What do you live your life for?
This is a good time for those in America as you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving to ask yourself the question Ryan ask in his weekly update – what are you living for? Blessings to all of you this Thanksgiving, Connie
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What do you live your life for?
The question lay on the table. It was one of those questions whose weight makes stomachs tighten and mouths close. It is the kind of question that elicits awkward laughter from those who can stand the silence and makes faces turn away, lest they might be called upon for an answer. A question whose true answer is “so precious that it is guarded by an army of lies,” to quote Winston Churchill.
That table happened to be in the Partners for Care dining room. At the beginning of each new week, all of the staff at Partners for Care will meet at this table to discuss the happenings of the previous week, and plan for the one ahead. This past week the discussion reacted like a mushroom cloud-growing bigger and heavier as we progressed. Towards the end of the meeting I asked the table, “What do you live for?” The reaction was just like you’d expect. Finally, after some moments that seemed one or two too many, someone shyly offered up, “Well, Ryan I live for many things.”
“What do you live for?” It was a question that I had been asking myself much more than usual in the last several weeks.
My family. My friends. My work. A perfectly struck 5-iron from 205 yards late in the evening. A clutch three-pointer down the stretches of a fourth quarter. Winning. Excelling. A good day of missions. Church. Mom’s pork roast. Granny’s peanut butter fudge. These are but a fraction of the many things that flashed through my mind as I thought about this nagging question.
One of the reasons I love missions and Africa is that it makes you think about these things. The people, the land-the atmosphere of Africa crowds around you, weighing on you, until you are forced to peel them off by answering life’s tough questions. “Living with the poor does not keep me away from evil, but it does allow me to see evil in sharper, clearer ways. It does not lead me automatically to good either, but will help me see good in a brighter light, less hidden and more convincing.” A well-known Christian servant, Henri Nouwen, spoke these words to describe this feeling of discernment through the lens of the mission field. Africa, for me, has been a place whose lens has made areas of discernment sharper and clearer.
Many of you have never been to Africa, but as we all approach this week of Thanksgiving, I believe looking through a lens of thanksgiving can lead us to answer the same question. To oversimplify, for the point of illustration: “what we live for determines what we are thankful for.” Moms are thankful for their family, Dads are thankful for their jobs, and kids are thankful for their toys, to put it in the extreme. In other words 1+1=2. In the light of this way of thinking, I think about the book of John. What does Jesus say about living?
My human side begins to cry out on His teaching. “This Way is too hard!” “He really can’t expect me to HATE my mom, my dad, and even myself!” “This teaching is much more radical than your normal sermon.” Jesus does say some powerful stuff about how and who should live your life. The theory of many Christians can be this: follow Jesus, he’ll tweak and fix a few things in your life, and then you’ll be ready to go. The frustrating thing about this process is that once you let Him into your life, He goes and begins working on EVERYTHING, even the stuff you didn’t want fixed. It has been said that the more you mature in your relationship with Christ, the greater evil you see in yourself. My dad always uses the quote, “You never know how much you need Jesus, till He is all you have.”
My trip in Africa is drawing to a close, and thanksgiving week is approaching. During this stretch, I will be missing my family, friends and the dinners. Over this next week ask yourself, “What do you live for?” I think our answer needs to be that we don’t WE are dead; Christ lives in us. When we can look through HIS lens, whether in Africa or Atlanta, we will begin to see things in new light. Looking on the things that you are thankful for in life through the lens of Christ will transform us from seeing them in black-and-white (1+1=2) to seeing these things in high definition IMAX (1+1=10)! live.
As this next week marches on and I spend my thanksgiving in the deserts of Northern Kenya, I can truly say that I am thankful for my God, my family, everyone in my life, even my 5-iron … and of course, Africa.
Serving Christ in Kenya,
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org