Tag Archives: control

Expect everything.

With foster children and parents in Guangxi, Nanning.  Photo by Evan Schneider.

It’s an interesting thing, this business of homecoming, because at a point when you feel quite vulnerable, listless, and perplexed about how to reknit yourself into the fabric of this place and these people, others seem to be prolific with giving advice.

I had been hanging onto some of those pieces of advice as of late, not quite knowing what to do with them, but succumbing to their power nonetheless.  I was told by several people after coming back from two years in China to simply take some time, not to dive into my notes, and to not move on or forward too quickly lest the disorienting power of culture shock creep up even more over me and paralyze me with a vengeance.

And I think those well-meaning people were onto something there.  

Gorgeous morning on the Princeton campus in the President’s garden.

I have discovered along the way that it’s been important for me to be cognizant of the illusion of control not only in China but in this place, for me to seek God especially when I’ve failed him, and for me to convene and to trust that God is the same here as God was in China, or anywhere else for that matter.

But somewhere along the way I also took the advice given to translate as the supreme surrender that this time of culture shock and readjustment would be a period of great unknown, and therefore I should have no expectations of life, God, others, or myself.  There have been times in my life where expectations proved seriously unhelpful, and where tossing them into the ocean has taken great faith and conviction and produced great peace and comfort.

Halong Bay, Vietnam. Photo by Evan Schneider.

But I hear God telling me that this is not one of those times.

Instead, I hear God reminding me that we are a forward people, that I’m cut from the cloth of other pilgrims, seekers, and dreamers, and that making a life in a new place comes easier if I believe, I trust, and I expect God to go ahead of me.  In fact, I hear God saying that in this moment, that’s what faith looks like, a daring openness to those and this life around me.  I hear God reminding me that even though many of my expectations of China were bowled over by the sheer unpredictability of life there, God’s faithfulness certainly wasn’t.

With friends in China. Photo by Evan Schneider.

And I’m reminded how sweet it is to be a person of faith and to find that even when many around you will tell you that there’s no rhyme or reason to this season, that you can’t count on anything at all, we can.

We can trust God to be there.  We can trust God to move.  And we can expect everything, because of what God has done for us.

Amen.

On nourishing the Spirit

I think I was in sixth grade when I received my first copy of Oswald Chambers’ devotional, My Utmost for His Highest.

I’ve reread the book countless times over the last couple decades (yikes?!), and it always amazes me how relevant Chambers’ messages seem for our time despite the fact that he lived and wrote at the turn of the twentieth century.

Reading through today’s devotional in My Utmost, I was reflecting on how Chambers’ says so directly that “when a person is born again from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve or nourish that life” and the contrast between an ever-loving God and a God whom we cannot truly receive or know without will, effort, and commitment.

Incense prayer labyrinth at a temple in Yunnan, Kunming, China. Photo by Evan Schneider.

Chambers goes onto say that only at our wits’ end does it seem necessary or no longer cowardly to pray, “but as long as you think you are self-sufficient, you do not need to ask God for anything.”  And, prayer is “not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature.”

I’ve been reminded lately in conversations with friends of this illusion of control and how often we prefer to live that lie rather than the truth.

What I’m also reminded of this morning is that God is not ‘out there; but desires to live through you and me, and this work of seeing and knowing God is about constant growth, about choosing everyday to get beyond ourselves so that God can nourish us and those around us.

That’s what God’s been speaking to me lately…what about you?