On All Occasions: Holding on, While Letting Go: Traversing discouragement

On All Occasions: Holding on, While Letting Go: Traversing discouragement
I am free to let go of things for the sake of making the supremacy of God's worth known. John Piper

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Walter Cronkite Meets Jesus

Saigon and the Mekong Delta 1968 - At the age of 9, the fact of my father’s absence was like an undercurrent of heaviness, and a constant reminder his return was not guaranteed. Letters sent from Vietnam said little about the makings of war. Dad liked the cookies, he liked the poem about watching him make faces while he shaved, and the photographs of Brownie Troop activities. Mom seemed to be somewhere far off those days, the television on in the background, mom in the kitchen, and the interruptions of a young girl’s voice met with annoyance. Sometime after supper I’d hear the familiar voice of Walter Cronkite beckoning me to the television.
There was always a dilemma involved when watching Cronkite, part of me wanting to know what was happening in Vietnam, the other afraid of what I would learn. Walter Cronkite had all the facts, everything a young girl wanted to know; be it the current location of the Viet Kong, marches on behalf of the poor people living in shanti towns, anti-war protests, civil liberty protests, presidential politics, the evacuations of Hueys, the status of half a million U.S. troops serving in Vietnam, and the downward plunge of a bayonet. I became a humanitarian and a disciple of Jesus under Cronkite. Maybe Jesus and I could make a difference in this world? No, dad’s name wasn’t on Cronkite’s casualty list; maybe he’s okay, and then… Cronkite brought news of another war, one closer to home. First, Martin Luther King, Jr., and then within 2 months Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated.
I did not grow up in a religious home, but for some reason during my dad’s deployment my mom dropped my sister and me off at a nearby Vacation Bible School. It was there that I learned about the life and love of Jesus, that he was my friend, and the hope of the world around me. It wouldn’t be until my early teens that I would understand my even greater need for Jesus. As parents we often wonder about our world today and its impact on our children.  We may try to protect and shield them from the harsh realities of conflict in an increasingly global society. But, I personally wonder if Jesus would become the “hero” he was to me then, without the stark contrast of a world on display in need of desperate hope. Is such a contrast even possible when our children have so much today? I never went to Disneyland as a child, but I did see the Redwood Forest. My first tech gadget was my very own tape cassette player, and birthday parties then included a gathering of friends around the dining table with a homemade cake. Our lives were simple, but we were content.
Consider our children’s heroes today. Do our children have an appreciation for the kindness of Jesus, his deep care for those who suffer, his compassion for the poor, and his promise of justice one day? Better yet, do our children know how much our world needs a kind hero, the very hope of the nations? What kind of “funnelvision” do children experience in today’s media mix? I’m certain my own mother had no idea of the internal processing I experienced. What thoughts do you have?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Walk with Me

When I was in the 6th grade I somehow managed to be elected student body president of our elementary school. There was just one problem or so we thought, I didn’t know Roberts Rules of Order. The truth was no amount of classroom study could make up for what I lacked in a role model. My male teacher and principal had expectations for the academic aspects of the role, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that I lacked a personal belief that I could assume a role of leadership. As a woman, it simply wasn’t modeled for me.

That belief became a story that I took with me long into my adult life. The women in my life were nurturing mothers, teachers, and Girl Scout leaders, contrasted by the Gloria Steinem’s in the media who were viewed as radical in my childhood home. But there was one reoccurring problem… my wiring contains a propensity for leadership. Jesus modeled discipleship, or mentoring over the course of three years. In contrast, I wonder what do we as leaders today hope to gain through periodic meetings and a handbook? Is it only our knowledge that has value, or is there something to be gained from the relationship?

It was through relationship over time that Jesus revealed Himself to his disciples, and they came to know Him as the real deal. It’s pretty easy to offer good advice and pleasant company over an occasional cup of coffee, and a meeting here and there. It’s another thing to take someone with you, to walk with them and to allow authenticity and experience to become a mutual instructor. For example it’s one thing to know your future spouse over fine wine and dining. It’s quite another thing to work with them in the trenches. As leaders we need to be willing to walk with others. Even if it seems like it will slow us down, or interrupt personal agendas. Investing in others holds the promise of doubling the workers for the harvest.

Whether we are leaders, co-laborers, or following others, it’s through relationship that we learn about another person and their strengths, and about ourselves and our weaknesses. It means pushing back against culture, and the expectation of instant results with minimal investment of time. It means letting go of our independent, pride based ways that carry a toddler’s “I do it!” mentality. We were made for relationship. Jesus knew his disciples, he knew their strengths and weaknesses, and He knew God’s purposes for each of  them. How well do we know the people we lead? How much of ourselves do we allow to be known by those we lead? Are we humble enough to learn from those who follow us?

During His time with the disciples Jesus gave them a glimpse of what he was creating in them. Paul exhorts believers, "encourage one another and build each other up." We all need encouraging mentors or role models who recognize what God is doing within us and join with Him. Paul exhorted Timothy to use the gifts that were given to him. Timothy’s calling was reinforced through the Holy Spirit, through experience, and through the reflection of Paul’s discipleship.

For me, there was one more significant life experience that lacked discipleship. At the age of 13, I accepted Jesus as my Savior during an evangelical service. Though I would go back to that church over several months, the weekly message remained the same, “Repent and be saved!” I never grew to understand my new faith beyond my own failure to live a life free of sin. There was so much I didn’t know to ask, and there was no one to guide me with the next steps. But Jesus is faithful! Ten years later he led me to a fellowship where I not only met Jesus, but the Word, and people who were willing to walk with me. A lot happened in between those ten years, and sometimes I wonder “what if, what if I had been discipled in my faith?” Rather than dwell in the past however, I am looking to the future, and asking Jesus to remove any obstacles within me. I want to be fully equipped as a worker for the harvest.

An additional question that occurs to me as I contemplate the subject of discipleship, is one I have to ask myself today, “Why haven’t I sought a Christian woman leader as a role model and mentor?” For me the answer is longtime fears, a fear of being rejected in the role itself, and a fear that I would be asking too much of another person’s time… What are your thoughts? What if anything is holding you back?

"Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another --and all the more as we see the Day approaching." Hebrew 10:25