It’s not about me

For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45.

I have spent the past few summers in Mexico working at a base camp for churches who come down to build homes and run ministries for the local people. I absolutely adore these times, because there is a huge visible transformation in the lives of the people who come down to serve. Most of the time, people come down with the idea that they are coming into Mexico to “serve”  and to “give” to others. Many of these wonderful people come down with humble hearts, and hands ready to do some dirty work. And some come into the country with lofty opinions of the “good deeds” they are about to accomplish. The latter are my favorite to watch. Especially when we tell them they have the privilege of assisting camp staff with dishes. But by the end of the week, their mindset has been totally changed. They realize that serving others out of love is a gift, and they have received more through the relationships they have built with the people they’ve worked alongside and served. They discover the beauty in scrubbing dishes with friends and working hard in the sun to provide shelter to a family in need.

Sometimes we get this idea in our heads that being a missionary, or a nurse, is glamorous. You know, the whole starched white uniform with perfectly coiffed hair,  painted red lips, and a reassuring smile? Or those adorable little children with hopeful eyes gleaming expectantly up at you, hoping for just one more piggyback ride? Expect serving people isn’t like that at all. Yes, there are perfect hair days and wonderful patients and happy children. But there’s also days when you are spat on and screamed at. There are 100 degree days in the burning sun of East Tijuana with flies that never stop buzzing and you might just cry if the kids don’t stop talking so loudly.

How do we interact with people like this? How can we change our mindset from “I’m here to serve” to “I’m here to serve you”? Because when we go to Mexico or walk into a patient’s room with the idea that we are there to “do” something for them, everything rests on our performance and our desire to feel good about ourselves. We have not come to Mexico, or the hospital, to check off our little “good deed” box. We came to serve people who are desperately in need of love and compassion. Even the Son of Man came not to be served. I really don’t think Jesus washed his disciple’s feet to feel good about doing something nice for someone. I think he did it because when we get on our knees and scrub the dirt off of someones feet, we realize what serving someone is. It’s recognizing the person you are serving as one made in the image of God, and therefore, your brother.

So, I commission you to go serve. Go to the hospitals and the far corners of the world with the knowledge that life is not about you, it’s about following Him into the cancer wards and back alleys, with the expectation to encounter the most incredible individuals, made in the image of your maker. Walk there with the expectation not to be served, but to serve, and watch the beauty unfold around you. Because yes, there can be beauty in dirty feet.

Later Days,

Jess

The Good Girl

The weather is finally starting to cool down a little here. I no longer feel like I’m spending my days encased in a Baptist revival tent in Mississippi in the middle of July. Halleluigher. This also means the return of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and I’m planning my Halloween costume (I’m thinking a weeping angel. DON’T BLINK!).

So in my last post, I mentioned the idea of “Good Girl” theology (cue Robin Thicke. Except not really. Because that song is terrible. But so catchy! I’m like Nick Miller and Cotton Eye Joe when it comes to that song). For a very long time, I believed I was  loved and valued  only if I was “good” enough. My fellow Christian “good girls”  know what I mean by good : saintly, Disney princess-esque, pure, untouchable.  Guys aren’t the only ones with the image of the “perfect” woman in their brains. Girls have the “perfect woman” delusion too, and we are kind of indoctrinated with it at a young age.  I created what I thought perfection was in my head when I was in eighth grade. The girl I aspired to be was generous and kind, sweet and even-tempered. She’s thin with perfect hair and a white smile. She reads her Bible every day, and never ever does she swear. She has a quiet and gentle spirit, and spends her Sundays at church working in the nursery because that’s what a good woman does. These are not bad qualities. The point I’m trying to get at is that I tried so hard to be what I envisioned as perfect good girl, failed miserably, and I was ashamed of who I was by design.

Pleasing God does not hinge on whether or not I act like that “perfect” woman, or the “perfect” man for that matter . God’s a lot more concerned with where my heart is at versus what kind of act I put on for him and others.  God loves me. God knew what he was doing when he made us. He made every single one of us with unique talents and personalities and gifts. You know what’s remarkable? The Bible is chock full of stories of woman who were NOT “good girls”. They had seedy pasts and questionable motives, and good heavens were they not socially acceptable. But when God gets a hold of them, regardless of their pasts or reputations, their true identity as his beloved child with whom he is well pleased, is made clear. The false identities imposed on these women by themselves or others was discarded, and the true woman was revealed. Glorious imperfections and all. When God gets a hold of us, we become who we were truly created to be. His child, holy, chosen, beloved. He frees us to be free in him. And we become who we were created to be in His image.

