Water along the Way

Teaching this past week was hard. Today I spontaneously ended up at a women’s retreat with Rosa Marie that included a 20-minute writing workshop and an afternoon hike. Here’s a window to my soul, and the way I felt the Lord speak to me this morning.

I’ve placed puddles all around you. Walk along in the aftermath of the rain pouring into the holes in your own pores. I’m filling them up. You think you have face planted. You think that you should wallow in a muddy 3 foot circle of stagnant, dirtied water. But I let you fall into that place so that I can pick you back up out of it. So that the next puddle that comes along is not unfamiliar to you.

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Unguarded Earnestness

When Jesus says to “let the little children come to me,” He seems to be calling His followers to certain attractive “child-like” qualities – humility, wonder, joy and unguarded earnestness.
In anticipation of the Global Prayer Gathering, IJM staff have corporately been considering the idea of entering next weekend in a posture of Unguarded Earnestness. What does that mean? What does it look like? I think of “earnestness” as utmost sincerity, approaching something with the fullest intention of doing it well or treating someone with lavish kindness. Perhaps you’ll still mess up, but your intentions and efforts reflect a desire to give your all.
For me, “unguarded” is the scarier part. That translates to straight-up vulnerability – being totally open, able to be at best molded into a truer reflection of Christ and at worst trampled upon, left seriously hurt and wounded.
It’s that vulnerable sincerity, though, that turns prayers into true faithfulness. When we approach the Father, our prayers should not only be honest and genuine, but our petitions should be, as we say at IJM, crazy pants prayers – “big, hairy, audacious” ones that only a loving Father far more powerful than ourselves could answer. There is no way we could make that prayer happen without God, so we come to Him fully dependent, with unguarded earnestness, faithfully believing that He not only hears our prayers but answers them also.
I’ve been thinking about the way unguarded earnestness could transform more than our prayers. What about everyday life? Our actions toward others, our work, our after school activities or the strength of our relationships would all be transformed! It looks like having an “all-in” attitude, combining the belief that what you do matters and not allowing anything to hold you back from giving it your full efforts. Giving friends your full attention because they matter more than the task at hand demonstrates your value for them. Not half-assing a project because you believe that your contribution makes a difference. Believing you can break 20 minutes in your next 5K or that you can make a goal at the next game brings more diligence and purpose to your practice. Even in a relationship conflict or marital problem – wholeheartedly devoting yourself to righting wrongs because you believe that the other person is worth it. All of this from a posture of unguarded earnestness.
At the same time, we don’t want to be “childish” – foolish, immature, irresponsible, unstable, silly or naive. If I run a 25 minute 5K, just hoping that it will be 20 minutes next week would be irrational. There are nearly 30 million slaves today. Praying that injustice will be eradicated tomorrow would show a lack of analysis and reason. Just imagine Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey making fun of the Global Prayer Gathering. Right. 1200+ people are going to get together and pray, and as you stand there and worship the sky, people will be brought out of bondage. Ha!
It’s easy to be cold-hearted and have fears of judgment of being naive about very serious, big issues. But the posture changes the approach. If we approach prayer or our everyday life issues with the child-like quality of unguarded earnestness, we come knowing that prayer does work and our interactions with others will shift. We come desperately needing Jesus’ grace and abundant life. We come eager and expectant for His power, attentive to Him and fully devoted; strengthened, refreshed, fully present and utterly grateful for every good gift the Holy Spirit gives. We’re not worshiping the sky. We’re worshiping a God with an unchanging character – One who for all eternity has heard the cries of His children and longs to bring life and freedom. 

Life Works Out

There are some side effects to this travel bug I have. Common symptoms include a heightened sense of surroundings, feelings of inferiority or superiority, an appreciation for home. My favorite is the opportunity for adventure. It takes you out of your comfort zone. And when you’re not in your comfort zone, you gain new, and often much needed, perspectives. My dad always said that backpacking around the world was the greatest education he ever received. By embracing travel and adventure, you inevitably open yourself up to learning new lessons. Here is the first I learned (or rather, re-learned) leading up to my weekend in New York City.
Life works out, and God provides.
For the first time, Valentine’s Day posed some challenges for me. After being inspired by Sleepless in Seattle, my friend began planning this trip so she could celebrate Valentine’s Day at the top of the Empire State Building.  The group was planning on taking off that Friday. Even though I tried to come in for part of the day on Wednesdays, because of my weekly field trips, I felt guilty about taking extra time off. I proposed that I would work and take an early bus Saturday morning.
If you know me, you know I’m not some angry anti-Valentine’s Day single person.  It’s not exactly a day I look at with the same fervor that I did when I received a mailbox full of candy in second grade, though. Most of the time, some girlfriends and I would just hang out together and have a fun night. All of the people with whom I’d want to be were going to be on the Empire State building. With my early bus, I would be hitting the sack early. So my prospects basically looked like a lonely night in, not only on a Friday, but on Valentine’s Day, when everyone else is going on fancy dates and sharing chocolate and wine, for goodness sake. That sounded really depressing.

When the New York group planned during our lunch break one day, it hit me how very ridiculous I was being to not just go to New York on Friday with the rest of the ladies. I checked with my bosses, who it turns out were completely alright with me taking the day off, and I changed my bus. Later that evening in the LCWS office, my friend Heather invited me to join her and her roommates for a Friday night of red velvet cupcake baking and rom-com movie-watching. 
All of this to say, it was so reassuring to know that if I had stuck to my original plans, I would not have been entirely alone on the commercialized holiday of hearts and roses. I felt God nudging my soul, reminding me not to worry. He cares for us, always. As the coming summer and post-graduation possibilities in a year loom closer in the forefront of my everyday thoughts, this lesson is particularly relevant for me. Everything is going to be okay. A lot of times, things just fall into place, and there is very little I can do to make that happen. Life works out, and in His time, the Lord makes all things good for those who love Him. Even in our Valentine’s Days, He is our provider, and He is forever faithful.