It's James's fault.
Let me warn you about studying James. If you're gonna dig in, you best be buckling your seatbelt and holding on tight. He gets in your face. The whole book is massively challenging. But there's one thing in it that really gets me:
"But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves." (1:22)
Hmmmm. I wonder. Up until 2011, I thought I had James down. I was convinced that because I am so involved at church I had works to back up my faith. But have I really? Look at the verse again. It doesn't say "be involved." it doesn't say "do as much at church as possible." Or "Sacrifice your vaca time to go to Mexico with the high schoolers every year." It says if you aren't doing what God's word says you are fooling yourself. Those are some harsh words. Last year I began to look at my life critically. Have I been fooling myself? Wait. What does that even mean?!?! Have I been doing what God's word says? What DOES God's word command? What exactly is it we are to be DOING?
Thus begins the stage of feeling like a new baby in the study of scripture as if I've never read it before. Simultaneously one of the biggest blessings and frustrations of scripture being alive and active.
I thought and sought and prayed for several weeks. I buried myself in cross-referencing. And, well, I was hit hard and knocked over & I'm not sure the wind has returned to my lungs quite yet. But I found some answers.....
" Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James 1:27
"Now, get ready. Stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not be intimidated by them or I will cause you to cower before them."
"You are My friends if you do what I command you."
"This is what I command you: Love one another."
These aren't easy to read. They convict. They go against comfort. That doesn't leave a lot of room for argument. And to know I'm being commanded to live in such a way leaves absolutely no options for me. I've been taught my whole life how to manipulate scripture. How to simultaneously be a believer and fit into this world. How to be involved in ministry, know my Bible, yet work hard to get comfy. Retirement. 401k. Savings. A house. A nice car that lasts forever. Nice vacations. Bible study on Sunday but work boots on Monday. Separation. The last year has been about my eyes being opened to a certain way of doing Christianity that is utterly ineffective and all I've ever known. And with the new year, I threw up my hands and loudly claim I know nothing except that Jesus has gotten so deep into my marrow that I can do nothing BUT give up control. It petrifies me. This new commitment to following Him with every penny and when He says rather than when it's convenient is a whole new life. I feel like a different person completely. I'm terrified of everything changing. Of the fact that all I seem to be able to dream about at night is being in Africa. Permanently. It scares me that my mind is constantly pre-occupied with the possibility, and that I love the thought so much. I've let go. It hurts to give up parts of who you are. I'm changing so much I don't know who I am. That is freaky. I'm broke. It's awesome. I get to facilitate my beautiful high school girls in being Jesu's hands and feet in Mexico. I get to go to Africa and be with these jewels.
He gave me a beautiful promise today. Yes, giving up any life I had or want is hard at times. But then He says THIS:
"If you carefully obey my commands I am giving you today, to love the LORD your God and worship Him with all your heart and all your soul, I will provide rain for your land in the proper time, the autumn and spring rains, and you will harvest your grain, new wine, and oil. I will provide grass in your fields for your livestock. You will eat and be satisfied."
Get it? If you walk in obedience to His commands, you don't need to worry about anything at all. He's more than got your back. He'll shower you with whatever you need. It just doesn't get any better. Give it up. Give in. Jump into HIS ride.