Sunday night at around 2:00am, I woke up to the feeling of something crawling on my arm. I reached over to brush it away, thinking it was a mosquito. My hand hit something far larger than that. I had fallen asleep with my nightstand light on, so was able get a look at what it was.
Nope. Not a mosquito. A little brown lizard. Yep, that’s right, a lizard, in my bed, crawling up my arm.It made me think of my mom’s story about bargaining with God when He called her to Harlem, New York. Okay, I’ll go, she finally said. But, only until there’s a cockroach in my bed! Of course, she wound up with… a cockroach in her bed. And, she didn’t leave, she stayed until God called her and my dad to marriage and ministry in western Canada.
When I answered God’s call to come to the DR, I never made a bargain about lizards (or geckos) in my bed. I like to think I didn’t make any bargains, but simply obeyed. The fact is, I did bargain. Oh, perhaps not in so many words, but that’s really what it was.I told folks (very proudly, I’m ashamed to admit) that I made an initial three year commitment to SI, but would stay past that, as long as I keep in good health, people continue to support me, and my ministry continues to bear fruit. It sounds pretty reasonable, and even a bit pious, doesn’t it?
The truth is, I was still trying to control the circumstances in which I’d be faithful. God, You keep me healthy, funded and fruitful, and I’ll obey. Of course, that lets me define exactly what each of those are, and decide when they aren’t happening.The longer I am here, the more I realize just how selfish and self-centered my vision of service has been. What happens if I become seriously sick, far from US medical care? Or, if my supporters can no longer donate as they are now, and I need to live with even less? Or, worst of all, what happens if years of serving in El Callejon do not result lives being transformed?
Jesus didn’t promise His followers that if they were faithful they’d stay in good health, with plenty of resources. He did say they would bear fruit, but I need to be careful about how I define that!Many faithful missionaries spent their lives planting seeds which only later would result in a harvest. What might have happened had they quit too soon? How many sacrificed everything for the sake of the Gospel? Gave up everything, to work tirelessly in soil so dry it seems it will never grow the tiniest sprout of faith?
If I am truly here because God called me, I have to believe I am to stay until He calls me away. And not just away from here, but away to something else. It may happen through illness or funding or fruitlessness, but maybe not. It may be that He calls me to stay despite those things, and long after my desire to be here has fled.
Because, faithfulness isn’t about the easy parts, when everything is going our way. Faithfulness is about persevering when all logic says Give Up. Jesus was not just faithful when everyone was praising Him, amazed at His wisdom, seeking His healing touch. He was faithful when everything appeared to be over. Abandoned, bloodied, hanging on a cross.
In the tough times, I want to be faithful. Faithful when the students are frustrating, when the women aren’t getting it, when my own fears and self-doubt threaten to overwhelm. Faithful if I become seriously ill, or if I have to adjust my budget. Faithful when I’m crawled on by lizards… and even worse, if one day it’s a cockroach.
In my own strength, I cannot do this. Only the One who called me here can keep me here. Only in His power can I remain faithful. Father, I am weak, I am empty, I am faithless. Strengthen me, Fill me again, Renew my commitment to You. Keep me seeking Your kingdom in the midst of the storms, in the midst of the frustrations, and yes, in the midst of the lizards!