*The following is Part 1 of 2 journal reflections written while on sabbatical as my family and I traveled overseas this past June.
I feel frustrated, vocationally speaking. For a number of months, I have lacked a sense of passion in what I do. I am finding that I am not nearly as excited about what we are doing and fear that I am merely going through the motions. I almost feel apathetic, which is an absolutely terrible feeling to have. This feeling of apathy also seems to have extended to Shelly’s and my ‘mission’ in the community of the South Side. Am I just burned out? Shelly also seems to feel this way to some degree.
Perhaps I am looking for an escape from what we have been doing the past 17+ years of living and working in low-income communities. But what would I do vocationally? Where would we live? What kind of kingdom impact would our lives possess? What values would we indirectly be teaching our children?
Interestingly, I have found that my views seem to soften the older I have become, and so become less extreme. For example, my wife and I were blessed to have sabbaticals this summer and traveled 5 ½ weeks with our kids through very spiritually dark counties with fewer than 2% of the population being Christian! Yet, in all of these travels, the majority of our time having been spent with Muslims, I realized just how much they in fact already know about Jesus. It is true, they don’t really know nor understand Jesus or the gospel in the way I do, but to say that they know nothing is simply not accurate. I have had this passing thought in recent months that has been further confirmed on this trip: Muslims remind me a lot of other religions here in the US that have similarities to Christianity. They are a devout people, monotheistic, and as a part of their profession of faith they believe Judaism and Christianity to be true. Of course, in their mind, the Koran is the final prophecy and fulfillment of these two faiths. Given the fact that they uphold both Judaism and Christianity, they know about Jesus… they know of His virgin birth, life, miracles, teachings, and while they don’t believe that He died, they do believe that He was taken up to heaven, but that He will return again. It is really quite baffling and frustrating all at the same time. I have realized that faith comes by hearing, and that their salvation is a work of the Spirit and a true gift from the Lord. While we are called to profess the gospel and make disciples, it is God alone who changes hearts.
All that said, in years past I have taken a very active role in seeking first your Kingdom, striving to make Jesus known, make disciples, reach the unreached and lost, and ensure that justice in fact does come… but I am wondering: is all this fretting about really meant to be a blanket statement and call for all Christians? I am no longer certain. Perhaps what is most important is to keep things simple as Jesus kept things simple: Love God with all of your being and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said that it was on these two commandments that depend the whole Law and the Prophets. Imagine, everything summed up with these two commandments: love God, love others. The Ten Commandments, plus the 613 commandments that Jews felt obligated to abide by, summed up by something so simple? Of course, while it is simple, it is incredibly profound – to love God is to know God; to love God is to obey God; to love God is to pursue God; to love God is to surrender to God; to love God is to enjoy and worship God; to love God is everything. Should this not be the focus? If we simply strive to know and love the Lord, and therefore love those whom He have placed before us, will this not be pleasing to God and can’t we rest in confidence that His will will be done? He will gather the lost sheep; He will gather people of every nation, tribe, and tongue; and His kingdom will in fact come. At this point, I believe this to be so, thus, the question becomes: How can Shelly and I live in joyful and submitted obedience to the Lord every day of our lives? What does that look like for us at this time and how does this impact and direct the struggles of my heart? Keep it simple: love God with all our being, and love others with the same gospel hope in which He has loved us… even in the midst of weariness and heavy burdens, and so come to the One who gives rest.
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NASB).