11.18.2014

I Will Follow

Almost 2 ½ years ago, I stood at church singing a Chris Tomlin song (click to play while you read)…

I will follow you
I will follow you
 
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back

This is my heart cry
Though none go with me
The cross before me
The world behind me


This is my heart cry
Though none go with me
The cross before me
The world behind me

I will follow You (I have decided. I have decided)
I will follow You (I have decided)
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back
 
After singing that song and listening to the subsequent sermon on obedience, Ryan and I made the decision to surrender to God’s will for our lives. We decided to deny our selfish desires, put aside our fears, trust the Lord, and move forward with adopting a child. The lyrics, “I will follow you. No turning back,” became an anthem of sorts to us. Many of you probably remember hearing it in the video we made for our puzzle fundraiser. We entered a world that was completely unfamiliar to us but felt God’s presence and affirmation at every turn. Our eyes had been opened to a broken part of this world that we knew existed but never allowed ourselves to feel or see. Soon, the term orphan became personal. These children became real. I experienced an insatiable hunger for the Word like never before and longed for a child I had never met. I spent more time praying on my knees and drew closer and closer to God than I ever knew was possible.
 
Fourteen months after making the decision to FOLLOW the Lord, I held Tucker for the very first time. I can still remember how his tiny, warm body felt in my arms, just like those first moments you have with your newborn baby. In time our difficult beginning was replaced by deep roots of love and a strong foundation. We have experienced the true meaning of beauty from ashes.

Over the past year, I have struggled with all that we have lost since bringing Tucker home including our family of four, our church home, and our community we experienced there. I resigned my position as a school psychologist, which I really loved. Walking away from a possible opportunity to create and lead an orphan care ministry was more painful than I can describe. Several relationships have changed. Some have ended altogether while others have shifted significantly. Two years ago I had certain dreams for the future – what could have been but will never be. I have grieved each of these losses and have often questioned why so much has changed and why we seem to have lost so much.
 
In the time that the leaves have changed colors and fallen off the trees, God has revealed answers to my questions in so many ways, and I am finally beginning to understand the purpose in our loss. For book club, we read Tim Keller's book Counterfeit Gods. The term counterfeit god is another word for idol and is defined as:
 
-Anything more important to us than God.
-Anything that absorbs our mind, heart, and imagination more than God
-Anything we seek to give us what only God can give
-Something so essential that, should we lose it, our lives would feel hardly worth living.
-Anything on which we spend most of our passion, energy, emotional, and financial resources
-Something that we look to for significance and security
-Something that when it is removed, we feel despair
 
Tim Keller states that the most painful times in our lives occur when our idols are being threatened or removed. Although the past year has been filled with great joy, I have also felt heartache and disappointment after losing what I now understand were treasured idols. Without them, I have sometimes felt isolated, in despair, and alone. Over the past six months, I have often felt like I don’t fit anymore. I have wanted to leave and start a new life somewhere else because trying to live here without my idols was uncomfortable.
 
I now realize that throughout this past year, God has stripped these idols away so that He could fill that space in my heart. Tim Keller wrote, “You don’t realize that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have” (p. 19). Instead of seeking the majority of my spiritual nourishment at church, I am primarily being fed through quiet time with Him, studying His Word, reading additional books like Counterfeit Gods, and having discussions with women in my Bible Study. Rather than placing expectations (which Beth Guckenberger calls premeditated resentments - love that!) on outside relationships, I am trying to find healthier boundaries for them. More importantly, I am striving for deeper relationships with my family and the Lord. I am working to find my acceptance, security, significance, and approval through Him rather than through my career, a church, and my relationships.
 
On November 10th, I was reading a devotional from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. She wrote, I am molding your mind and cleansing your heart...
 
...I am re-creating you into the one I designed you to be."
 
More affirmation that all things lost were for my good. God was cleansing my heart so that I could continue to FOLLOW Him.
 
Last Christmas, I downloaded Kyle Idleman’s book Not A Fan on my Kindle and finally started it a week or so ago. Sometimes I laugh when my circumstances collide in perfect timing with a book, song, sermon, etc., and this was definitely one of those cases. I have highlighted so many parts of this book – it is so good! The main theme is what it means to be a true follower of Christ versus just a fan. Idleman writes that:
 
Fans are enthusiastic admirers. For example, we are amazed by what Jesus has accomplished.
 
Fans want Jesus to inspire them, but Jesus wants to interfere with their lives. For example, we are willing to go to church until it interferes with our kids' ability to play on travel teams.
 
Fans don’t mind Jesus doing a little touch-up work but resist when He wants complete renovation. For example, we are willing to give a small portion of our money to His Kingdom but resist a full financial makeover through a program like Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.
 
Fans are happy to follow Jesus as long as it doesn’t require any significant changes or have negative implications. For example, we are willing to accept Jesus as our Savior as long as we don't have to stop living our comfortable, pleasure-filled lives.
 
Idleman states that “When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow him, we become nothing more than fans” (p. 32). In reading this book, I found it so interesting that within the four gospels describing Christ’s life, Jesus said Believe in me approximately five times but said Follow me about twenty times. Idleman defines following as requiring more than mental assent, as it calls for movement. He writes, "There is no way to FOLLOW Jesus without him interfering with your life. Following Jesus will cost you something. Following Jesus always costs something.”
 
I was once a fan all the ways described above. I loved God but stayed inside my safe bubble. I wanted to sit in a pew, listen to a sermon, and be inspired. I didn’t know what it meant to make sacrifices for God. I thought God wanted me to be happy – not feel pain. On July 19, 2012, God asked us to stop being fans and decide to FOLLOW Him…really FOLLOW Him…for the first time in our lives. In fact, I am still learning how to stop being a fan as I strive to FOLLOW Him.
 
This past Sunday, we attended a local Chinese Christian Church for the second time, and Dr. Thomas H. Hermiz spoke. His sermon was entitled Full Submission. Again, this was another situation where our circumstances and God’s message collided so perfectly. Dr. Hermiz stated, “Following Christ requires surrender, submission, and obedience.” As I continued to listen to his talk, I started thinking about how God will never lead us astray. Ryan and I have lost parts of the world that we loved, but those pieces stood between us and God. With those idols removed, God can reside in our hearts more fully, and He can more powerfully work in us and through us. Following Him will cost us, but I believe with my whole heart that there is nothing sweeter than living in the center of God’s will for our lives. Dr. Hermiz said, “No one ever regrets entering the mission field God calls them to.” I love that. His words were so encouraging to my soul. 
 
On Orphan Sunday, Ryan and I stood with friends at a church we’ve been attending for the past 6 months. We sang a beautiful song by Hillsong (click to listen while you read):

Christ is my reward
And all of my devotion
Now there's nothing in this world
That could ever satisfy
 
(not even the most enticing, comforting idols)

Through every trial
My soul will sing
No turning back

I've been set free

Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

Christ my all in all
The joy of my salvation
And this hope will never fail
Heaven is our home
 
(Of course I don't feel like I belong - this isn't my home - and leaving won't change that)

Through every storm
My soul will sing
Jesus is here
To God be the glory
 
Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

And before I knew it, we were singing out those beautifully familiar words. Our anthem had returned two years later under different circumstances and in a different song.
 
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back


I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back

The cross before me
The world behind me
No turning back
No turning back

The cross before me
The world behind me
No turning back
No turning back
 
Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
 
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
 
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
 
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
 
And so we keep singing our anthem and marching toward the Lord – wherever and however He leads. This journey hasn't been comfortable or easy or without loss, but there is no place I would rather be. Christ is enough for me.

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