I just finished reading "The Hunger Games" trilogy, and I must confess, a more depressing trio of books I can't imagine. Yes, they were well written, and the storyline was compelling, but I found myself wishing for the end when I was only about halfway through the second book. There is an encompassing sense of melancholy that hangs over the entire series. It's not that I don't recommend it, the series is thought provoking and imaginative. It's just not escapism reading. Not for me, anyway. However, I think it speaks volumes about the mood of the next generation. Indeed, I would say the mood of my generation, as well. I think we are at a critical point in history, and our next steps will determine the direction of our nation, even the world. We have an entire generation of young people (and older people) who don't know Christ, who think the truth is relative, who think love can't last forever, and who seem to be mired in hopelessness.
So, where do we go from here? As Christians, I think our directives are clear. We have been given a commission to go tell, and we are failing miserably. I know that I am. I'm not by nature a bold person. I don't like to stand out in a crowd, am too much of a people pleaser to enjoy conflict, and have no desire for my voice to be the one that is heard. There is all too often a disconnect between my thought process and the act of speaking that leads me to stutter incoherently or not convey my message clearly. I'm not a theologian or an academic, and my thoughts and opinions don't really make compelling listening. And, yet, I have a ministry. As our pastor reminded us this morning in church, if you've been called to Christ, you are a minister. Not that you will ever have to stand in a pulpit, but you have ministering opportunies all around you every single day.
A couple of years ago, I felt God calling me to deepen my walk with Him. To increase my knowledge of Him, and to learn to listen to His voice. I've called myself listening, but all too often, I've gotten His voice confused with mine and run full steam ahead toward something that was clearly my desire for me and not His. He doesn't stop us when we do that, but he certainly doesn't bless those efforts. So, I've slowed my life down. Don't laugh if you know me well - I really have. I still have more misses than hits, but I am slowly reprioritizing my life to include more time spent alone with Him. Listening. Seeking. Worshiping.
We have a world around us that is hurting. We have to strap on our armour and set out in boldness to bring that world hope. What does that look like in practical terms? I can only speak for myself, but maybe you'll see something in my struggle that will help you with yours.
It starts with love. We have to learn to be beacons of love and light in a dark world. That means learning to love everyone. This is a hard one for me. I've gotten to a place in my life that I want solitude more than social encounters, even with those that I already love. Times of solitude are fine, deeply needed even, but we can't go there and stay. God wants us out in the world, among those hopeless people. People that He already loves. People who are difficult to love. People who don't look like you or sound like you or believe the same things that you do. People who need to hear or be reminded of His love, His hope, His future completely entwined with ours.
We can't be afraid to label sin what it is. But, in doing so, we have to remember that there are no degrees of sin. One sin is no better or worse than any other. Which makes us all sinners. Romans 3: 9-18 speaks to that very clearly. (Also Romans 3:23) I know I've had enough self righteous church people in my life to last a lifetime. So, as we love people, we learn to listen to them. We learn to meet them where they are and gently encourage them. Show them how God loves them by loving them that way yourself. This is not ever easy, for me it seems particularly hard sometimes. There is a very thin line between righteousness and self righteousness, and it's vitally important to learn where it is. That's where the learning to love comes in. We don't have to know how our sinful friends will come into the kingdom. God knows how. The same way you'll be allowed into the kingdom in spite of your sin. What we have to do is show them hope, love, the future God has planned for them. And we have to accomplish this while being very aware of those planks in our own eyes.
We can't allow our own shortcomings to prevent us from being bold. God has a very long history of using people who were neither talented, beautiful, wealthy, or even particularly smart. He will give you what you need, and bring people to your life who need exactly what you have to offer. He has brought so many mentors into my life, people who provided exactly what I needed during each season of my life. It's time to pay that forward.
This is a post that has been on my heart for weeks. When I started this blog, a little over a year ago, it was to share my journey throughout the upcoming years as I seek some physical goals. But, the more important purpose here is to open up my spiritual walk to any one who may be even remotely inspired to begin their own journey. Not by me, my walk is tremulous and stumbling at best. But, perhaps as I chronicle my journey, you'll see that your journey, too, is of Kingdom importance.
There's work to be done. That's why we're still here. Be bold.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:17