When my nearly perfect firstborn turned two, she was stricken with a rather worrisome condition. Though never officially diagnosed by a doctor, at our house it became known as “noodle legs.” Noodle legs occur when one person, usually a parent, attempts to coerce another person, typically a toddler, into moving in a direction they aren’t wanting to go.
This is both annoying and dangerous. It’s annoying because my toddler had spent the last year showing off her glorious appendages that afforded her newfound freedom outside the confines of her crib and my arms. Suddenly, she was rendered completely lame by virtue of her will turning her legs into a pile of limp pasta.
It’s dangerous because noodle legs happen in dangerous spots like parking lots and crosswalks. It’s not as if the parent can do much about it since the other hand is occupied with either bags of stuff or, more likely, a ten pound baby carrier with a ten pound baby in it.
This week we address the “G” in ENGAGE, a natural next step to last week’s assessment stage. I’ve titled it “Get up and move!” We see the damage, we see the need. Now it’s time to get up and do what it is that God is calling you to do. I will admit that getting up and obeying is scary. What will He ask me to do? What if it’s completely out of my comfort zone? What if I fail?
As I look back at the times in my life that God has called me to something specific, very often my initial reaction involved spiritual noodle legs-a plopping down in a pile of rebellion, if you will, refusing to move in the direction He was attempting to move me in. We all do this in one form or another. Jonah, rather than doing nothing, ran the complete opposite direction and ended up in the belly of a whale. Some of us run, some of us sit and refuse to move. Either way, it’s rebellion.
Last year my husband and I were totally unhappy in our current state. We hated our city, the weather, the traffic, the politics, the taxes. We weren’t jumping for joy over our jobs either. Our kids hated school. We were generally unhappy so we did what any reasonable person would do and started readying our house to put it up for sale and sent out resumes all over the country. We dreamed of moving to a warmer climate like Texas where the grass is greener and you can still spank your kids in public and not have them taken away. It’s the Bible belt, for heaven’s sake. Surely God could use us there. We needed a fresh start.
But a fresh start is not what we got, not outside of our city limits, that is. Instead, every job that my husband seemed perfect for ended up being given to someone else. It didn’t take long, and we got the message. The doors were slammed shut. Not even a crack for air was left. We were here, and I was mad. What in the world was God thinking leaving us in this place? We’d spent 20 years here. Surely, that was enough.
At first I responded like the defiant toddler in the parking lot. I plopped myself down mentally and physically refusing to engage in the life that God had given me. Initially, my “I’ll show you” attitude felt victorious. Fine. I’ll live here in this crime-infested city and go about my life, trying to carve out the most painless existence I can and hope for a future move. However, those feelings quickly caved into misery and guilt which in turn left me feeling far from God. It’s one thing to be a non-christian and know something isn’t right but not know what that something is. It’s quite another to know that your own defiance has caused a gaping hole in your relationship with the Lord. This is what I’ve learned about getting up and moving and sharing the gospel with other people:
1). As pitiful as it is, sometimes you actually have to ask God for the desire to do His will. I remember finally waving the white flag of surrender and asking God if He was going to keep us here to please place a supernatural love for this city in our hearts. I can honestly say, He has more than done that. There is no place I’d rather be.
2). Ask God for opportunities to share Him with others in unique ways. The one thing I’ve learned over the years is that His timetable couldn’t be any more different than ours. If you look back at where you’ve been spiritually to where you are now, I’m sure you will see a steady but slow progression. He moves us to the areas of ministry He wants us in, but slowly and with marked intention.
For example, I’ve mentioned before how much I disliked the semester in college that I had to be on the radio. So it will surprise most of you when I tell you that about a month ago I was a caller into a local radio program. They were discussing salvation, of all things and some idea that an Ohio politician had that revolved around helping the poor because someday we would answer to St. Peter. The radio hosts put out the question: “so how does one become saved?’ Without thinking, I dialed the number desperate to get the truth to anyone who was listening. It was only after the phone started ringing and the screener answered that panic set in. I had about a millisecond to freak out and then I heard the words, “Kathryn, you’re on the air. What are your thoughts?” I’ve been out of college for 20 years. My 60 second moment of engaging was a 20-year process!
3). Getting up involves giving yourself away. It requires our time and sometimes our money. Sometimes it means mowing your neighbor’s lawn, paying for groceries for the person behind you that doesn’t have enough money, being a listening ear when your life is already filled to the brim.
In order to get up and give away our attitude is one of delayed gratification. Of everything I’ve learned about engaging my culture, sacrifice is the consistent requirement whether it’s a moment of ministering or a lifetime calling. But the sacrifice it takes to look different and be different is worth what is waiting for us in heaven. Delayed gratification is a tough sell in a culture where waiting for anything causes us physical pain. It requires supernatural strength, but it is so worth it.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (I Corinthians 2:9, NIV).
So what is God calling you to do? Are you giving Him noodle legs or getting up and moving?