I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to want people in America to be awake when I get off of work. When did 4AM become too early to start the day and maybe enjoy a lovely Skype chat with a friend and/or family member who is all alone on the other side of the world (feel guilty yet)? I don’t think it has, nor will it ever be. It’s a perfectly and entirely reasonable hour for anyone to begin the day. And besides, I need my people to be available to me no matter what time it is (as long as I’m awake). Especially today…
I am bursting!!!
The day started out with very little motivation. I could barely muster the will to get out of bed this morning. I’ve been exceptionally tired the last few days (thanks to many contributing factors), and have just been feeling really distracted and mope-y and wimpy and like I have no purpose here. What am I doing in China? What was the point in coming here? I thought coming here would make me feel more spiritual and dangerous. But the truth is, I’m just living. I haven’t noticed any heightened awareness of the Divine. No angelic visitations. No voices from heaven. Everything feels so normal. Like I’m just doing here, what I did at home (except for the foreign country part).
But then the Lord shows up and reminds me in His wonderfully inclusive way, what this living in China business is all about.
When I got to work this afternoon, I noticed that I was scheduled for an English Corner Bible Story lesson. Normally I know at least a day or two in advance when I will have one, but today I was not prepared. I didn’t even have my Bible with me! Thankfully, my class load was very light and I had several free hours to plan and prepare for the lesson. This was to be my fourth lesson, so going in order from the beginning I was now at the story of the tower of Babel.
I’ve honestly been feeling a little bit discouraged about the English Corners. The first one was SO great, but the following two just felt kind of awkward and like the students weren’t interested or my heart wasn’t into it. I definitely didn’t feel confident in sharing the stories (Adam & Eve and the fall, and Noah’s Ark), I think because it felt like I was presenting a God who was constantly punishing mankind. “Oops, man messed up again… now God has to do something about it. Sorry guys, no more garden. Curses for you. Great big flood. Everyone dies.” These stories sure seemed a whole lot more chipper when I was a child. Maybe a felt board would help.
I had been asking the Lord if I should start somewhere else, but I never really got a clear sense of where else to go. I just wanted the students to know the end of the story so they could more fully understand God’s heart. The feedback I had been getting up to this point was that “God was afraid of man’s power… or repressing man from being greater than Him… or that it was all just a game to God.” I just wanted to grab people and say, “No! You don’t understand… this is only the beginning! Wait until you hear how He really feels!” All along I’ve been trying to convey the heart behind God’s interactions with man and that He’s not cruel or vengeful, but that He is merciful and just. I’ve tried to help them see His mercy in the midst of what might seem harsh, but when the teacher is struggling to find it (knowing it in my heart, but grappling with it in my head), the students probably won’t be too convinced of its validity.
It’s baffling to me how I can (truly) believe something with all my heart, but shudder at the thought of sharing it for fear of looking silly or like I’ve bought into a Fairy Tale. Really, Jaime? What ridiculous and selfish pride you have. It’s so frustrating. I’m just glad that God chooses to use me in spite of this terrible tendency. And I look forward to the day when it no longer rears its ugly head.
So, today… I decided that rather than just plan to tell the story and let students ask random questions (believe me, they get real random and off topic), I would come up with some discussion questions to go over afterward. This was a very good idea. Telling the story only took about ten minutes (the tower of Babel account is only nine verses long). I had crafted the questions to intentionally lead the students toward questioning the character of God. Questions like, “Why do you think God confused man’s language? Was it cruel or merciful of Him? What does this story tell us about God?” Something else that was different this time was that I didn’t “have all the answers.” I would throw the questions back at the students and when they would express an opinion about God’s “threatened-ness,” I would ask them to expand and explain why they thought that (I think I learned this from watching Joe Slawter – he’s a master at this kind of stuff). This proved to be a really great way to get the students talking and to delve into territory outside the direct story, but still well within the context of God and His character. It was awesome.
Somehow (no doubt by divine providence), the subject of the Trinity came up again. I briefly touched on the three members of the Godhead and listed them on the board. Students seemed to really grasp the roles of the Father and the Holy Spirit, but they struggled with understanding Jesus – who He is and what His “role” in the Godhead is exactly.
Oh! Well, let me tell you!!!!!!!
From that point on, I was able to share the entire Gospel story with the class. The whole thing!!! I talked about the “death” Adam & Eve introduced to mankind and how since then man had been making effort after futile effort to regain relationship with God. I shared about the life and ministry of Jesus. Why God sent Him, what the prophets said about Him, what He did on earth. I told the students how He was perfect and blameless and how He became our sin. Faces were very solemn when I described His arrest and crucifixion – I didn’t spare the gruesome reality of what He suffered. I explained the holiness of God and how Jesus took on the punishment of our sin so that we could approach God and stand blameless before Him. I told them how when He rose on the third day He conquered that same “death” that was imposed upon mankind at the fall. We’ll still die, but we no longer have to be separated from God. I explained salvation and how Christians believe people are saved. I shared the simplicity of “believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth…” Scripture was pouring out of me. It was so incredible. I would have given an altar call if I could’ve!
Every ounce of insecurity went running as I shared. I felt bold and confident and SO completely aware of the Lord’s presence. I wasn’t overly eloquent. I stumbled and stammered my way through the story, but I was certain of what I was saying. I was confident in the truth. I can’t really even explain it… it’s like nothing seemed more believable than what I was saying. I knew it was true and I wanted everyone in that room to know it too!
After I shared about Jesus, one student asked why, if He was perfect and if He was God, didn’t He defend Himself or make them stop. That’s when I got to share about His love; about the “joy set before Him,” and how we were that joy. He didn’t defend Himself, He didn’t make them stop because He wanted us. He wanted relationship with us and He knew the cross was the only way. It was so powerful. Even the students who seemed less than convinced hung their heads in humility. It was all I could do not to cry.
And this, my friends, is why I am in China.
I guess this “normal” life I’m living here isn’t so normal after all – at least not in the conventional way.
“We must redefine ‘normal’ Christianity so it lines up with God’s idea of normal… The normal Christian life begins with the realization that we were put here to do the will of God on earth as it is in heaven – and what joy it is to participate in that.” (from The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind by Bill Johnson)
I think I did a little bit of that today. And the thing about it is, I didn’t feel exceptionally “spiritual” leading up to this incredible hour. I had simply submitted the time to the Lord and asked that He be present. I lent Him my voice and He took care of the rest. I want this to be my normal.