Thanksgiving is already past. That's crazy, right!? I've been telling people lately that I feel as though June ended maybe two weeks ago. And while I wholeheartedly love this time of the year, and while I have been anticipating it with excitement, I don't feel ready for it yet. Do you?
Making lists of things I'm thankful for is (thankfully) rarely a challenge. One thing that I have been continually thanking God for is our church fellowship. The people that congregate there are yes, faulty, but wonderful people. And lately we've been going through the Gospel of Mark, which honestly has prompted me to think so much more deeply about John Mark's accounts of the things concerning Jesus.
A couple of weeks ago we learned a bit about Mark 10, and the account of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to "inherit eternal life."
"Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'"
And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth."
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
The story goes on and the lesson shifts a little, but something that I have been learning for the first time in my life is how completely deep and overflowing with meaning these accounts really are! I have read these accounts innumerable times throughout my life and never taken away so much as I have over this last year. It's sad, but at the same time completely amazing!
The great take-home reminder for me in this text is the attachment not to money necessarily, but to lifestyle. To material. To comfort. To ease. Even to "stability." I often considered this text to be about attachment to money, which after some great time assessing, I don't really think that is something that Christian and I personally struggle too much with, although the temptation is certainly ever-present. This has caused me to gloss over this text far too much over the years until I realized that Jesus' point was not simply addressing an attachment (idolization) of money, but of everything and MORE that I listed as my struggles above!
The reasons why I find this text is relating so heavily to me now is because it seems that the Lord may be parting the waters in our life once again by leading us to Austria this coming summer. Christian will be done with school, and through some friends of ours who are already serving in Vienna, we have been offered an apartment as well as helping to foster a discipleship/hospitality program at the evangelical church in one of Vienna's nearby villages. I italicized "the" because it is literally the only evangelical church in that area.
Our tenative plan is to scout out Austria for those three months, and upon leaving Europe, immediately continue on with traveling for the purpose of raising support to go back long term. This means lots of moving, lots of change, lots of hellos and goodbyes.
For those of you who know me/us or have known me/us since we were kids, you'll know that working among German speaking people groups in Europe has been our dream. Our burden. What I personally have been working toward for the bulk of my teen/adult years. And now it's coming. And honestly... I never would have thought that I would hesitate even for a second once the opportunity came for us to go.
For so many years I was telling God,
"Fine, I'll wait 'til I'm 18."
"Fine, I'll wait 'til I'm done with uni."
"Fine. I'll wait for 3 (which has actually been 5) more years when my husband is done with uni."
It wasn't until a dear friend lovingly admonished me for my desire for control and idolizing this concept that I finally quit telling God how long (or short) I was okay with before He needed to get His act together and get me over there.
Then God moved us to Chicago. A place where we swore we could never live. A place that was too big, too busy, too impersonal. Yet God inexplicably filled our hearts with joy. He gave us the most beautiful apartment. He furnished it with gorgeous pieces. He filled it with friends who have become family. He gave us a solid, beautiful community in our church where we have been serving, learning, growing and celebrating. He's given us such a wonderful life, here.
The thought of having to give it all up... again... stirs up inside me the same reaction that the young ruler had: I feel disheartened. And for that I feel shame, because if am disheartened when the Lord seems to be asking me to again give up, doesn't that say something about the arrangement of my priorities?
The things that God has given us here are good. What the young ruler had was also, on it's own, good. What was bad about it was the tightness of his grip.
The other thing that has struck me hard in this text is that John Mark takes the time to point out that
And Jesus, upon looking at him, loved him...
I think it's interesting that out of love for him, Jesus tells him that he lacks one thing. He must go, sell all that he has and give to the poor and come follow.
Jesus cares so much about this guy's growth-- loves him-- that He asks him to give up all he has to follow Him. This is why He asks me. This is why I must give up. Why my clenched, white knuckels must release, and the contents of my hands must be held upward and open.
Am I willing? Are you?