Ok, I have a confession to make. I stole the name of this blog from Francis Chan because OH MY GOODNESS, chapter 8 of Crazy Love confirmed a lot of things that I had been thinking (and consequently been talking about with Rachel) but also convicted me of many things. There is so much that was covered in these pages…really has turned my brain to thinking.
Obsessed is defined as: to have the mind excessively preoccupied with a single emotion or topic.
Chan starts out the chapter with this phrase: “The idea of holding back certainly didn’t come from Scripture.” I wanted to shout AMEN but since I am at a restaurant, that probably would not have been considered socially appropriate. Funny how I just contradicted myself.
Chan says, “I know a lot of people who don’t know Christ and are really nice people—nicer and more fun to be with, in fact, than a lot of Christians I know.” I totally agree with him! He goes on to talk about how “true love makes you stand out.” We don’t only love people who love us back and we don’t only give to those who can pay us back. We love our “enemies” or the people that we don’t necessarily get along with. I like to classify this as “people I have a personality conflict with.” This love reflects the love that Jesus gave us: He died for us when we could care less about Him. In fact, He died for us when we hated Him. That’s true love. And that’s crazy.
My new favorite quote comes from Frederick Buechner:
“The love for equals is a human thing—of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing—the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing—to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy—love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.”
Wow…ok, so…wow. We talk a lot about compassion in the church, and that is even the heart of what my life is about. I long to take care of orphans for the rest of my life. That is my dream and vision, and it is one that I sense God has given me. However, I’m not sure that I’ve really looked at how I respond to people who are more successful than me. Honestly, I am often envious of others’ good fortunes, and wonder when “my break is going to happen.” I have always felt guilty for feeling that way, but I’m not sure I’ve ever admitted that it is a struggle of mine. With this “love for the more fortunate” and “love for enemies”, I think that it is really really easy to become obsessed with “fairness” than with Jesus. I can’t begin to describe how many times at work or in my personal life that I have looked at the way I have been treated and grew bitter because “what did I ever do to them? That’s not fair.” I have just missed a valuable opportunity to silently love them as Jesus would.
And maybe I struggle with this because I’m still trying to decide what true “justice” is. There’s the American’s version of, “I should be treated like everyone else is treated.” This, I think, is a spin-off of Jesus’ command to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” However, we don’t have to live in this society long to know that this isn’t even the status quo, so for us to expect that of everyone we come into contact with is a little crazy. Maybe we all have become jaded in some sense because we were not “treated fairly.” However, this is one of the “crazy love” things that Jesus commands us to do that will truly set us apart. We don’t treat others like they treat us or even like everyone else is being treated. We treat others like we would want to be treated, and out of a love that flows from God and not our feelings about them at the time. This is something I think we all need to work on. I have noticed in the last couple weeks how much I need to pray about this.
Chan talks about praying before trips for safety and for no one to get hurt. He says, “We’ve elevated safety to the neglect of whatever God’s best is, whatever would bring God the most glory, or whatever would accomplish His purposes in our lives and in the world.” He goes on to say, “People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else. Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress.”
Yeah, safety has been one of my big issues. I have not really cared (as far as trips go or my future plans) about what is safe (much to my parents’ chagrin). I have, in fact, done some rather dangerous things with my life, and I’m sure I will do more of that in the future. As far as what is “safe” versus being in the center of God’s will, I’ll choose the latter in a heartbeat.
There is a level of safety though, that I have been struggling to give over to God. I am not going to share in much detail publicly, but since I was in college, I finally learned how to anoint my room with the blood of Jesus. I have struggled my entire life with demonic oppression, and praying for God’s protection over my room and the building I was in became a necessity. I still had encounters, but they were not necessarily while I was going to sleep at night. Lately, God has been impressing on me to walk with Him down the path of discovering why He has allowed this awareness into my life, and this will require my prayers for “safety” to change a little. I still have not come to the point where I can ask God to allow whatever to come into my room if it will bring Him glory. There is still too much trauma that needs to be healed. However, every day God is bringing me closer to being able to say, “ok.”
