20 August, 2013

A Story of 2

Five or six years ago, they begin to meet every Sunday night in a campus building for Bible study.  A dozen students would gather.  Students that had absolutely NO knowledge of God...many of whom had never heard of Jesus. (as an aside, it's a thrilling moment to help a person learn how to pronounce this name...Jesus).  A month later, a few dozen more students joined their meeting.  Soon dinner after the meeting was suggested.  Sunday worship services including transportation were offered and accepted.  The numbers continued to grow and grow and grow.  Before long, English classes were started, field trips planned (blueberry picking, American restaurant visits, museums) road trips scheduled (Braves baseball, beach trips, shopping trips to Atlanta), pre-game parties, Halloween parties, more Bible study, and more and more and more.  Seven days a week, they are meeting with students and serving and loving them to Jesus.  Hundreds of international students have experienced this opportunity at the University of Alabama.  Dozens have met Jesus when most arrived in the US believing no God existed.  Hallelujah! 

But this story isn't about big numbers and statistics.  It's a story of 2.  Two people who decided to deny themselves, take up the cross daily and follow Him.  
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
These are 2 normal people.  They're even old like me....in their 50's!  They are on the second half of life.  Where they could have retired they've chosen to be reborn and renewed and reused.  With my empty nest, I've struggled with what's next in my life.  I've felt the loneliness, the isolation of children moving out, of friends moving to new cities, of leaving beloved jobs and careers.....the empty thoughts of losing identity that was tied to these people and occupations.  But The 2 have been a gift.  They've modeled new life, new identity...actually, True identity.  The only lasting identity for our lives.  They model Luke 9:23 for me.  I've been pondering what these words in Luke actually mean.  How do we truly deny ourselves and take up the cross daily and follow?  What does that even mean?

I see in The 2 the outward act of denying their wants and demands.  I see them deny their own dreams and plans.  I see them deny their daily lives in order to live for others.  I see them "take up their cross" by allowing Jesus to give them a love for the lost and hurting people in our town.  This Cross-like love will be painful and costly – time, tears, possessions, etc.  But we are never more Christ-like than when we are willing to “suffer” so that others can know God’s love. (JLLoftin, 2013)

I see me still demanding my own way, my own plans, my own hopes.  I see me scheduling time to take care of me.  Change my heart, oh God.  Teach me how to deny myself.  Teach me how to take up my cross and follow You.  Years ago I outwardly proclaimed that I am a disciple... help me truly become one.  Not just my watered-down, Americanized, Sunday version of the easy Good News but the real, unconditionally loving, unconditionally forgiving Christ-follower that you require.  Amen.

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