By Leah Fuller
I hovered in the rain praying while a woman stood but a few feet from me, speaking with great determination to my co-instructor. She was tense, obviously afraid, and she believed that her body could not physically continue on this expedition that she had begun a few days earlier. She wanted to leave, to quit right then. Moments like this one are hard for a couple reasons: 1) They typically occur at a critical point in the expedition when things are really challenging and the person or persons simply can’t see beyond their own struggle. 2) Physical challenges often mask real, deep, vulnerable spaces of the heart that God is pushing on, and most people are unaware of anything but what they can physically see and feel.
My co-leader asked a few questions and then encouraged this woman to spend some time praying about what it was that she really needed. Perhaps she needed to share her struggle with the group? Perhaps there was something deeper? She agreed to pray, and the rest of the group spread out to do the same. Finding a place to settle on the side of the rocky mountain, I wondered what God wanted to do in the life of this woman and in the lives of the other group members. I continued to pray.
As the hikers regrouped, my co-instructor approached the woman and exchanged a few words. She slowly turned to the group with tears streaming down her face and began to explain her deep fears—fear of the unknown…fear of losing control…fear and worry over what might happen to her if she continued. And, as she wept before these people, most of whom she had only known a few days, a beautiful scene unfolded. One by one, her group members gathered around her, laid hands on her, and began praying over her. They saw her need, and they knew that in and of themselves, they could not meet it, so they turned to the One who could.
I find it intriguing how often this scene unfolds in the lives of Christ’s followers--particularly ones who have answered a call to vocational ministry in churches or para-church organizations or a call to being missionaries--people called by God to shepherd and help those who are in need. It’s what God set before us to do…to “share with God’s people who are in need” (Romans 12:13). I love meeting people’s needs. I find a great deal of satisfaction, fulfillment, and value when I have sacrificed hours of my time to sit with a grieving friend or to serve a struggling family. When a participant on a trip struggles with the weight of their pack, it feels good to help carry a few of their items, quite literally shouldering their burden.
And yet…when it comes to communicating my own need or even acknowledging my need, I absolutely do not want to be that transparent. It feels too vulnerable to let other people know I’m struggling. Instead, I would rather flee, hide, isolate, or believe the lie that I am alone. Shouldn’t I meet my own needs just as our western culture has taught me? Independence is easier than interdependence because it involves only one…me. Then, too, I get so focused on others that I fail to see my own need until it is too late, and I am exhausted. Not only do I hesitate to let other people see my struggle, but I avoid telling God about it. I know it sounds silly because God knows everything--even what I try to hide, but it’s true.
When I think about the way that Jesus sent out the twelve disciples as they started their ministry, I become aware of the truth of trusting others. He sent them out two by two and told them to “take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals, but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town” (Mark 6:8-10). Jesus literally told them to go out to minister with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Essentially, the disciples would have to depend on the people they were going to minister to just as much as they would be meeting the people’s spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. He was asking them to shed the protective barrier of independence and step into a place where they legitimately could not provide for themselves.
Admitting our need makes us vulnerable. It means that we can’t do this on our own. It requires us to surrender our independence in order to receive God’s gift of miraculously providing, not just for our physical needs, but the deeper longings of our heart for intimacy, belonging, love, and value, which He gives us through Himself and the community around us. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” God is able to meet all of our needs, and that requires us to wade into the deeper fears that ultimately lead us to protect our hearts, to choose to trust Him, and to believe that even when we cannot see beyond our current suffering, He is with us.
Will you let God take you to the deeper places of your need? You can trust that He knows and loves you and that He will be faithful to meet you in the midst of your deepest longing and desire. Let go, and trust that He is able.
By Joel Bates
It was a tangled, mangled, woebegone mess of a boat, but the price was right. As the craigslist stranger and I stood fussing about the problems and haggling over the price, my mind was swimming with the potential. Here was a sailboat, well most of it, and I envisioned myself cruising along with the wind blowing through my hair, the sails full, the boat responding to my every whim. Never mind that I’d been sailing only once. So what if maybe some of the pieces were bent, broken, or missing? So what if there was a big gaping crack in the plastic hull below the water line? I was hooked.
My wife smiled kindly and said little as we stood in our driveway later, she appraising my find and I praising myself for my cunning, bargain-hound prowess. She had seen me come home with such a “deal” before. I couldn’t wait to get to work, so I got out the garden hose and began spraying off the half decade of dirt. I wanted this to be a family venture, so I conscripted my kids, having them scrub and scour the stuck-on debris from the seats and floor of the boat. I was already shaping up to be a great sea captain; I had my crew swabbing the deck!
Having removed the layers of dirt, I admired the shining result and set about doing the real work. Cracks in the plastic needed patching; I would need to invest in fiberglass to cover the damaged parts. Chain anchors needed repair; lines had to be replaced, and that big crack below the waterline began to worry me. The more I worked, the more I realized that this job was going to be bigger, harder, and more expensive than I had thought. My wife wasn’t smiling when I showed her the Home Depot bill.
One day while I was attempting to connect the mast and sails, everything seemed to be going wrong. I threw up my hands in disgust, looked to the sky and yelled at God. “God, if in Your sovereignty You were happy for me to have a boat, then why didn’t You just give me a good, sound, working boat? Why do I always have to end up with broken stuff that has to be fixed? Why does it have to be so hard?”
My wife was standing next to me as I ranted. After a moment, the yelling stopped, and she quietly said, “Maybe God just wants you to be more like Him.”
