Monday, April 10, 2017

Living Emptied

When God is working deep lessons in your life, sometimes it's best to be silent, and let Him work. Sometimes the lessons are so hard and so personal, it feels like a violation of privacy to someone, somehow to speak up. Then sometimes you come out the other side of a hard lesson, and you experience God first hand, and now it's time to share. It's time to testify once God always comes through.

My lesson lately has been a journey of endurance and brokenness. What does it look like to live a broken life? A poured out life? A selfless, daily focus, of letting the Lord fill me up, then pour me out again. Pour me into grieving friends, a worn, yet supportive husband, needy children, seeking high school students, and encouragement of godly women. Pour me into the servanthood of folding laundry, keeping schedules, replying to text messages, sending emails, cooking meals, and running errands. Pouring out physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Holding nothing back. Laying my head down at the end of every day having laid it all out there, for better or worse, I've been poured out either flesh or spirit, and watching, waiting, examining and weighing the results.

So this past week after a month of committing to this practice--a month filled with joy and pain, ups and downs, a speaking engagement, a family visit, exploring new places, the loss of a pet--I found myself getting ready to leave for a mission trip to Mexico (as a ministry team leader nonetheless) for our church high school Spring Break with a head cold, completely unprepared, and quite honestly, just empty.

I literally felt like I was just a body, showing up. I didn't expect much. I felt bad because I was afraid I had nothing to offer. A glorified chaperone.

"Lord, all of You. None of me. Please just fill me up, Lord. Now I really have nothing to give." This was my heart's desperate, quiet plea.

And my God showed up. Every day in a different way.

He showed up through the prayers of caring friends, old and new.
He showed up by bonding our ministry team.
He showed up in sweet conversations with students and adults.
He showed up in the bright, innocent smiles of children.
He showed up through 17 student salvations, several other ministry outreach salvations, and innumerable reconciliations.
He showed up in shared hurts and moments of vulnerable honesty.
He showed up in watching high school students get down and dirty and work, hard, without complaining, always smiling and willing.
He showed up filling the language barrier with real love, His love.
He showed up by filling me with the Holy Spirit in situations where, had I had any strength of my own, I would have pushed forward in my own flesh.

God just showed up. All week.

And now at the end of this trip, looking back, I just marvel. Simply marvel. I'm drained. I'm still sick. But I'm filled with a peace and a joy and a satisfaction that only comes from being an empty vessel used for God's purposes. Life feels abundantly full, yet I am keenly aware of just how empty I am in all the best ways.

Someone has spoken into my life recently about how she thinks I'm stretched too thin, how I should consider where I need to cut back. And she's probably right. Something has to give eventually. Right? Maybe? Maybe not.

What if our capacity for serving God and being used in His kingdom is simply a matter of how much capacity we allow for being completely emptied by Him for His purposes every day? 
                     By how long we are willing to sit still in His presence and be refilled for the pouring                            out? What if it's that simple?

I've heard people utter the phrases, "I can't do that. I don't have the money for that. I'm not gifted for that. That's not my strength. I could never commit to that. I can't give up that. I don't know how I can make that happen. I don't think I have the time."  And the list goes on....I've said all of these things at one point in my life or another. All of them. Believed I was in God's will saying them too.

But the truth is, my God doesn't fit inside a box of "I" that I create. I'm limited, but He isn't. I can't sometimes, but He always can. Where I am weak and empty, He is strong and overflowing. But I've rarely experienced His abundance because I've been too busy operating within the box of "I" that I create and I control--the things I know I can do, the things I know I am equipped for, the things I'm sure of accomplishing in my own ways and strength.

The problem is I now see I can live a good life accomplishing those things, a moral life, even a godly life in some ways, but I only experience the promised ABUNDANT life when I'm at the very end of myself with nothing left to offer or give, and yet I still say, "Yes," to God's calling, God's ways, and God's plan. I still walk through those open doors of opportunity He presents even when it's scary and hard, and I have nothing to offer but a vessel willing to be filled by Him.

I wonder how many of you are willing to let go, take a step of faith, and step into a "yes" to God in your life where you have no idea where the next step will take you? Where you have no idea how the details will work out? Where you have no idea where the money will be coming from? Where you simply have no idea, you just know that's where God is calling. 

I wonder how many of you will walk through that open door of opportunity where you can't see where it leads, but you hear God's voice calling you to come. Maybe you're tired, weary, expended, poured out, empty, yet He still calls. I wonder how many of you are willing to sacrifice yourself to the emptiness, the pouring out, in order to experience the abundance of how He can fill.

I wonder what stories you will have to share as a result. I wonder.

2 Corinthians 4:
 7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.12So death works in us, but life in you. (NAS)

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