Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
Sometimes I get discouraged. I make plans but they don’t turn out quite as I had hoped or expected. A friend disappoints me. My job feels mundane. In spite of praying and waiting (and occasional bouts of whining), I’m still single. My body reminds me every day that I am indeed growing older and slowing down. I long for more out of church. More out of life. Something richer. More meaningful. Less lonely. I wonder, “Am I wasting my life? Have I missed God’s purposes for me?” (I confess I am a high idealist with strong melancholy tendencies. Undoubtedly, this is a bad combination.) I pray. I do my duty. Yet, each day feels increasingly like a long walk in the desert with little evidence of progress.
Because I grew up in New Mexico, I appreciate the beauty of the desert. A desert sunset is unequaled in color and hue. The mountains on the horizon are both rugged and elegant. But, I have also felt the desert’s arid assault. A hot desert wind can gust for days filling the air with grit until it’s everywhere – in your ears, your eyes, your food. It makes you irritable. People snap at each other or else pass without a word, their heads tucked inside the edges of their jackets. I know the feel of grit in my teeth. When life is hard and discouragement blows in like a desert wind, I know the feel of grit in my soul.
I have recently been captured by one little sentence I read. Upon the recommendation of C.S. Lewis, I decided to read George MacDonald’s fantasy work, Phantastes. The young wanderer, Anodos, comes upon a little spring where he stops to refresh himself. After he drinks from the “cheerful little stream” he says:
“It was born in a desert; but it seemed to say to itself, ‘I will flow and sing, and lave my banks, till I make my desert a paradise.’”
Oh, how I long to live like that! You see, when life gets hard, my tendency is to withdraw. I prefer to shrink back as if to conserve mental and emotional energy. I tuck my head inside my jacket and head for home. I begin to feel dried up – as if I have nothing to offer. That’s not what Anodos’ little stream did. No! It was flowing freely and seeking to bless everything in its path. I wonder if it’s possible for me to live with such freedom and generosity and joy that I could actually alter the world that surrounds me? Could I love so well that what was once an arid desert could become a lush place?
I once heard a speaker at a conference talk about the difference between living with an “abundance mentality” and living with a “scarcity mentality.” I don’t remember much of what he said, but the concept stuck with me. When I’m discouraged I begin to live with a mentality of scarcity, as if to say: “I don’t have much. As a matter of fact, what little I have feels like it’s in jeopardy; so I must hoard it and hold onto it.”
I’ve been wondering what it might look like as a follower of Jesus to live with a mentality of abundance:
That is how Betsie ten Boom chose to live. You may remember her story as told by her sister Corrie in the book The Hiding Place. They were arrested for hiding Jews in their home during the German occupation of Holland in 1944. Nine months later, Betsie died in Ravensbruck concentration camp. Corrie tells how, through Jesus, and with Betsie’s prayers and influence, the barracks were transformed into a place of kindness and joy in the midst of terrible deprivation and misery.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:8, “Freely you have received, freely give.” That is how Betsie ten Boom lived. It is the message of the little stream in MacDonald’s tale. And that is exactly how I want to live as well. I can afford to live with hope and with joy and with great generosity toward others – even when I’m in the desert. Who knows? God might use my little life to radically change the landscape!
“I will flow and sing, and lave my banks, till I make my desert a paradise.”