Led Overseas by Love
"I didn’t come to change the whole country. I knew that would be far too tall an order for a woman like me. I came to be obedient."
The baby stirs in her crib. It’s still in our room because the carpenter made it an inch too wide. It can’t fit through the door to her room which is, for some reason, more narrow than the other doors in the house. We were up most of the night. Forty hours of traveling back to our Asian home from the US has us all trading colds and coughs and fevers. Some days I giggle and some days I grimace at the sounds and smells that drift into our house from the outside and tell us that we’re not in California anymore.
A craving for a taste of spiciness the States couldn’t offer sends me out into the host of sounds and smells outside to a small food vendor around the corner. You can’t walk a few feet to find freshly made and perfectly spiced potatoes for breakfast in California. Well, maybe you can, but it sure does look a little different. A quick chat with the shopkeeper while I wait for her to pack my potatoes has me beaming. I come back through the doors to my now awake husband and our little girl, so in love with this country and these people. Potatoes in hand, I feel victorious.
The next time I go outside, face mask donned and baby strapped to my torso, I do not feel so victorious. I feel defeated. From every direction I’m faced with poverty, with brokenness, with ache. Is what I feel conviction, an urgency to heal and to bring good news? Or is what I feel guilt, a knowledge that just around the corner in my home is a fridge full of groceries, a television, and a deep-seated peace lacking in so many lives around me?
Living overseas has a way of revealing all the ways I fail, much more than anything I’ve ever experienced. While I have my victorious, potato-seizing days, most of them end with me in bed thinking of all the things I could have done better, words I could have said differently, and people I could have loved harder. I wake up in the morning anxious about what lies outside these cozy walls. I know out there is much more than I can ever conquer, let alone change.
Out there is a woman who begs for her well-being, or is perhaps being coerced to. Out there, right next door to me, are families who live in a single room and cook their meals over an open flame. Out there are temples to idols demanding worship and devotion that does not belong to them. Out there are people I cannot communicate with due to language barriers.
I didn’t come to change the whole country. I knew that would be far too tall an order for a woman like me. I came to be obedient. I came to follow my husband. I came to share love with those who’ve never before experienced it. In these simple things I long to find my purpose. But even in these, I often find them too much and myself not enough to do them.
My own love is not enough to propel me out of the doors and into the lives around me. It never will be. By the measure of my own love I’m hospitable, but only to the degree that it benefits me or makes me look good. By the measure of my own love I’m more concerned with my comfort and convenience than with the need of someone else. When living out of the measure of my own love I am severely lacking. But praise the good God above, I need not be bound by the measure of my own love. I must be — we must be —so filled with the love and knowledge and wisdom of God that that alone is what leads us to the people around us. Any motivation other than His love is a faulty foundation.
The song “Build My Life” by the band Housefires has been an anthem for my heart these days, particularly the verse, “Lead me in your love to those around me.” How I long to look like a woman led by the love of the Lord to those around her. Yet I forget what must come before that — “I will build my life upon your love, it is a firm foundation.” If my own love is my foundation, the place I move from, I crumble and fall short. But His love is steadfast, never-ending, true. That is the place I need to move from; the place I need to build my life on.
In a letter to the Thessalonians, Paul concludes with these words:
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
Let that sink in really, really deep: He who calls you is faithful. He will surely do it.
He will surely sanctify you.
He will surely lead you.
He will surely make you whole.
I want to wake up in the morning completely aware of and content in His faithfulness. Moment by moment, I need to surrender my lack and my weakness to Him because He wants to use such surrender to change the world. I long to open my eyes in the morning with a sense of contentedness. Why should I not be able to? I am called by the God of the world. Everything, minute or massive, rests in His capable hands. The Story of The Bible ensures it. In my own story I have never seen otherwise.
My stubborn heart keeps finding, over and over, that the key to this lies in being and not doing, which is not at all glamorous or Instagram-worthy. “You are what you eat,” they say. I want to be a representation of the living Truth that lies in The Word of God. So eat it I must. Day and night I must meditate, chew on, pursue, rest in it and all of its goodness. There is a stark contrast to the days I wake up in the sureness of who God is and the ones where I wake up in the frenzied panic of all that I’m not. The latter are mornings without a Bible open, days not spent in prayer, moments not spent worshiping.
He who calls us is faithful. In Him and His love we can rest, we can move, we can be led in love to those around us.