I looked at her with shame, “Yeah, I probably shouldn’t shout at Him. God probably doesn’t like to be shouted at, huh?”
“That’s not what I mean,” she clarified. “He is a Redeemer of broken things.”
My anger dissipated, and my eyes teared up as she took my hand and we looked at the broken treasure before us. Suddenly I didn’t want a nice, new (or even slightly used) sailboat. I wanted this boat with its cracks, broken parts, pock marks, and scars to help me remember that God is in the process of fixing me, a broken man. He looked at me and saw beyond my signature sins, my trivial trophies, my sand-pile hill of worldly treasures, my weaknesses, and my failures—past, present, and future. He saw potential.
God sees what He is going to do in our lives, and He knows the outcome before He even begins the make-over. Psalm 139 tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made;… [His] eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in [His] book before one of them came to be (139: 14, 16).” God knows us and has a plan for us. Paul reminds us in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” God took great pains to redeem our lives, fix our brokenness, and set us free. He doesn’t want a prodigy that is already “put together;” He wants a beloved soul that He can perfect through His Son. We don’t need to come to Him clean. We just come surrendered and ready to be made new. Our God will make us holy and beautiful!
Every boat needs a name. I stepped back to take in the full view of my project when suddenly it came to me. I turned to my wife and proclaimed, “I think I’ll call it the “REDEMPTION!”
By Leah Fuller
Some friends recently invited me to go canoeing with them for the day. I tried to rearrange my work schedule to accommodate their impromptu plans, but eventually realized that I would have to decline their invitation. As I picked up the phone to express my regret, tears began to well in my eyes, and my mind started to race with all kinds of fears and questions. What if this is the only time I would have the opportunity to do something fun or special like this with them? Would they still want to be friends with me if I told them no? Such fears may sound extreme, but my sadness was very real. At the root, I feared that my friends really hadn’t enough love for me or a desire to spend time with me to last beyond this one event or moment.
I noticed a similar mindset several months ago while I was on sabbatical. I had seven weeks set aside specifically to get away and be with God, and it was a true gift from DM. Just as I was entering the last two weeks of that time, I learned that a close family member had died and attending the funeral would require at least three full days of travel. This may sound cold-hearted, but I seriously wrestled with some resentment and frustration at the timing of this unfortunate event. I wanted to attend the funeral of this beloved family member, and yet I didn’t want to give up any of the time I had been given for sabbatical. The sabbatical was rapidly ending, and now I would have to surrender part of this precious time.
These two scenarios portray just a few of the times that I wrestle with having a scarcity mindset. Scarcity tells us there won’t be enough of whatever it is we want or think we need, and so we must do whatever it takes to grasp and strive to protect our interests. Many of us have scarcity mindsets without even realizing it. We simply don’t believe there is enough time or resources available to us. We grasp and cling, trying to protect relationships or trying to prove our value in our work or ministry. When these things come up, we begin to clutch any semblance of control we can manage. I must protect my time. That phrase itself reflects the mindset that I only have a limited amount of time, and so any unexpected intrusion becomes a burden rather than a blessing. In relationships, it shows up both in giving and receiving. I think I only have so much to give, and since I already feel depleted, I must guard whom I give to in order to preserve my energy. Or I think friends only have so much to give, and I grow jealous and envious when they choose to give to another, thinking it could mean they might stop desiring my friendship. I become defensive at work, fearing that if I train someone to do the things I do, then there won’t be enough praise or work to go around, and I may no longer be needed or valued for the work I do.
All of these things lead to my fighting to keep control because ultimately I do not trust that God will provide what I think I need. Such disbelief makes it difficult for most of us to take time to practice Sabbath rest. In Leviticus 25, God outlines guidelines for the Sabbath year. He commanded that the land should lie fallow every seventh year. An entire year of no work, no crops, no resource! That seems pretty extreme, and from my scarcity mindset I think it would be impossible for me to survive that year, let alone the following year. But God’s promise speaks directly to our scarcity mindset. “You may ask, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?’ I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in” (Leviticus 25:20-22). It is difficult for us to take the time to rest even one day a week because we don’t really believe that God will provide for our needs if we aren’t working. And yet, repeatedly in scripture and in our lives God provides abundantly for His people.
I was reading this week in Psalm 37:19 where David says “…even in famine they will have more than enough.” That simple statement stopped me dead in my tracks. What would happen if I began to look at life with an abundance mindset? It would require me to trust God whole-heartedly before I ever caught a glimpse of how He planned to provide. Just as the Israelites had to truly trust that there would still be enough in the eighth year when they had done nothing to produce it or that in the desert God would continue to send manna each day—something they did not produce, we must do the work of believing He will provide and “do abundantly more than we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).
What would change for us if we saw the world through God’s lens of abundance rather than the lens of scarcity? Our time would begin to be God’s time, something to be given freely because it was received freely. Relationships would be easier to give and receive. We would enjoy time together when we have it and be thankful because we’d already know we’re wanted and worth spending time with. We could give to others out of the overflow of the abundant love God has for us. At work, we can train others up to do good work, knowing God desires for us to rest and trusting that He has called us to this work. We don’t need to fear losing our position or try to control our place of value. God has more love to give than we can handle. So, from this place of love comes the overflow of abundance. Scarcity is about fear, which leads to control. Abundance is about love, and there is more than enough of God’s love for us to all have what we need!
God, give us eyes to see the abundance You have freely given, a heart to receive it, and a willingness to give from the overflow, letting go of all that we cling to. Help us to continue to trust that You have given us more than enough!
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.