08 Mar Changing the world
I didn’t always love him.
Pulling into the DSS parking lot that day, I knew that my life was about to change forever. I walked into the office and saw a little boy in grungy clothes that were too many sizes too big to even count. They asked if I wanted to hold him, and warned me that he had acid reflux. I signed the papers saying I would take care of him, and in a matter of moments, he was “mine.” I took him out to the car, buckled him in, and loaded up his bag full of random formula and clothes of every shape and size.
We started driving. He screamed. I stopped at a gas station to try to soothe him…it didn’t work. He kept screaming. We got back to town and went to our pediatrician’s office. I fed him, and changed him, and took him to his appointment. We drove home. He screamed. By the time we got home that night, we were both completely exhausted. I had just returned from a mission trip to Guatemala about two hours earlier and laundry was piled everywhere. For the first week, he woke up every 45 minutes throughout the night. I felt like there was a stranger living in my home. I felt more connected to the kids that I babysat than to my foster child that lived with me. Oh, and the spit up. I forgot that part. Acid reflux for him meant projectile vomiting. All the time.
I felt more connected to the kids that I babysat than to my foster child that lived with me.
In the heart of all of us, there is a desire to be something great, to do something great. Changing the world is a phrase that we often hear as we are inspired to be more than average, to stand out, and to make an impact. Visions of serving the Lord around the world, or these miraculous moments of ministry may fill your mind; we are all constantly seeking purpose and fulfillment in what we do. Recently, I interviewed a seeker: someone who was seeking fulfillment and purpose in their life and in their work, on a quest for a job that would meet these visions of grandeur and passion. Mundane didn’t seem to find its way into the conversation.
Serving God and living on mission often don’t look grandiose. Instead, it looks like faithfulness. It’s doing a load of laundry at 5 am every morning before work because your foster kid projectile vomits. It’s taking a complete stranger into your home and learning to love them as your own child. Somewhere along the way, we have turned our ideas of serving Jesus into narcissistic views of self-promotion. “If I do this, I will feel fulfilled. If I travel here, I will know I am serving. If I make this level of investment, I will be remembered. “
The reality of foster care, especially for infants, is that you may never be remembered. They learn to crawl, walk, eat, sleep well, and play hard in your home. Their personality starts developing, they form relational bonds, they learn to love, and they attach themselves to you. And then they go home. Was I changing the world in those moments? Well, in some ways, yes. The lessons they learned, the love they felt, and the prayers prayed over them do impact the rest of their life and development. But perhaps not in the way that we would like to imagine, or that our culture and generation teaches us.
Somewhere along the way, we have turned our ideas of serving Jesus into narcissistic views of self-promotion.
In my mind, foster care is one of the simplest and purest reflections of the Gospel. Christ rescued me and gave me a place to belong, and that is what I am doing for the children in my home. In theory that sounds magical and impactful, but fleshed out it is court dates, and daycare payments, and cleaning up vomit, and changing diapers. It’s stopping what I’m doing to sit on the couch and cuddle that grungy little boy that I now love more than life itself. It’s giving my life away, so that these kids might know His Life.
I used to be a seeker, too. Someone that was always searching for the mission field that would make me fulfilled, or the ministry or job that would give me passion and purpose. But life has changed me. Now I believe that serving Jesus looks like obedience, looks like faithfulness, and looks like being willing to do the small and insignificant things- not to change the world, but to care for the people around me.
Foster care is one of the simplest and purest reflections of the Gospel.
Perhaps there is still some of that “change the world” mentality in me. At my core I am still broken and self-serving and narcissist in my thinking; I want to stand out because I’m thinking about me. But maybe some of that desire exists because I wasn’t made for this world. I was created for a world that will be changed – that will be whole and right and redeemed. So naturally, there is an inner longing in me for that changed world. But, if I think about heaven, I don’t think Jesus will be asking me if I was a world changer, (I sort of think that’s His job), but if I was faithful where He placed me; if I loved Him and His people, and if I “cared for the fatherless and widows in their affliction”.
This morning I was reading in Luke where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He wept over them because they did not recognize His presence – they were unaware that their day of visitation had come. They were a people of “seekers” – always searching for their Messiah; completely unaware that He dwelt among them. Finding purpose and ministry doesn’t always look like what we are thinking, seeing Jesus at work doesn’t always look like what we’re imagining. But it is much, much greater than we can imagine. Are we a generation that is so bent on our dream, that we miss the very presence of Jesus?
Are we a generation that is so bent on our dream, that we miss the very presence of Jesus?
That little boy at the beginning of the story? Now I love him. But it was never a magical romantic moment. It was just normal daily living. Somewhere in pursuing our good Christian dreams, we’ve become a generation that has made even our serving about self-discovery and self-promotion. My guess is that if in our serving we “find ourselves”, we will always be seekers – looking for the next greatest thing to give us fulfillment. But if in our serving we find Jesus, we will be filled. If we want to truly change the world, then let’s raise a generation of children that are more caught up with Jesus than themselves; who are committed to life-on-life investment in the people around them.
If we are the spark that starts the fire in one life, and each life impacts a life; then the passion of Jesus can spread throughout the whole earth until all nations, tribes, and tongue, bow together to proclaim the name of Jesus; not our name, but His. “So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
Instead of pursuing a life that lives the dream of changing the world, let’s pursue Jesus. If we love Him and the people (of all shapes and sizes and smells and backgrounds) He places in our lives, in this, we will find the presence of Jesus Himself – our Messiah, Deliverer, and Savior.