I was talking with one of my good friends from college this past week. Aaron and I have been friends with him and his wife since we were crazy young adults dreaming of taking over the world. Everyone on our college campus new that Chad was going to India and that he wanted to marry an “eternally thin blonde with blue eyes.” Angela was the perfect girl for him, and I was so excited when they got together.
While Aaron and I began our family and ministry to teenagers in the Midwest, Chad and Angela raised their little girls across the world on concrete floors in one of the most dangerous areas for Christians in Asia. I’ll never forget Angela telling us the story about when she was given horse tranquilizers as anesthesia when she needed a surgical procedure in India. I stood in my comfortable town in the middle of rural Illinois and thought, “I know NOTHING of sacrifice.”
In that moment all of my whining to God about how tough it was to try to serve fickle teenagers seemed… juvenile. I was looking at dear friends of mine who were living the dreams we only talked about in college, and I couldn’t help feeling like I was missing something. It wasn’t that I felt like I was being disobedient to God or guilty for not living overseas. It was just a glimpse into something more, and I wanted it. I didn’t know what exactly “it” was, but I knew I would not feel at peace until I found it.
Well, flash forward to my conversation with Chad this past week. He and Angela are stationed in the states for a few years while they mobilize college students to impact their world as the Missions Directors at SAGU. I was sharing with Chad about our new children- specifically our foster son whose time in our home has not been easy. There was a moment in our conversation when Chad said, “Sara, what you guys are doing for that little guy is amazing. You’re changing his life.” I couldn’t help thinking, “This is nowhere NEAR what you and Angela have done! You travel across the world with your children to areas no one wants to go to tell people God loves them.” What I’m doing feels… normal.
It was then that I realized- I found “it.”
“It” isn’t sacrifice.
“It” isn’t self-martyrdom.
“It” did not mean traveling across the world for me.
“It” is a different level of knowing Jesus.
“All the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant- dog poop. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ- God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering and go all the way with him to death itself.” (Philippians 3)
I always thought getting to know God meant following the right rules.
Do’s and don’ts.
Not making mistakes.
I was missing it.
Saying that inviting broken children into my home has changed my life sounds cliche, but it is the truth. When you invite the brokenness of the world into your life, you cannot live the same way. This looks different for every person, but know this: you cannot know Jesus personally if you do not partner in his suffering. It took me awhile to figure out that Jesus’ suffering is not the same as suffering the consequences for my actions. The suffering Christ experienced was unwarranted. He did not deserve it. Have you invited this suffering into your life?
I can personally tell you it will change your life. For you it may not look like becoming a foster parent or going to a foreign country, but I’m telling you- until you find “it” for you, you’re missing out on a whole new level of friendship with God. That’s what motivates this kind of invitation to personal suffering- not guilt, but a desire to know God more. And that’s what we are made to do. Our hearts long for the intimate friendship we lost in the garden, and these 100 years on earth are all a pursuit to get back there…