One of my friends (Jesse) gave me this book to read before I left to spend some time with family and friends in Florida…a vacation of sorts. What’s interesting to me is what God has been working in me before I opened the pages of this book. I have felt, in the midst of challenges, weakness, struggle, joy, fulfillment, disappointments, that there is still something missing. Something that’s hard to really explain. I mean 5 years ago, Jesus became very real to me…so real that I knew I had found someone I had never really found before…someone that gave an answer to the emptiness I was experiencing…an answer to the longing. Sounds dramatic, and it actually was. I could develop this, but I want to move to my point. Something has still been missing.
I knew 5 years ago that Jesus was it, was the answer, that I would need to begin the process of following him, to no matter what end. If he is real, if true freedom is possible, if true purpose in life can be found, if my identity is not rooted in my experiences but in Jesus, then that changes everything I had lived for and want to continue to live for. And, of course, it has…my life, in many ways, has been totally transformed. I am not the same person I was 5 years ago…lost, scared, trapped, successful to the world, but empty inside. With Jesus I have found much healing for my past, much freedom from my bondages, and purpose in my life…maybe even what I was made to be, to do. But I’ve been asking myself, is there something more? I still feel like there is something missing in my life…something worth dying for…something more compelling…And then I’ve thought? Woh, I’ve found Jesus and I’m not satisfied? That doesn’t make sense to me.
I’ve begun to realize that there is a trap…
A trap that is pretty easy to fall into. Once one discovers Jesus is the answer and experiences some of the freedom that comes with real Holy Spirit encounters, it’s easy to begin to sit back and get comfortable. I’ve recognized so much of the grace that Jesus offers and have experienced some real community with friends that accept me, no matter what mistakes I made, make, or will make. That’s awesome! But that has also enabled me to get a little comfortable…to not strain toward what being a follower of Jesus really is. I think this is why I have felt something is still missing…I know there’s something more. I know that what Jesus has shown me, what he has done for humankind is so much more that what I’ve already experienced and that his call on my life is much more radical then the way I am living.
I remember saying when I first got back from Germany, “Wow, my life is so full of adventure…I never knew following Jesus could be so cool!” I mean I was travelling, talk to friends about what was going on and it was impacting them, going on mission’s trips, discovering how powerful God was and how the Holy Spirit wants to work through me. But now, I don’t feel so adventurous, not like I did before. I am still taking risks, but they don’t feel like the risks I was taking before. I know that God is making me unsatisfied with lukewarm, mega-church Christianity. I’ve said in the past that I’m not a “Christian,” I follow Jesus. I say that because I was a “Christian” before I started following him…there’s definitely a difference.
So Jesus has begun to increase my awareness of my role in the community, what a Jesus follower does…much of this surrounds working with the marginalized, the less fortunate, the poor. So I had decided before I went on vacation that when I got back I was going to start being more intentional about serving the community. And as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my friend Jesse gave me this book Irresistible Revolution before I left for Florida.
The book has been compelling, to say the least. I have resonated with so many of the things Shane Claiborne is talking about. He grew up in the church and became increasingly uncomfortable with what Christianity has become, and how church was painting Christianity to be…more like a social club. I, myself, bowed out of church a long time ago, not seeing any need for it. I do see the need for a community of believers now, but that wasn’t what I experienced when I was a kid. I won’t summarize the book cause I think this book is a must read for all, but it does confirm the direction Jesus is leading me…to walk out my beliefs, to be his hands and feet.
Shane, the author, has experienced a lot in his quest to find the real Jesus and what following Jesus really is: worked with the poor and the lepers in Calcutta with Mother Theresa, went to Bagdad in the name of peace during the bombings to bring medication to the children, and now lives in Kensington, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Philly. Shane talks about the culture shock he experienced when coming back from Calcutta and starting his internship at Willow Creek. He calls it when comfort becomes uncomfortable. I experienced a mild version of that when I returned from Mexico 2 years ago. The way we live here is Comfort with a capital C. You see that when you help people waterproof homes made out of pallets, as we did in Mexico. A group of us prayed with one person in Mexico called Chewy (probably not spelled that way) who had had a stroke a few years prior. When we got there his wife was like they’re here, they’re here, saying that they had been praying for God to send someone. As we prayed God began to heal him and he was able to move his hand for the first time since his stroke…now that was amazing! But just as amazing was seeing their faith, their dependence on God, and their dependence on the community around them, or should I say Interdependence. A word I first learned about in VLI (www.vli.org) and something Shane talks about througout his book. What’s interesting and even disappointing is that even though I was deeply impacted by my time in Mexico and even experienced some culture shock being back in Champaign, my lifestyle really didn’t change. I didn’t really let the Holy Spirit lead me into reaching out here, not in the radical way Jesus calls us to, and that is one of the main points made in this book and what I have resonated the most with: the way of following Jesus is clearly laid out in the gospels, but we are too scared and too comfortable to really do those things.
As Shane goes through his book he details how the majority of the New Testament deals with the poor, the marginalized, the outcasts, and how our lives are supposed to be completely intertwined with theirs. One compelling thought he made was how we have made charity a virtue…a charity that keeps us at a distance from what’s really going on. We will give money, spend a day helping rebuild someone’s house that needs it, help at the food pantry (all good things), but when it comes to spending time with them on a regular basis, becoming their friend, welcoming them into our homes, helping them out because they’re our friends not just a charity case, many of us are then lacking. Shane talks about the disconnect in our culture, the distancing between the rich (me and many of you) and the poor. I mean, if we saw our mother or a close friend on the street and they needed money, food, clothing, would we even think twice about helping? No. Then why do we with anyone else.
Wow, there’s so much to say and so much God is doing in me. I do disagree with a few things Shane talks about and I also see where there are some things left out, but mostly, I am being challenged and called to action. I do not just want to be this lukewarm “Christian” that God spits out at the end (Rev. 3:16). I know if there’s more to following Jesus than what I’ve been doing, then how can I not go and do that…am I going to lose my life for him or not? Is that dramatic? Yes, it is…and so are the many pages in the Bible that tell us those very things.
I’m sure I will have more to say when I finish the book….haha, I know… I’m not even done yet. Pray for me to be bold, to step out into the uncomfort zone, to be the hands and feet of Jesus…afterall, Jesus was homeless! But Jesus replied, â€œFoxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.â€ Mt. 8:20