We have LIVED in NW Arkansas for a whole week now, together again as a family!! For the most part, I have spent this time unpacking and finding a place for everything. I am almost done – I want to hang a few more pictures on the walls and things like that yet – but overall, we are functioning again in the kitchen, laundry, etc. I spent an entire day on Friday just in the garage and its attic. I haven’t worked that hard in a long time!! I am determined to park my car in there despite all the furniture we are having to store in there. I also have kind of made a place for our desk and our electric piano (and someone can play it with headphones on). The chest freezer is out there and running, ready to be stocked again.
I am looking forward to settling in and to start living again! We are definitely in a position most people our age do not find themselves in – starting over. Not only am I talking about our financial state – but in many ways, we have gone through a transformation of our spiritual lives as well. While working in the ministry, we have learned so many, many incredible lessons. While Daniel seemed to be a natural at serving others, it was much more of a stretch for me. God revealed so many lessons to me about my own selfishness and about how I esteem (or don’t esteem) others … and mostly about my motivation for serving Him to begin with.
Today the pastor at the church we are visiting gave an interesting marriage analogy in his sermon based on the command in the Great Commission to make disciples and teach them the commands of Christ (Matthew 28). He talked about the motivation to serve God. His thoughts intermingled with my own brought me to this use of his comparison:
In Ephesians, wives are commanded to obey their husbands … and husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church.” Christ, as the perfect example, does not act as an abusive husband who motivates His wife (the church) to serve Him by threating and beating her into submission. She is NOT motivated to serve Him because of fear or obligation or duty. Instead, Christ wants us to serve Him out of love, serving Him with willing and grateful hearts. God doesn’t force Himself on anyone!! Yes, we miss out on heavenly rewards if we choose NOT to serve Him … however, those rewards will burn up as wood, hay, and stubble (I Corinthians 3) if they are done with the wrong motives or out of a sense of duty alone anyway. If LOVE is our motivator, then our service to God will be from our hearts without any fear (perfect love casts out fear – I John 4:18).
I remember as a teenager, our church had us go out on a big, yellow school bus on Monday evenings to go on door-to-door visitation, which was THE big thing that all our denomination’s churches did (visitation programs in general) – and let me preface that by saying, visitation programs can – when done well – be a good thing. I honestly did not like going on visitation at all. For one thing, I was an horrible introvert even then, and approaching an uncertain reaction behind every door we went to was horrifying. I sometimes would pray that no one would be home when it was my turn!! We had a little spiel we had to recite to each person who opened their door – it was simple really – “Hello, we are visiting your neighborhood from XYZ Baptist Church and were wondering if you folks attended church anywhere” … then we gave the appropriate statements to their response, left some literature, and invited them to our church. I remember thinking even back then that this visitation thing wasn’t my calling … some people actually enjoyed it – so let them do it!! I had other strengths and preferences. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to serve God … It wasn’t that I never invited a friend to church … but this just wasn’t how I wanted to go about it. I can say that this method did a lot to teach me how to get outside my comfort zone and do what I didn’t want to do; it also taught me to serve God because it was on a check list of duties (at least it seemed like it to me!).
Our check list in our teen program wasn’t necessarily all bad. They wanted us to have daily devotions/Bible reading and prayer, which is a good habit every Christian should have. They expected us to do this in the morning … which again, didn’t work so well for me if I had any hope of getting through a prayer with a clear mind or spend more effort fighting the urge to fall asleep!! In college, I gave up on that notion and began reading my Bible in the evenings, which made all the difference in the world for my comprehension!! Again, it was the obligation (though probably a good idea for starting the day right) that was my motivator to get up early to read my Bible. HOWEVER, I found I actually got MORE out of my devotions when I waited until I was at my peak of comprehension at night. These days I can read my Bible in the morning, but as a slow starter, I can have a cup of coffee and not have to get up and dressed to do so. Now my motivator is LOVE … I love praying and learning more about God on the mornings when I put Him first.
I have learned so many more lessons, especially in the last – probably – 2 years. Ways I want to see people – as Christ sees them … and how I want to treat people … what GOD expects from me … and giving up the need to please men instead of God. I am working on a post in my head even now called “Conversations” based on God’s answer to my prayer to help me be changed when we move based on what I have learned through interaction with the neighbors I mentioned when we first moved into our duplex. God is already testing me if I meant what I say I have determined!! AND He is using THEM to teach me even more about my misconceptions. I hope to get my thoughts together soon … but I will just share this one thing: my neighbors are Christians who have shared their testimony with me already this week – and have served ME despite my preconceived notion that I’d be serving them!! Chalk up another lesson in humility for me!
This is just the beginning of the beginning for me, for my family, I hope. Nothing like a new home, a new city, a new attitude, and fresh perspective to help one make a new start!
~Call Me Cordelia~