Laughing and joking in the dressing room at the thrift store, my daughter and I found the perfect 80s formal for a theme night at church camp. I can’t remember the theme. All I know is we were looking for the most dated prom dress we could find.
Oh, and did we ever find one!
After making one more round through the racks to make sure there wasn’t another treasure waiting to be discovered, we approached the register to pay. A mom of three elementary age boys stood in line before us, her meager pile of second-hand clothes and shoes on the counter. Cradling a pair beaded shoes with a slight heal in both hands, she turned to us with a sheepish grin and confessed, “I just couldn’t resist these. I don’t even wear heals!”
When she noticed the dress in my arms, her face softened. “Is it for a wedding or prom?” she asked.
I answered before thinking, “Prom.”
“How nice,” she almost sighed. In a moment that seemed like an out-of-body experience, the scene broke my heart. The longing in her face for what my purchase represented cut to my core. Perhaps I misread her, but it was as if she looked on that dress and saw deep dreams that never came true for her. And here I stood in line with my fancy watch, a rock on my finger, a designer purse draped on my shoulder, and my fancy car parked outside buying a joke that represented her dreams.
All she wanted to was enough change from her $20 to be able to buy some gas.
I haven’t been able to shake her from my heart ever since. Or from my thoughts.
I stood there with pity, but did I look upon her with love? The love Jesus has for her to offer her not what the world says is the answer, but to offer her Him?
I don’t know what to do with this. It presses heavy on my heart. Who is she? What’s her story? What would Jesus have done in that moment? Whatever it was, I don’t think I did it. I don’t think I was an accurate representation of Him.
I don’t write this in condemnation, but from a place of being deeply convicted to the point of not knowing what to do, so overwhelmed by the needs around me in light of my desire to hang onto the comfort to which I’ve become accustomed.
The bottom line is this: whatever meager amount we – me and James and our family – do with the incredible resources God gives us, even if it’s generous and represents a lot to this world, it’s not enough. Whatever I justify back to God when I feel His conviction to do more, it’s not enough.
And the thing is, I can give all we want of our finances, but what am I giving of my heart? What am I giving of my life? What am I risking for Jesus?
I’m all about writing a check so someone else can go and serve and do, but when it comes to the doing – giving up my time and my lifestyle to inconvenience myself for the love of someone in dire need, I’ll just get out my checkbook and keep living the life I’ve come to love.
When I really start feeling bad, I might make meal tickets out of 3×5 cards for a ministry that hands them out to the homeless to keep order when they hand out meals. More likely, I’ll have one of my kids do it and console myself with the fact that I’m making sure it gets done. Or we’ll “sacrifice” a Friday afternoon and help make the sack lunches they take. We’ll talk about how much we need to get up on a Saturday morning to go and actually serve the homeless. The hurting. The lonely. The dying. But we don’t. It’s never the right Saturday, and the intention hangs impotent on the hinges of our comfort.
Or I’ll send my driving daughters to grocery shop for a widow and deliver the groceries, because that way “it gets done” and I can stay on task for whatever I believe is more important for my time or pleasure at the moment. And the widow, who’s shut in and desperately needs me to take time to love her with my time, and to pray with her, gets groceries, but not a visit. Not the love that comes with presence.
So I console myself and offer consolation to God that what I’m doing is enough because it’s packaged in what I’m willing to give. And the Holy Spirit continues to stir in me a deep dissatisfaction and discomfort that something is off. Not lose- or doubt-your-salvation off, but living-off-purpose off. Not-getting-it off. There’s-got-to-be-more off.
I know there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ, but I am severely convicted. There is no condemnation in this for anyone else, either. But what do we do?
Honestly, the ramifications of true repentance scare me. What if I throw myself at the feet of Jesus in complete surrender and my husband doesn’t share the same convictions? What if I get backlash from my kids and family? What if I act on the boldness the Holy Spirit is stirring in me and my relationships with the very people I long to see saved are severed?
In other words, what if getting out of the boat and walking on water rocks the boat for those left in it? Will I be able to withstand the rough waters?
And the Lord whispers a question I’ve run into head-on more times than I’d like to admit in more areas of my life than I’d like to admit in the last few months: “Do you trust Me?”
Oh how I want to! I want the answer to be, “Yes!!!!!” But the reality is my time, choices, and checkbook say, “No, not the way I’d like to say I do.”
And I look on my reality with the expression I read on that woman’s face: the dying of a dream I long to live: on the edge fully surrendered to Jesus and alive in Him with a “Yes!” on my tongue regardless of the cost because I know that is truly living. That is building treasure.
I don’t have any answers to offer, just a hand to extend in prayer. Will you grab my hand and bend your heart in prayer with me? Perhaps you’re living on the edge, totally sold out to Jesus. Will you pray with me? Will you pray that I and others like me would be so overwhelmed by the work and power of the Holy Spirit that we would begin to radically obey Him? Or maybe you’re like me and you long to live in total surrender but live in self-indulgence instead. Will you pray with me, confess our sins together, and ask the Lord to give us courage to repent and turn to Him? To truly live for Him?
May the Lord have His way in and through every one of us today, and may He work His will in us and transform us for His glory!