Let’s just file this under “a lesson I am STILL learning”…
When Brad and I came to Ecuador for a week-long vision trip four years ago in May, we made a list. I remember sitting on the bed at the Quito Connection, a sweet, accommodating guest house just a block from Alliance Academy. We were almost through the week and had met with multiple ministries, visited Calacali, shared cafecito with numerous people, and were truly searching to see if what God had put on our hearts actually matched the reality in front of us. Starting with a yellow pad of paper, we listed every single item that came to mind in regards to what we felt God was asking us, calling us, or challenging us to do.
Over the years we have been here, this list has come out a few times…retreat weekends, yearly commitment reviews, and, even over our anniversary getaway a year ago last March. We have used it to make sure we are staying on track with where we thought God was leading, but also as a tool to keep striving to do better and keep stretching.
I had to look at it again tonight, because I needed to know what number it was. I needed to name it. Because my dear spouse called me out on it this evening. Again.
Of course, I readily accepted his insight, thanked him for his gracious help in this area of challenge, and immediately changed my behavior without missing a beat. It is probably one of my biggest areas of struggle, one of my deepest challenges, yet one I recognize as so important and an area in which I truly want to do better. (Admitting you have a problem is the first step in recovery, right?)
#11 speaks to loving others unconditionally, strengthening relationships…and creating space and time for hospitality.
If you know me, you know I CAN do hospitality well. I really can. I love to cook, put together a great dinner, see family and friends enjoying themselves around the dinner table. When we arrived in Ecuador, I knew family would look different. It would be friends who we would share life with, enough that they feel like family. I did well, especially the first few years…I really think I did. I love the fact that our dinner table will never be the same again.
But. I feel I am backsliding…in #11 and in other areas.
I’m in the middle of the self-evaluative portion of this realization, but I do know this much…every time I give up my control and let Him take over, He blesses it in some substantial way. But it is a lesson I am still learning.
Like I said in my last post, I’m still under construction. Some people are just slow learners and need to be hit over the head multiple times before they get it. Don’t judge.
On the second part of our recent roadtrip, after Quilotoa, we traveled on to a beautiful hacienda within the Cotopaxi National Park. Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest and most active volcanoes. Last year, we kept extra supplies on hand at home as a significant eruption seemed imminent but its activity has now tapered off making it safer to venture to its base. We had the place to ourselves, with the exception of two ladies who shared the dining room with us at dinner, and soon we found ourselves visiting with them next to the fireplace in the living area before we retired to our rooms for the night.
After breakfast the next morning, we were packing up in our room when Brad suggested we give these ladies a ride to the volcano as they were planning on walking the entire way since the bicycle rental was quite expensive. True to form, my knee-jerk reaction was one ridden with the need for control, logistical concerns, and inconvenience…we would have to change our route and go home a different way, the kids would have no place to sit if it rained, we don’t even know these people…you get the idea. In retrospect, it always seems pitiful and petty.
But, as Brad laid out the change in plans and how it actually WOULD work, I agreed to the idea, somewhat reluctantly. And, once again, why am I surprised when God blesses obedience and shows his children his love for us in such unexpected ways? These women were wonderful traveling companions, appreciative of our hospitality, and great conversationalists. We had such an enjoyable time with them, and I came away from the experience extremely thankful that we had ventured forward with Brad’s pull on his heart to help…and to have an outward focus based on unconditional love. Basically, in a nutshell: see a need, act on it!
It is a hard lesson for me to learn, and I failed again today with a situation here at home. Some of it is tied up in expectations and a difference in perception of what “hospitality” actually looks like. True, there is no set definition of what it HAS to look like – it may be a gift of a pizza delivery, giving someone a ride home, or even graciously accepting an offering or blessing from someone else. For me, I need to work to broaden my perspective into areas that will stretch me beyond my comfort zone while digging in to the heart of why I frequently have a knee-jerk negative reaction to opening my home when it is not my plan, my idea, or within my parameters of what hospitality means. More than likely, as much as I hate to admit this truth, the simple reality is that it probably boils down to my continued selfish, me-first attitude which loves to find ways to rear its ugly head. I may see a need, but the immediate reaction isn’t necessarily to act on it.
Self-reflection is so over-rated.
I do want to do better, and I know He’s not finished with me yet. I just wish we could move a little faster in these hard to reach areas.
In my devotion time one morning this week, this statement jumped off the page:
“A Christian is held captive by anything that hinders the abundant and effective Spirit-filled life God planned for her.”
I continue to see the snares Satan sets for me – the ways in which I am held captive -and I am growing to recognize them as potential pitfalls. But, rather than getting hung up on my shortcomings and wallowing in my failures, or wishing I was more like all those fortunate people who seem to have the immediate reflex of “how can I help?”, I choose following my Savior, because He chose me. While I fail, I strive to do better. I want to become more like Him today than I was yesterday, all in response for what He has done for me.
“Love is an enormous commitment. It is a commitment that tests you at your most vulnerable areas of spirituality. A commitment that will force you to make very hard decisions. A commitment that will force you to deal with your lust. A commitment that will force you to deal with your greed and pride. Love demands from you a quality of commitment which Jesus uses as an analogy of His own relationship with us.”
~ Ravi Zacharias
While I may never fully master the elusive #11, I am so thankful that I have the greatest possible example of unconditional love – my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (ESV)
Do you have this assurance today? Do you feel like you fall desperately short? Know this without a doubt – his unconditional love will surround you and uphold you in a way you have never experienced. Just confess your sins to him, and place your trust in him as your Lord and Savior. He will meet you where you are and lead you forward.
Resting in the promises despite my daily failures,