Great Expectations

Well, with a wee bit of a sniffy nose (i’m amazed i’ve lasted this long without any sickness) I think i’ll settle down and blog this evening. I have had a thought that has been on the backburner of my mind for a few weeks new, so i’m going to have a go at it and see if it ends up being anything worth reading.

At the beginning of November I  began the Live Dead Journal, a 30-day challenge to pray for unreached people and to investigate my soul’s willingness to follow Jesus. I’m presently halfway in, at day 15, and let me tell you, some days it has been quite the kick in the teeth.  Day 6 in particular has been pestering me, and is a topic that I am still processing. The topic of day six was our expectations in following Jesus.  Honestly, i’ve always been game for following Jesus. Being stretched, and learning more about him. Potentially travelling to new parts of the globe and experiencing new culture. Doing something that is culturally upstream and counterintuitive. It sounds like an adventure, so i’m in. My rosy, unrealistic optimism thinks that following Jesus will be the grandest, most rewarding, fulfilling experience. And actually, it may be.  But what if it’s not? What if it is hard? What if I never see the fruit? What if I am rejected? What if i’m alone? What if I never feel the sense of reward? Will I still go?

The author of day 6, a missionary in Sudan, notes where she landed after her missionary experience didn’t play out picture perfectly: “I’d forgotten that it was my part just to obey, that Jesus is just my reward–that he can do as he sees fit with me, my family, and the work in Sudan…only Jesus makes it worth it.”

“What do you expect dying to self will feel like? Will it be pleasant? Painless? Problem free? What do you expect it to feel like when you live dead? Do you expect people to understand, support you, praise you, clap for you? Do you expect the devil to cheer and every demon in hell to yield to your noble aspirations?  Do you expect to be welcomed or affirmed by your peers and understood by your parents? Do you expect people to get in line to support you financially? Do you expect that your plans will be changed, your timing delayed, and your will continually crossed? Do you expect to surrender once in an air conditioned church, kneeling on a carpeted altar with a handy box of Kleenex perkily waiting to be plucked…and then from that point on to sail without contrary winds into God’s sheltered will? Or do you expect God to wring the self out of you in a painful and lengthy process, using circumstance and shattered expectations–then surprise you with how good it feels to have His image stamped deeply onto yours.”

The journal ended by compelling the reader to write out our expectations of what following Jesus will be like. So now, tucked in my Bible is a reminder that reads:

  1. I expect it to be a lonely journey, with many people not understanding or supporting.
  2. I expect to go through long seasons where I can’t see God, and have to follow and trust him anyways.
  3. I expect God to ever be involved in my life.
  4. I expect to be transformed.
  5. I expect God to be glorified.

I’m just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of what following Jesus is like. It goes beyond kissing orphans, and the accolades of others. It pushes past nice thoughts, and meaningful sentiments. It doesn’t stop where the road is flat and the sun in shining.

It’s going to be hard. But Jesus is our reward.