Friends of All
Chan talks about how he decided one day to go to the store and buy some things for people he knew did not have enough. However, he said, “It was embarrassing. I realized that everyone I knew had enough, that I didn’t know many people who were truly in need, and that I needed to change that. I needed to go and intentionally meet people who didn’t live like I do or think like I do, people who could never repay me. For their sake, but for my own as well.” He finishes the section by saying, “People who are obsessed with Jesus live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another. Obsessed people believe that Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to Him.”
Yeah, once again, I can totally identify with this. I think most people I know can identify with this. I don’t know very many people who are genuinely in love with God and yet are still friends with people who are definitely not, and have no plans to be in the future whatsoever. I don’t know many people who are friends with those who are struggling solely for the purpose of being their friend. There are many different types of people who are in need and many Christians who are truly and genuinely struggling…these are two different matters I want to talk about separately.
Something that I have been convicted of a lot recently, is that I do not know many people who do not go to church or who are opposed to the Christian faith. I have started to take some measures to place myself in situations where I will be around people like that, but it is not easy, especially when I work at a church. Granted, many people that come into my office would fit into this “category” if people could be fit into categories, but that’s an entirely different matter. They are still coming into “my territory” so to speak. How often do I go to theirs? And when I do go, am I obsessed with saving them? Or do I leave the saving to God and just be their friend? It’s hard, because there are a lot of things that we do not have in common. I guess what I need to pray more is that God will show me things that we do have in common, and we can connect on those levels.
Also, people that are in need (and this does not mean non-Christians). A lot of times we are afraid to open ourselves up to those who are in need because we are afraid of how much it will cost us. It’s true that we need to have good boundaries, because some people will take and take until there is nothing left. However, we can’t isolate ourselves from those who are in need simply because it is a burden that we do not want to deal with. I work in Compassionate Ministries (now we changed the name, but it’s confusing and hard to explain, so we’ll stick with Compassionate Ministries) in my church. We constantly have a lot of people coming in for all kinds of assistance, and we get all the calls that nobody else knows how to deal with or the difficult people that other staff members do not have the time to deal with. We are the overflow. It is also hard to get and keep volunteers, because it is a difficult ministry to be a part of. We do not receive thanks from anyone hardly ever, and especially not from the people that we dedicate so much time and energy into helping. We give many people “tough love” and this often results in anger from people who want a handout or a gift without restrictions. Loving those who are “down and out” is not just for the “special people”, but it is a command to all of us. We are all called to develop the kind of character in our lives that welcomes opportunities to be a friend to those who cannot repay us, and this requires a level of sacrifice. However, BOY IS IT NOT EASY, and it’s something that I struggle with a lot…pretty much all questions beginning with the word “how…?”
Also, this was not talked about, but allowing others to help us when we are struggling. This is hard for Christians to understand, because we think that we should be helping others rather than being helped. I can’t tell you how many times we have families from our church come into the food pantry and talk about how embarrassing it is to be there, and how they are usually the ones helping not the ones taking. And these are just the brave ones. There are so many more in our congregation that are truly in need, but they don’t feel that they deserve to come into the food pantry for assistance. Being a part of the Body of Christ means that we take care of each other. This is the part of community that does not make sense in our society, where we stress being independent rather than interdependent. None of us wants to be “needy”, but just because someone is “in need” does not mean they are “needy.” I wish I could share this with so many people in our church.
Chan’s opening statement is incredibly true: “Sometimes I feel like when I make decisions that are remotely biblical, people who call themselves Christians are the first to criticize and say I’m crazy, that I’m taking the Bible too literally, or that I’m not thinking about my family’s well-being.”
