James 4 is a remarkably good one for me this week. The funny thing is, the culmination of how my week has been, and how James 4 has wrecked me, came last night. I love God's timing!
James 4:10 knocked me over this week. J and I started a new class with our HS students last Saturday. This is the first class we have ever come up with curriculum for, taught, and felt responsible for the hearts of our students who attend the class. We have become good at being supporting role people, and actually think this is what God meant for our lives when we started to think about ministry. This is not supporting role, and as a result is way far out of our comfort zones. It is also a way for me to lose sight of humility.
Several of the kids actually thanked us for the class afterward, which surprised me. Kids aren't typically good at articulating appreciation. Parents sought us out on Sunday to thank us for pouring into their kids. I sincerely said to them that it is a honor to be doing what God has made us to do. I told them how much I LOVE loving on HS students and giving away truth to them. I smiled and thanked them for their kind words. You would think that I could get puffed up by the appreciation, but in fact I found an even sneakier way of not being humble.
The guy over J and I didn't say directly to me that he appreciated our hard work, that he thought we did a good job, or that he was thankful for our partnership in the ministry. That's where my pride bristled up in all it's ugly glory. He told J all of those things, but he didn't tell me. How dare he not come to me personally and express gratitude! I know J and I often say "We are the Borg, you tell one of us and it's the same as telling both of us," but dang it, I want my personal recognition. I started to complain to J about this yesterday and he asked if I had checked my email. "Of course I haven't, I'm too busy for that!" He proceeds to read off emails that the guy over us sent to J and I, and then to the rest of the ministry, about how much he appreciates us and thinks we did a good job. Did I receive this well? No, I complained further. Later when I thought about it God brought James 4:10 to mind. What we were teaching was not about us, but about God. Our ministry to the youth is not for our glory but for God's. Our very breath that we use to complain is a gift from God. Is it just me and Paul or does the Romans 7:24 moment wreck any other hearts?
Here's the other kicker for the week. When filling out 10,000 pages of paperwork for our adoption there was a little question of guardianship for our children in the unfortunate event of our deaths before our kids are adults. We didn't really pray about this question. We both just looked at it, started making a list of who would not go there, for various reasons, and narrowed it down to one family. We wrote that family in, and figured we would talk with them about it later. We love and trust this family, feel like we agree on the essentials of faith, and like their parenting style. It's a no-brainer. Check! Answered that question, move on. Now I don't think this is legally binding if we write up a will and name someone else, but I don't know, but we are seriously reconsidering the answer to that question.
Looking back, we answered that question a lot in the same vein of James 4:13-17. We didn't really consider what God's will for this would be. We made our plans, without seriously considering what tomorrow could bring. This may make us sound like awful potential adoptive parents, but let me explain. When filling out seriously whole trees worth of information about your life, sometimes it gets late into the night and you answer a little too gut instinct and little less God's will. It's not an excuse, but a serious "why did we say that? Oh right it was midnight and our brains were fried." Now, I'm not even sure we're whole-heartedly reconsidering, but we definitely are asking God how we should proceed. Here's why we're finally asking that question. The husband of this family wrote a blog post about the Christian's response to poverty, social justice, and the kingdom of God. We have been aware that we differ with him on some theological issues, but until now that didn't really make us uncomfortable. Last night we were uncomfortable.
We are now and not yet people. We understand that some think we are WAY off base in our thinking that consummation of redemption is future and we are also working in the kingdom even now. We hope that every day we are taking steps to usher in the kingdom of God, putting hands and feet to "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." We understand that it can be an eschatological mine-field to talk about the final consummation of Christ taking his bride, while also talking about how the bride is to live now. We get it. But we choose to care for the poor, to welcome the orphans into our hearts and lives, to love on widows, and to proclaim liberty to the captives. We feel it is beholden upon us as Christians to be the body of Christ, and these things are natural functions of the body.
There is a lot of debate lately about the theological implications of poverty, orphan care, and wealth. My untrained, un-seminaried, illogical answer to the argument is this: Mercy ministry is kingdom work! This flies directly in opposition to my dear brother whom I would trust with the lives of my adopted kids. And so, I debate how to talk to this significantly more Bible educated brother about how passionately I feel that God has called us to bring his kingdom even now. And I debate if I should ask him and his beautiful wife, whom I love so much, to care for my kids if they are orphaned again by their adopted family. I don't know how you tell an adopted kid that their adoption is not part of the kingdom coming, but I fear that might be the way they see it. And I smack myself in the forehead for thinking "today I will do this, and tomorrow this is what will happen, and it will be great!" without thinking "God what do you want?"