Still reading? Well, look at you! Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Have you ever read something and had it resonate with your soul? Like when you read it, you related to it so much you wondered if the author secretly installed video cameras in your house because you felt that they knew you well? That’s how I felt as I read Interrupted, by Jen Hatmaker. Our common experience:
- Grew up in the church
- Dad was a pastor
- Went to a Christian college
- Did all the right things
- Married a believer
- Planted a church
- Sacrificed financially
- Still empty
Jen had done all of these things, but still there was something missing. That’s where Interrupted began for her. That’s where I am today.
The missing ingredient? Serving the least of these.
I won’t bury the lead of the book or my main takeaway. And I won’t be writing about how great I am at this or have things figured out. Yet. Truth is I’m a pretty selfish person and I don’t serve well. I have some reasons for this but they’re really excuses. And you know what excuses are like that everyone has? Yeah. All I can say after reading this with my wife is that I’m truly “interrupted” and I’m still processing with her the big “so what” questions.
What I can say is that the times where my heart has been the most alive has been when I’ve been serving others and making sacrifices. The time when I’m least alive is when I’m trying to get things for myself or build my own Kingdom here.
Living inward is a slow, painful death. Living outward ain’t.
I remember John Eldridge’s famous quote, “The glory of God is the heart fully alive”. I feel most alive in Africa. My heart is softest around poverty and need. The most fruitful time in my life was also the hardest time – when we planted a church. It was a time of great sacrifice, but also great joy. I’m not sure what this means moving forward. But I do know that if I do die a slow painful death of comfort and living inward, it won’t be because of ignorance. It will be because I chose it.
My Favorite Quotes
My heart was dry. Like dry as the desert. I felt spiritually malnourished, as if I was parched. Was I just still tired? Did I mismanage my sabbatical? How did I blog this gift of rest? What more could I possibly want from this life? My existence was charmed by any standard. What was wrong with me?
I developed a spiritual form of bulimia where I did my devotions, read all of the new Chrisitan books and saw the Christian movies, and then vomited up information to friends, small groups, and pastors. But it never had the chance to digest. I had gorged myself on al lithe products of the Christian industrial complex but was spiritually starving to death. I was marked by an overconsumption but malnourished spiritually, suffocated by Christianity but thirsty for God.
From Brandon: While Jen would have been supportive if this had all started in me, this wasn’t something a wife should be dragged into; she needed to be all in. Even more, we needed to be in this together, and if it took God moving Jen first, then so be it.
In fact, ten years ago I began noticing a pattern in men. Especially pastors. We tend to make major life decisions, drag our wives along – criticizing their lack of faith or praising their submission – and expect them to toe the company line. The result? When things go well, we’re the heroes. But when things go south, we aren’t emotionally in it together, and it becomes us against them. We end up defending our church, our work hours, the toll on our family, and we’re all alone. Many pastors’ wives feel as though the church is “the other woman”. It is beyond unhealthy when a husband is emotionally alone in ministry without the backing of his bride.
I began to pray, “God don’t move in me unless You move in Jen. In fact, for the big things, move in her heart first.”
We don’t get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated. We’re not allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood. We can’t withhold social relief because we’re not convinced it will be perfectly managed. We can’t project our advantaged perspective onto struggling people and expect results available only to the privileged. Must we be wise? Absolutely. But doing nothing is a blatant sin of omission. Turning a blind eye of “unworthiness” is the antitheses to Jesus’ entire mission.
God may be leading you away without a clear final destination yet. As maddening as that is, could it be that He needs you to release what was before you can appropriately grasp what will be? Could it be that you might accidentally squash the lovely vision if you obtain it too soon? There is a horrid beauty in following God slightly blind. The victory later is sweeter, the prize more valuable than breath. Obviously, we are Americans; we like a plan, we like assurances. But the ways of faith exist so far outside of our tidy boundaries, it’s a wonder we can ever receive its mysteries at all.
Jesus never gave us the keys to His church; He handed over keys to the Kingdom. This isn’t something to set aside as another symbolic reference. This was Jesus’ instruction: place your affections on My Kingdom, and I will build My church. Bind your heard to the things of eternal value, keep your mind on a vision bigger than you, and all your efforts match those affections. Jesus will take care of the rest.
From Brandon: If we’ve been in the church for years, yet aren’t full, are we really hungry for more knowledge? In our busy lives, do we really need another program or event? Do we really need to be fed more of the Word, or are we simply undernourished from an absence of living the Word? Maybe we love God, but are we loving others? If our faith is about us, then we are not just hungry – our spirits are starving.
I believe the largest factor in feeling unfed is not feeding others. It has less to do with your pastor’s preaching style or the curriculum you’re studying. We have an innate craving to live on mission with God in the dangerous, exciting world. Out there is where we come to life, get over ourselves, are fed. Fulfillment exists in becoming a slave to everyone in order to win someone to Jesus. Discipleship has never been about learning; it was constructed on living. Honestly, the last thing I need is another sermon.