Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 in Review: Personal Highlight and Lowlight of the Year

Inspired by friend Nate Hughes, I spent some time reflecting on 2011 and major highlights, lowlights, headlines, and favorites. Here is my first entries.

Personal Highlight:
Being called and appointed to go the slums and margins of Asia to start and begin a new work focused on playing a (small) part of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven.

“You are doing what?” A common refrain from neighbors and loved ones alike. Honestly, I think the same thing myself…

“I am doing what??”

“God, you want me to go…where??”

Over the past several years, God has been cultivating my “conversion within my conversion”, or as Mother Teresa called it, a “call within a call.” I found in my maturation and evolution as a Follower of Jesus, happen the same thing that happened to pastor and author Rick Warren. Warren shared a watershed moment in his life that mirrors mine. “Around this time”, he says he was driven to reexamine Scripture with ‘new eyes.’ What he found humbled him. “I found those 2,000 verses on the poor. How did I miss that? I went to Bible college, two seminaries, and I got a doctorate. How did I miss God’s compassion for the poor? I was not seeing all the purposes of God. The church is the body of Christ. The hands and feet have been amputated and we’re just a big mouth, known more for what we’re against.” Warren found himself praying, “God, would you use me to reattach the hands and the feet to the body of Christ, so that the whole church cares about the whole gospel in a whole new way-through the local church?” Like Rick Warren, these past several years for me and my wife have been an education and confrontation with God’s clear and overwhelming heart for the “poor, widow, orphan, and immigrant,” or in other words, the oppressed and marginalized of our world.

It is one thing to know that Jesus cares about the poor, and quite another thing to actively engage with that reality. The prophetic words of Shane Claiborne helped me process this distinction. “I asked participants who claimed to be "strong followers of Jesus" whether Jesus spent time with the poor. Nearly 80 percent said yes. Later in the survey, I sneaked in another question, I asked this same group of strong followers whether they spent time with the poor, and less than 2 percent said they did. I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.

Right. Its not that rich Christians don’t are about the poor, it’s that they don’t know them. What I had then was nothing less than a moving of the Spirit to (actually, for once) live out my beliefs and passions instead of just intellectually assenting to them. This in turn translated into a calling to move into the slums of Asia and live in solidarity with the ones Jesus called “blessed”; the “poor.”

And so I go.

Personal Lowlight.
I am starting to unearth the depths of my self-centeredness and independence. For a lot of my life, I have forged my own way doing things according to my agenda and time frames. I paid my own way through college, worked up to 60 hours a week while going to seminary full-time, and went as a single to live as a civilian in a place armed soldiers don’t even want to go. I have never had to really consider anyone but myself in my life decisions. Well, marriage and fatherhood has brought this self-centeredness all to a head.

God has and will continue to refine me to rely on others, live in intentional community, and most importantly, focus on the essential bond of marriage and family with my wife and son. God has and will continue to show me ways in which I put myself before them. He will continue to show me how much hurt and suffering I bring on relationships because of this self-centeredness. This is by no means a 2011 issue only. I have history and past experiences I still need to work through and confront, but no doubt I will be able to look back to 2011 as a year that revealed to me just how messed up I am in this regard. So even though this is a “lowlight”, I am thankful because I belong to Jesus and He is in the business of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation, that it can turn this dire “lowlight” into a “highlight” one day….Thank you, Jesus!

More to come! 

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