Rachel, I think we said this word for word the other day before either of us read this chapter. Why ON EARTH is following Jesus so hard for a lot of Christians around us to understand? I feel like I am constantly having to explain myself to those around me of why I want to do some of the things I want to do. I can’t share a lot of the “ideas” that come into my mind, because I know what people will say: I’M CRAZY. My entire family basically thinks I’ve gone off the deep end (and if they don’t yet, they probably will soon). I do need to put a disclaimer in here though: parents, you have been way supportive of me, even when I don’t make any sense to you at all. Thank you, that means a lot.
Chan also talks about the concept of crazy (and Rachel, this is also something we talked about, good for us!) Who sets the standard for normal? Us or Jesus? So, is being “all radical” for Jesus crazy, or is not being “all radical” for Jesus crazy? Something to think about…
“The church in America loves to turn saints into celebrities, to make known the stories of humble people who have faithfully served Christ in some way.” I think about Mother Teresa in this regard. Everyone saw her as a great humanitarian, and she has been glorified by people both inside the Church and out. However, I feel like her true heart has been taken away amidst all the glory. It was about serving God and becoming less, not more. In a way, it makes me sick to think about it. Chan ends the section with this quote: “A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the sin of pride is always a battle. Obsessed people know that you can never be “humble enough,” and so they seek to make themselves less known and Christ more known.”
I am sooooooo guilty of this. I know that for years (and I still fall into this trap sometimes) that I did things “for God” because it would bring me some sort of recognition or it would make someone think better of me. I loved receiving compliments, though I would turn them down, because it helped me to know “how well I was doing.” I always wanted people to know of my “great faith” and I deeply longed for everyone’s respect more than anything. I tried to “make myself humble” in a very prideful way, and in the end, it seriously messed me up. God has been teaching me a lot, especially the last couple years, about what true humility is all about, and I’ve got to admit, it’s been rather difficult.
God has asked me to do some pretty crazy things that probably have caused some people to lose respect for me. He has asked me to share some personal things, like my struggle to want to go to church or read my Bible, and this most likely causes some people to lose respect for me. I am not a person of “great faith.” I just love Jesus, and I’m always seeking to love Him more. Seeking for ways to show God as “greater” and me as “less” is really hard, especially in a culture where it’s expected to climb the ladder of success (and this BY FAR does not exclude the church). Sometimes I think this is especially true for the church, and I saw this in my years of going through the ordination process. I felt like a lot of it was a status thing (at least I felt like I was being sucked into the status thing). When I said that I was “a district licensed pastor”, I felt like I was just stabbed in the gut by my pride. For me, whether or not I am “ordained” does not affect whether I serve God to full capacity or not. I am not called to be a pastor.
I love Chan’s quote: “Now I think I’m actually in love.” He continues later with, “I question whether many American churchgoers are really in love with God because they are so hesitant to do anything for Him.”
I really struggled with this section, because I felt like it could easily become “you know the people who are true Christians by how much they do.” I really think the goal of life is to have a deep and genuine relationship with God, and sometimes this leads us to not “do” as much, because we realize that our serving is not a mandatory earning of God’s grace, but an extension and overflow of the grace that is shown to us. Until we grasp and have tapped into the living water of God, it is hard to serve Him from true motives that don’t exhaust us or leave us disillusioned and missing the point. However, I see Chan’s point.
There’s a saying (and you’ve probably heard it) that in the church “20% of the people do 80% of the work.” It’s true. The Sunday School director is also the children’s pastor and the director of the choir, and randomly also mows the lawn. The missions chairman leads the praise team and is the front door greeter. The list could go on and on. Women in ministry? This whole issue cracks me up. Women have been in ministry for years. They do everything that most guys really don’t want to do. This is dangerous however, because I have seen in a lot of churches how the guys back off and do nothing, while women carry the entire leadership. I do not believe this is how it was meant to be. Men were created to be the leaders, and if I go down this track too far, I know many people who would personally find me and shoot me. Just for clarification, I am not avoiding this for the sake of my reputation, I am avoiding it for the sake of my life. Someday I will explain what I mean by this.
