A world away, my friend Emily is serving Christ in a big way. Emily lives with her husband and twin toddlers in Southeast Asia. For security reasons, we can’t give her exact location. Currently, they are finishing up language school while starting an NGO that will focus on holistic health in underdeveloped cities that have no access to the gospel. But, most days she spends her time chasing her kids around the house, hosting neighbors and new friends for meals, and trying new recipes for making foods they miss in America–which almost always ends up being Mexican.
“This missionary life is a chance to die.” -Amy Carmichael
I am sitting here on a Saturday night with two sick kids in the other room. I haven’t left the house in 2 days, and haven’t taken a shower in…about that long either. My current situation may sound oddly familiar to some of you reading this on the other side of the world. We may live in a different country, with different struggles and communicate with our neighbors in a different language, but we are still women, simply learning to be faithful where He has us—even if today that means nothing more than wiping snotty noses.
Before moving overseas as a wife and a mom, I lived overseas as a single woman. Both have their unique triumphs and challenges, but in both cases, I have experienced the truth in Amy Carmichael’s words, above—I have been given countless opportunities to die. No, not that kind of death—not a literal, physical death—but the lifelong kind of death: dying to my expectations, my preferences, my pursuit of comfort—I have been given the chance to die to my self.
As we think about our identity in Christ, it may seem odd that I am coming at it from the perspective of dying to self, but as daughters of the King, may I suggest that it’s actually the best place to start? If we don’t die to self and put to death all that is earthly within us (Colossians 3:5), we don’t get to live in the newness of life that He has granted to us (Colossians 3:12-17). Only when we allow the life of Christ to transform us and live through us are we able to walk in the new identity we’ve been given.
Dying to myself as a wife and a mom of two littles living overseas looks different than it did as a single woman living overseas. That dying has mostly come in the form of realizing that He doesn’t want my “work” or my lip service, He wants my heart. As I studied through the book of Isaiah with a friend recently, I realized how much my heart is like idolatrous, self-loving Israel:
“…they seek me daily and delight to know my ways,as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God;they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure…. Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free,and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (Isaiah 58:2-11)
Israel had it all wrong—they were going through the motions, thinking that would be enough to satisfy God, but their hearts weren’t in it. So, they’d say the things they were supposed to say, but their lives were unchanged, still living for self, still “seeking their own pleasure.”
And so it is with me, as a missionary wife and mom—thinking that doing all the super holy “missionary” stuff makes me more acceptable before Him, when really, most days, the people He wants me to “pour myself out for” are my two nursing babies. He doesn’t want the right answers or the appearance of holiness—He wants hearts that are set on Him, desiring Him, motivated to do good because we have tasted and seen of His goodness. And then—did you catch this??—HE causes our light to break forth like the dawn, HE satisfies our desires in scorched places and makes us strong—it’s all HIM. As we die to ourselves and our selfish desires and our empty pursuits, He takes our feeble attempts and makes beautiful things come from them. Maybe I don’t get out of my house nearly as much as I once hoped I would. There are many days that the only other adult I talk to is my husband. But, if my heart is set to love Him in whatever it is He has called me to for that day, I can entrust the rest to Him—trusting that He will be my rear guard and guide me continually, That He will strengthen me and satisfy me and cause me to be like a “watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
May we seek Him wholeheartedly, surrendering our hearts to Him, and let our righteousness flow out of that, not the other way around!
This post was written by Emily especially for the One Story Series at Made For Today.