We have a book club of sorts, my church girlfriends and I, and tonight we are meeting to discuss Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption. There will not only be great conversation but we will also enjoy chicken salad as well as coffee and brownies and ice cream. Good food, good friends, good discussion all equal the best kind of book club night!
I finished Katie’s book a week or so ago and though I’ve been pondering it off and on ever since I’m not quite certain what I think of it. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. I do know what I think of it, the book: I think it a compelling and exciting story of faith and risk, one that encourages even as it convicts. Thus it is probably more truthful to say that I’m not quite certain what I think about it in terms of how I ought to react to it. In other words: what now?
Katie’s story of leaving her home as a teenager to live and serve among the severely impoverished of Uganda and ultimately adopting fourteen girls, well, it’s the kind of story that makes my brand of Christianity seem, well, shallow and sallow by comparison and probably for good reason. I know, I know (I know) we are not all called to Uganda nor to the kind of hardship that Katie joyously embraces. The Lord does indeed determine the exact times and places we are to live and move and have our being–and for some of us that means living and serving and ministering among the relatively affluent of suburban America. And, yet, reading of the kind of faith and sacrifice that mark Katie’s life of obedience exposes my tendency to choose comfort over risk and safety over surrender.
So as I wrestle with my own faith and the kind of obedience the Lord requires of His people, here are some of the thoughts tumbling around in my head…
What is it I am doing? Yes, I’m a wife and a mom and a Bible teacher (among other things) and so when I do the things I do how do I do them? Am I serving the Lord? Am I loving others in Jesus’ name? Do I merely do what must be done and then only with an attitude of resentment and bitterness?
Who is the Lord calling me to love and to serve? As I do for the least of these, so I do unto the Lord. He calls me to serve the least among us. For Katie that was the orphan, the impoverished, the destitute, the alone. Is it any different for me? Have I so inoculated and insulated myself that I’ve overlooked the most needy and the most desperate around me? Who needs the love of Christ and the hope only He can give? These are overwhelming questions and I like Katie’s determination to love and serve one person at a time. She writes “I can do only what one woman can do, but I will do what I can. Daily, the Jesus who wrecked my life enables me to do much more than I ever thought possible.” What can I do? Where can I go? “I will not save them all. But I will keep trying. I will say ‘Yes.’ I will stop for one.”
Where do I find joy in ministry? We must be careful here. I am weary of well intended Christian advice that encourages me to “just do what I love to do.” What I love to do may not be edifying nor anything remotely related to ministry. In fact I love to buy shoes but buying shoes, shoes and more shoes because I love buying shoes will not serve anyone except perhaps the shoe salesman (ha). That’s a silly example but the point remains that I cannot look for ministry based purely on my own perception of my enjoyment of it. However, I was struck by Katie’s exuberant joy in the midst of very difficult circumstances. Does she love removing jiggers from the infected and oozing feet of poor Ugandans? No, of course not, but she finds joy in the service of her Lord: pure, unadulterated, all encompassing joy. I want that joy. Not the self centered, self serving sort of joy but the sweet release of knowing it is the Lord Jesus I serve and that He Himself is my joy and my strength!
What am I to sacrifice? We may read her story and feel embarrassed or even perhaps unfairly criticized for our extravagance. Katie is quite honest about her unease with American abundance. So much of what we deem as necessity is really selfish greed and yet it is no sin to have air conditioning or a comfortable bed. While I was reading Kisses from Katie I also read Aaron Armstrong’s book Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation and the End of Poverty. Aaron writes, “The question should never be, ‘am I doing enough?’ It should be, ‘If God requires more of me, will I respond in faith?’” It’s a good question. Do I hold my stuff with an open hand? Who am I apart from my material possessions? What if I were to lose “it all”? Would my confidence in the Lord be shaken?
In regard to a deeply personal loss, Katie writes,
I still feel the sharp pain of that loss. The thought of spending eternity with Jesus, however, makes the pain seem trivial and momentary. That thought reminds me quickly that I want to forsake everything to remain the center of God’s will for my life, that I want to give up everything for the sake of the Gospel. I believe with all of my heart nothing is a sacrifice in light of the promise that one day I will get to live with Him forever. I want to obey. I want to give my life away.
Me too, Katie. What will that look like in my life? I don’t know. I do know this: I want Katie’s testimony to be my own…
I want to exemplify Him in me every day. I want to live an open and expansive life, giving myself freely to all those around me for His glory. God answers this prayer every day of my life with new opportunities. I want to live openly and expansively, loving my neighbor as myself, until Jesus comes back.
This kind of life may be risky, it may be difficult, it will surely require sacrifice. When does it begin? Today. Right now. Who needs to hear the good news that Jesus saves? May I be faithful to tell…