A few weeks ago I was listening to an interview of a woman who was living the American dream. She had it all. Good paying job, loving husband, adoring kids, nice house in a nice neighborhood with a white picket fence.
And she gave it all up.
Quit the job. Sold the house. Packed up her family and moved to Africa to rescue kids who were being trafficked into sex slavery.
It's an incredible story of faith and a radical following of Jesus. In the midst of Kimberly's story she said something that has haunted me ever since.
"Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy and in
America he does it with a white picket fence."
Over the weekend I finished reading a book by a girl in her early twenties who had the perfect life. Homecoming queen, wealthy family, adoring boyfriend, opportunity to attend the college of her choice, cute sports car. She too was living the American dream.
And she gave it all up.
Passed on college. Broke up with the boyfriend. And bought a one way ticket to Uganda to become the mother of 13 abandoned girls and start a ministry where she now feeds and educates thousands of kids.
She came back to America for a few months and said she missed the poverty of Africa. Why? Because she realized that:
"in America we don't need Jesus."
Katie went on to say that in America if we are hungry we go to the pantry, or the local grocery store. We don't ask God for daily bread. If we are sick we go to the doctor. We don't ask God for healing. If we need comfort we call, text, or Facebook any of a dozen friends. We don't beg God for His presence.
Katie said that in America she missed Jesus. Because in America she didn't need Jesus. She could live life on her own.
These two women's stories won't let go of me. I confess; I've been tempted to pack it all up and join them in Africa. But I don't think that's the point God is trying to make to me. I think what I'm realizing is that somewhere along the journey I've bought into the lie that the American dream is God's dream. That safety and comfort and security is the goal. When in actuality that couldn't be further from the truth.
"The civilized view of Jesus is that He always comes through for us.
Like Superman, He always shows up just in time to protect us and save us from disaster.
His purpose is to ensure our safety, our convenience, and our comfort....
but God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance."
The thing about Kimberly and Katie's lives that so captivates me isn't their comfort. It's the danger. It's the front line, perilous adventure of following and trusting Jesus. These women are living lives of significance. They are boldly marching into the darkness and letting their light shine.
I spend my days frantically trying to build a sanctuary to put my light in so that nothing can blow it out. I spend my days guarding my light. They spend their days shining theirs.
I spend my days begging God to let hardship and trials pass me by. They spend their days thanking God for walking with them through every hardship and trial.
And I am jealous.
I want to see God like they see God. In every minute of every day. As their source and faithful supply.
It's hard. Here, in the first world, where even in our difficult seasons we are still so blessed. It's hard to need Jesus here. It's hard to realize our total depravity when we are surrounded by abundance. It is hard to realize our absolute need for mercy (help for the afflicted and wretched) when we are surrounded by grace (good will, loving-kindness, favour).
I've so bought into the American dream that I feel punished when hardships or trials enter my life. I feel deserving of blessing. And therefore I despise seasons of lack. When things go wrong my first inclination is that God is punishing me, not that He is blessing me. My first thought is not that God chose this for me so that I would draw closer to Him.
I want to learn the secret.
The secret that Kimberly and Katie and Paul learned.
"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry,
whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
I want to learn the secret of contentment. I want to learn the secret of living in God's strength, not my own.
I have learned to be content with the American dream, behind my white picket fence, surrounded by comfort and health and security. But I want more. I want contentment when all else fades.
When nothing is left but Jesus... Can I find contentment there?