This section was really good, but one you would expect in a chapter like this. My favorite part was this paragraph: “He is asking you to love as you would want to be loved if it were your child who was blind from drinking contaminated water; to love the way you would want to be loved if you were a homeless woman sitting outside the café; to love as though it were your family living in the shack slapped together from cardboard and scrap metal.” He also said, “Non-churchgoers tend to see Christians as takers rather than givers.” This to me is really sad.
Chan tells about his wife’s grandma and going with her to a theater. When he asked her what she thought of the play, she told him, “Oh honey, I really don’t want to be here right now.” When he asked her why, she said, “I just don’t know if this is where I want to be when Christ returns. I’d rather be helping someone or on my knees praying. I don’t want Him to return and find me sitting in a theater.” He ends the section with the quote: “A person who is obsessed thinks about heaven frequently. Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them.”
To me, that statement by Clara was a little extreme (and maybe that’s just my generation talking), because I can see in so many ways how a lot of fun things can really be beneficial in the light of eternity. However, her final sentence gave me pause: “I don’t want Him to return and find me sitting in a theater.” I guess I don’t think about that enough. If Jesus came back right now, would He be pleased with where He found me? That’s a question I need to ask myself more often. How many days do I live in the light of eternity? Certainly, illness has caused me to think about heaven and eternity more than most people my age. However, in many ways I haven’t planned on living past today. I’ve taken the live every moment as if it was your last so seriously that I haven’t truly allowed myself to live and invest in long-term friendships and relationships. That’s something that I have been convicted of recently.
This section was pretty self explanatory. I can sum it up in the quote by Chan: “Our goal as people who follow Christ should be no less than becoming people who are madly in love with God. A person who is obsessed is characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing and every other being.”
This talks about being open and honest with God. Here is the quote from this section: “He knows what we are, that we are disgusting, that all we are doing is trying to make ourselves feel better. God desires true intimacy with each of us, and that comes only when we trust Him enough to be fully transparent and vulnerable.”
I think being vulnerable before God is really for our own good, because He knows everything about us anyway. Often, we need to realize the depth of our need for Him, our emptiness, and our sin in order for our hearts to be open to accept His forgiveness and healing.
This section talks about how we use our time and our resources, and analyzing if our focus is on Kingdom things or on ourselves. The quote from this section is: “God doesn’t want religious duty. He doesn’t want a distracted, half-hearted ‘Fine, I’ll read a chapter…now are You happy?’ attitude. God wants His Word to be a delight to us, so much so that we meditate on it day and night.”
The quote from this section is this: “We tend to think of joy as something that ebbs and flows depending on life’s circumstances. But we don’t just lose joy, as though one day we have it and the next it’s gone, oh darn. Joy is something that we have to choose and then work for.”
I’m going to take a step out here and disagree with Francis Chan. Oh my goodness, kill me now. Trust is something that must be chosen. However, something that I have come to realize is that as I draw closer and closer to God, I can’t help but have joy. And Chan is right, this does not depend on circumstances. However, I think that joy is a result of trusting in God and learning to understand that His ways are higher. Joy is knowing that God’s love for us will never ever change. Joy is knowing that our lives have purpose through Him, and learning to see life and the world through His eyes gives hope that the world could never take away. What a joy it is to KNOW HIM! It is not something that I have to choose. Sometimes I still have to choose to trust Him. However, joy flows from living daily in His presence.
“We cannot start believing that we are indispensable to God.” –Francis Chan
This final (hallelujah!) section talks about how we are important because we are known by God, just like every other thing that is created. However, God does not need us, because He is complete already. We live our lives out of gratitude and praise to Him.
Ok…this was a really long explanation about what I got out of this chapter. If you read this whole thing, you get brownie points from Chelsea!