, please. Don’t let it happen.

As if on cue, “Grandma” started quoting 1 Corinthians 2:9- “…but just as it is written,  “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

With a smile the size of Texas she chuckled and said, “I’ve always loved that verse, haven’t you? It just means so much to know God has a plan for me!

I could almost hear God chuckling as He whispered to my heart, “Learn from her, anyway, Baby Girl. She knows Me. I know her. I’ve called you to love her, not to worry over her future.

The Bet I Lost

No one ever though to warn me about survivor’s guilt. I don’t blame them… It’s only something that has overwhelmed me the last few months. 10 years ago, it was most likely the last thing to cross the psychologist’s mind as he did a post-operation evaluation. But it’s real. It’s hard. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

When you do life with people who have chronic diseases, you get used to fighting with all your might for the next breath, the next smile, the next anything. My friends and I made pointless bets about who got to Heaven first. We weren’t obsessed with dying. We were ready for life.

Recently, I sat and talked with a father of a friend who “beat me” at the betting game. He and I talked about the fact that, on Saturday, it had been 9 years since my last life-altering brain surgery. 9 years since my parents had to literally tell God He could have me if He deemed it necessary. It’s something to celebrate, really, and my friend’s father helped me do just that. We celebrated.

But then, almost instantaneously, his smile changed and there were tears in his eyes as he hugged me tighter and changed the subject.

I miss her. I barely knew her, but our struggles united our prayers more than any sister-like friendship ever could have. I miss her, I want her back but wouldn’t ask her to sacrifice her eternity with Jesus just because I want her now. Her parents feel the same way, which gives me freedom to have a relationship with them.

However, there are days when I feel guilty. Guilty that my parents’ tears didn’t join the others’. When I make eye contact with someone who knows full well healing after a death never goes away… my longing for Heaven slips and there’s only one thing that fills my heart:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Thank you for giving my friend life and allowing me to stay longer… but he or she could have done so much better. Why were you done with them when it makes so much more sense to be done with me? Why am I still here? 

Though it’s done out of love, compassion and mercy, I never feel justified for asking that question. If anything, I walk away with my eyes filled with tears and God whispering in my ear, “How dare you? How dare you act as if you know your friend’s role on this Earth better than I do? Who are you to strip a family’s time of sanctification and redemption simply because it’s temporarily easier on your hearts? Child, ask your questions, but trust Me.

Survivor’s guilt is real. So is God’s mercy. So is God’s grace. So is God’s joy in anticipation. I’m not the One who wrote this story, but I’m learning to trust the One who did.

Sacrifice What?

 Sacrifice always comes at a price. I feel foolish pointing that out, but we live in a culture which doesn’t understand that truth. We say we want a relationship based on sacrificial love. What we don’t admit is, most of the time, what we really mean is we want a relationship where the other person sacrifices for us and we do nothing in return.

That’s slavery, by the way. Not intimacy.

I’ve had to think a lot about that concept lately. I’m doing life at a Christian college, which means we’ve just entered the season of “a marriage a day, that’s the summer way.” As friends get married, my prayer life for them changes drastically. So does the way I view my own relationship with Jesus. 

**Disclaimer: This is not another sappy post about letting Jesus love me instead of a man. Keep reading.

Here’s the thing. I can’t sit still. If I’m in a meeting, my fingers are fiddling with a pen. If I have a lazy day planned, that also includes my journal so I can work journal. I determine the healthiness of almost all my relationships based on how much I have done for them. This includes Jesus.

It’s easier that way, you see. I have some semblance of control. When I think something is going wrong, I trace back to the last time I did something for them. If I can report the action as well received, I breathe a sigh of relief. If I can’t guarantee the person walked away happy, I panic and reek havoc on all things peaceful until I can correct my mistake.

When it comes to Jesus, I get really, really, uncomfortable when He does something “randomly small” for me. On the days when I have enough time for that extra cup of coffee, or the extra time to enjoy the lake before my day begins… I kick it into high gear. It’s almost as if I’m trying to be extra spiritual for the next two hours so I can justify His gifts. 

It’s exhausting. I’m trying to measure a love that is immeasurable and trying to prove my imperfections do not exist. It ain’t gonna happen.

What if? What if we sacrificed out of love, not out of selfish hopes of future gratification? What if we were so confident in our identities as “Beloved of the Lord” that being cherished was enjoyable rather than skeptically analyzed?

What if we heard the promise of Jesus’ love and believed Him? How much would our own signs of love change?