This past weekend, I took an Uber for the first time to a conference in a large city. I am from a small town, so that isn’t common around my area, and I was so excited for this ‘big city’ experience (and that I wouldn’t spend my life savings on a taxi!). What I was unprepared for, however, was the conversation that took place with our driver. I am always praying for opportunities to share the love and hope of Jesus, but as my friend began a conversation with our driver, I realized that this was a conversation God was going to use to speak to me, as well as one that would minister to our new friend.
Our driver was from a distant country, one broken and devastated by a corrupt government. He pursued the opportunity to make his new home here in America to flee the brutal conditions of his homeland. My friend (who is one of the most insightful people I have ever met) began to ask him questions about his perspective, being that he had seen such different extreme ways of life. She was quiet for a moment and then asked him, “If you had an opportunity to speak something the people of the United States, what would you say?” He shook his head silently, and then after a long pause, he answered. “Where I am from, people have nothing. But still, there is great joy because they have one another. In my time here, I have realized that the opportunity for prosperity is great because if you work hard, you can have a place to live and food. But people are so busy that they have no time for one another. There is always more to be done that is given the priority.”
It was as if God whispered straight to my heart. I too, even as a young mom, have encountered the temptation always to have something to do. Something to prepare for. Some deadline to meet. But making time to listen to someone? That’s not always made the list. Giving up those few precious moments in the day that I have to rest or to simply be quiet to pick up the phone instead, to actually CALL someone to ask how they are really doing is not the norm, but the exception. And friends, I LOVE Jesus. I’ve made loving Him my whole life. I love serving others. I love missions and talking with people at church. And yet I sometimes find myself struggling with this. My private life is often guarded by walls built by selfishness. Our entire family serves in ministry, so it is easy to fall into the temptation to “take time for yourself.” And to a degree, there is nothing wrong with that, and it is even healthy to retreat to a time of solitude and prayer for the purpose of restoration. Where we are misled, however, is that if we find ourselves in places where are giving of ourselves often, we are led to believe there is a limit on what can be poured out. There are things to do, goals to achieve, and appearances to be kept.
One of the things that has always fascinated me about Jesus is that everything He did was strategically on task to His mission. As He gained popularity, He was always readily available to be the Good Shepherd, the Teacher, the Healer. When He began to face persecution, even leading up to His sacrifice on the cross, He was obedient to make time for the things that mattered, pouring out Himself completely for us, even before the Cross, and every moment since.
Jesus taught us by word and example that if we are to really follow Him and believe what He says, not a moment of our lives are to be wasted. He promises that when we lay down our lives and our own plans for the future, He gives us life abundant. Likewise, if we choose to live every moment for Christ, even though that means dying daily to our own desires, He tells us that we will never experience the sting of death itself because we will be living in the resurrecting, refining power of the Cross.
I recently read an excerpt by Oswald Chambers that discussed the ‘outpouring’ of someone that follows Jesus. In his book, My Utmost for His Highest he writes this:
“ Are you ready to be poured out as an offering? It is an act of your will, not your emotions. Tell God you are ready to be offered as a sacrifice for Him. Then accept the consequences as they come, without any complaints, in spite of what God may send your way.”
If we follow Jesus and we truly believe what He says, the decisions we make every day will reflect our choice to live for ourselves or die to ourselves. Dying to ourselves will look a lot like making sacrifices like taking a few more moments before rushing out the door to tell our kids that we are proud of them and who God made them to be. It might look a little like asking how we can pray for the cashier at the store even though we have a billion things to get to. It may take the shape of carving out time in our schedule to meet with someone face to face, someone that we know has been struggling and is longing for a listening ear and an encouraging word.