Real suffering? And stewardship . . .

I think I have had some tastes of suffering in my life. But one of the speakers I heard this last weekend talked about how little we know of suffering, and how much we need that perspective. (And the stories I heard from another speaker certainly put my experiences of suffering in perspective!)

One thing it has done to me today is make me very conscious again of stewardship. I have riches in time and money and opportunities that most of the world doesn't (and so do most of the people who would read this blog) and I do believe that God has an agenda for those resources, and that they are His, and that an authentic experience of salvation and transformation will result in those resources being used according to God's agenda rather than mine.

That doesn't mean that I need to give up my quiet time and my time getting groomed and the time playing with my kids and the time cleaning my garage out (yes, again . . . we expect to do dishes and laundry constantly, but couldn't the garage just stay clean?) in order to devote all my time and attention to service to others. It does mean that, in abiding, I need to listen to the whisper of the Holy Spirit about the places that need to be re-ordered, and to listen for the same in community.

The women in my world spend an incredible amount of time trying to be "good Christian wives and mothers" and good volunteers and good disciples. The last thing I'd want to do would be to heap more expectation -- more "shoulds" -- on them. And I won't do that to me, either. Funny thing, that Jesus scolded the Pharisees for all the rules they taught, but his requirement was a bit higher -- leave everything and follow Him!

So perhaps I don't need to figure out how to look just-as-pretty while spending half an hour less on grooming, or how to get by with an hour less sleep, or which friends to spend less time with, or how to put more "quality" time into my kids so that I can minimize the real time. Maybe I don't even need to sit down and re-do my schedule and budget one more time. Maybe I just need to actually DO the stuff I'd already purposed to do but somehow never really pull off because I fail in the heat of the moment to make the right decisions.

I am a planner extraordinaire. My chief 2 failures are that I do not plan good margins, and that an analytic plan doesn't work in the midst of an intuitive situation for someone who is primarilly motivated by relationship.

So I do have my schedules and routines and calendar and task list and project plans and budgets . . . I still see them as filling a certain role that can't be dispensed with, and I'd suggest that any disciple look at they role they should have in good stewardship. But the bottom line, in the moment, is "okay, Jesus, what's next?"

So, suffering will come. And "okay, Jesus, what's next?" will lead me through that as well as any plan. And my responsibility to ease suffering and to bring truth and justice to whatever corner of the world I impact will fill my life, too. And "okay, Jesus, what's next?" will address that part, too.

Tim Ye, one of our ordained ministers, led us in a prayer Saturday night in which he asked for God's affirmation that "this all really works" for those who were questioning it. That, at least, is not an issue for me at this point in life. And perhaps that's the beauty and gift of suffering. Having walked through real agony with Jesus and concluding that any agony can be beared with Him, but no agony can be beared without Him . . . and having had my time where I'd put enought distance between me and Jesus that I walked without Him by my choices . . . I just know.

All this really works. If you doubt it enough to walk your own way at the expense of a walk with Him, then when you hit the point where you regret that decision, know that He hasn't moved. And all this really works.

"Okay, Jesus, what's next?"

Oh yeah -- putting my 6-y-o and 5-y-o boys to bed!!


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