The Five of Us, Spring 2014

The Five of Us, Spring 2014

That'll Preach

So, if you actually know me, or if you've been around here long enough, you might know that in my former life I was a college pastor/missionary. In that role, I got to preach every so often, and I really enjoyed it and kinda miss it now and then (aaaah, now that explains some things, hmmm?!). So, I'm a little jealous of Aaron right now because he got to preach last night. It was for an audience of 8 and was "just practice" as a part of a mentoring group he's been in this year. But, still!

He preached on wealth and what to do with it (sound familiar?) and it was interesting to hear his sermonette evolve over time as he practiced it on me (4 times--18-20 minutes each time!). This is a topic, as you know if you've been here awhile, that God has really been working on in us for more than a year now (for this round--we've been through this before, but we're going to a whole new level again). And, you've probably heard me say that about 16 months ago Aaron and I dared to complain to God that our life was a little...boring...mediocre...stifling...not as "on the edge" or like him as we wanted it to be. So, this whole re-working of "wealth and what to do with it" is all a part of God's answer to that complaint (the adoptions would be the other obvious answer). Anyhow, enough background. One of Aaron's passages for his sermonette was "The Rich Young Ruler" episode and God dropped some insight on me during one of Aaron's rehearsals. I've been mulling it over and thought I should write it out (helps me think), so you all get to be my unwitting audience of 8.

So here's the passage from The Message. Matthew 19:16

Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
Jesus said, "Why do you question me about what's good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you."
The man asked, "What in particular?"
Jesus said, "Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself."
The young man said, "I've done all that. What's left?"
"If you want to give it all you've got," Jesus replied,"Go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me."
That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn't bear to let go.

(sorry about the dumb formatting here---uuuugh) I'm sure most of us have studied this passage and heard several talks on it. There are a lot of directions you could go with it. But, here's what I've been thinking about. We usually focus on the "rich" part of this guy's descriptors--he's the Rich Young Ruler. I guess that's kind of the obvious place to go since Jesus finally gets to the point that he tells the guy to sell all his stuff and give to the poor. And I think we tend to get a little stuck there. We think that's the story. We think this is about money. And, it is...

But, there's more to it. It strikes me that Matthew (he's the only one) points out that the guy is young. I wonder why Matt wanted to include that detail. I haven't pondered this as much as the point I'm about to make, but I think maybe Matt pointed to his youth as a way of saying maybe he didn't earn all that he had. Maybe it was just handed to him. Maybe I'll keep thinking on that and if I come up with anything good, you can have another sermon later!

Anyhow, the thing that really struck me during A's rehearsal, and the thing I want to explore a bit more now, was that this guy was a Ruler. He belonged to a particular class of people. He was in the upper echelon of his world. People looked up to him. He decided things, important things. He had a reputation to uphold here. Yes, it would undoubtedly be difficult for him to give up his "stuff" and his wealth. But there's more to wealth than money. There's a lifestyle and a reputation. Imagine if he did what Jesus asked. He'd be walking away from more than money. His entire life, his way of doing things, his position, his comfort, his very identity--he'd be trading all of that in to follow a homeless man through the dirty streets on foot, uncertain of where his next meal would come from and dependent upon this itinerant preacher/miracle-worker. Instead of being the leader, the ruler, he'd become the follower. What would people think? What would people say?

This issue of reputation, of what people would think and say about me, is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in my attempts to follow Jesus in nearly every area. I have this on-going conversation with Jesus right now (I'm not about to just walk away from him like the Ruler did) about finding my approval in him, instead of in my lifestyle. There are two groups of people that I'm afraid of disappointing or eliciting disapproval from (in this realm of finances): A's work-mates and our families. What will A's co-workers think when they visit our home and cannot immediately see what it is that we spend our money on? We live quite nicely, but there aren't any "toys" to speak of (A has his woodshop, but most of his buddies already know it was all a gift from Grandpa), the furnishings are nothing to go ga-ga over, we don't take elaborate vacations, or drive fancy cars. The trappings you would expect to go with A's paycheck--they're just not here. What would they think we're doing with all that money? And, my parents, his parents--what would they think if we lived on even less of our income than we do now? What would they say if we decided to "downsize" our home and move to a more modest part of town? What if this road we're on where God is challenging our use of our wealth, what if this road leads to more extreme places? What will they think? What will they say?

Honestly, I do own some things that it would be difficult for me to sell or give away, mainly for sentimental reasons. There are things (insurances, retirement savings, etc) that would be very difficult for A to walk away from for security reasons. But, the thing that really has a hold on me, the thing that threatens to cause me to walk away from Jesus instead of follow him--it's my reputation every time. And, I'm convinced, it wasn't only the "stuff" that the young guy couldn't bear to lose, either. At least I hope I'm not the only one.


Tarah said...

Love how you make me ponder deeply! You should start a womans group to preach to. I would so be there! :)
I agree that what people say really impacts decisions. I am getting better at not caring the older I get.
Thanks for something to chew on!

My Man and Me

My Man and Me
married 7/7/2001


ours through biology, born 7/25/2004, home 8/1/2004


ours through adoption from Liberia, West Africa, born 7/15/2005, home 10/25/2007


ours through domestic adoption, born 1/15/2011, home 2/10/2011, final 8/3/2011

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Round Two Timeline

  • 9/24/08 Home study update home visit for Ghana adoption
  • 10/15/08 Dossier sent to AOHG
  • 10/15/08 I600A application sent to USCIS
  • 10/30/08 First heard about possible domestic private adoption
  • 11/18/08 Last spoke with contact about possible domestic adoption; expected to hear back about meeting with birthmother
  • 12/3/08 Withdrew application from AOHG
  • 1/6/09 Found out another family had been chosen for possible domestic adoption
  • 1/21/09 USCIS fingerprinting appointment
  • 1/8/09 Received USCIS fingerprinting appointment notice
  • 4/11/09 Sent Pre-Application to Covenant Care Adoptions for Domestic Infant Adoption program
  • 6/8/09 Social worker visit to update home study from International to Domestic
  • 7/24/09 Received completed home study update
  • 8/25/09 Went "on the list" for birthfamilies to choose from
  • 4/28/10 Found out a birth mom had chosen us
  • 5/8/10 Met the birth mom
  • 5/11/10 Got the call that birth mom changed her mind
  • 5/19/10 Birth mom's scheduled c-section
  • 11/30/10 Visit from DSS sw about foster parenting
  • 11/30/10 Got the call that another birth mom had chosen us
  • 12/21/10 Met with the birth mom
  • 1/15/11 @1:42 PM BB was born!
  • 1/19/11 ICPC (interstate) paperwork sent to GA for approval
  • 1/31/11 ICPC Clearance Approved
  • 2/10/11 Placement Ceremony and Pup comes home!!!!
  • 8/3/11 It's Official! Pup's Adoption Decree was issued