Amen? Amen!

I’m still trying to figure out what being a child of God looks like in my life. I try to read my Bible everyday  because I’m kind of in love with scripture and the God who breathed it, not because it’s a formulary designed to solve all of life’s problems, but because it’s this very real, messy book that sometimes reads a lot more like Game of Thrones than a textbook on Christian living. I serve in the nursery because I think kids are hilarious little people, and I love introducing Jesus to them. Not to mention they always start some kind of revolutionary mutiny because we won’t let them stand on the table, and they just wanna be all punk rock and it cracks me up when they get all Vive la resistance! I’m loud and sassy and goofy. I tell bad jokes (what’s invisible and smells like carrots? Rabbit farts!). My personality leans more towards Scarlett O’Hara rather than Melanie Wilkes (please go read Gone with the Wind if you haven’t done so. Also I will love you forever and always if you commit to watching that movie with me. Because it’s super long but also my favorite), and I’m learning to be okay with that.

My point is this: you, my friend, have a remarkable identity. One ingrained in you before birth. Give up your notions of perfections, and your striving to be “good”. Rest in the knowledge that you are unconditionally loved and redeemed. Grace is poured all over your life, a free gift made out of sacrificial love. And this is not warm, fuzzy theology. You can buy that at Ikea. Those who love much know the weight of grace on their lives. This is the truest reality: Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. Amen.

Later Days,

Jessica

For kicks and giggles, here’s the Nick Miller reference:

this is not the game of life I grew up with

I’m getting ready to start my second week of my senior year of college. I feel so old! It’s hilarious, because I’m not even 21 yet and sometimes I feel ancient! There are youths everywhere on campus. I doubt some of them have graduated middle school, let alone high school, by the look of them. Of course, nursing school has a way with aging students before their time. Now to the heart of this post.

I’m starting to come to terms with some fairy-tale dreams of mine. When I was in middle school and high school, I was consumed with a Christian youth fictional book series. These books are still very near and dear to my heart, and they very much shaped my basic theology in a good way. But, I was completely convinced that if I was a good girl and did all the right things and went to a good Christian college, I would be rewarded with a good Christian husband, just like the characters in the books. Most likely a future youth pastor who surfed. My fairy tale was like the old versions of The Game of Life, where you must stop and place the opposite gendered peg in a hole of your plastic car before proceeding into the wild worlds of careers and homemaking. I’m going to let you in on a little secret here: never ever have I ever been asked on a date during my college years (yes, there were GYRAD’s, but those are more like coercing the opposite gender into a night of freeze-dried fun). Maybe it’s the starched white scrub top and stiff pants. Maybe it’s the fact that I really like onions and stinky cheese (especially when combined on pizza). Maybe its because I have a lazy eye that twitches when I’m sleep-deprived (which is around 82% of the time). Ladies and gentlemen, I am no closer to marriage than I was three years ago upon high school graduation. Because here’s the thing: being a “good girl” (I’m going to break this theology down in a later post. Hold thy horses.) does not invoke a cosmic brownie point system, where for x amount of modest clothing worn multiplied by y amount of hours served in Sunday school equals z points closer to being awarded a nice christian boy (“is he nice greek boy? do he come from good greek family?”), complete with tousled hair and sound theology.

My God does not work that way. Nope. Not at all. He is wild and untamed and passionate and beautiful. These years in college I have spent with Him have led me to the bush of Africa and the moors of Scotland. I have helped bring babies into the world and I have held the hand of victims of senseless violence. I have laughed and cried and told incredibly inappropriate jokes with some of the most amazing people to walk this earth (of course, I am a little partial to them). And I’ve done it all without a significant other. And I’m starting to learn it’s alright. In fact, it’s better than alright, because I don’t have to worry about shaving my legs to frequently. Score. These years looked nothing like my 13 year old dreams. These years have been better than I could have ever hoped for.

“Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he’s not safe! But he’s good” C.S. Lewis

Later Days,

Jess