“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” Proverbs 16:2
I started this blog almost three years ago as a way to address transitions in my life. I set some boundaries for my writing: to be authentic, to encourage, and to point others to the goodness of God. Although I have always been opinionated, I didn’t want my writing to just add noise to the hot button issues on social media. Instead, I wanted my blog to be a place of beauty and transformation. I can only speak for myself and how the blog has transformed me. It has helped me be more grace-filled, and kinder and gentler to others and myself. I had a different blog that I was intending to post this week, but I felt strongly to go in a different direction. This post addresses a current world issue, a visit, and a sermon. They all intersect in a place where only God can connect the dots.
The first situation is being updated in real time as I write. Like so many of you, I have been heartbroken to see what is happening in Ukraine. I had a semester of Russian history in college with a great professor who gave a comprehensive history of the breakdown of the former Soviet Union and the emerging countries like Ukraine. But since then, I have continued with my life and not given much thought to the second largest European nation. In January, I heard about the Russian military build-up on the border of Ukraine. But again, I went on living my life, not paying attention to world news. That changed last week when Russia invaded Ukraine. All platforms showed actual footage of the attack and of people fleeing their homes along with clips of President Zelensky’s resolution to stay and fight for his country. I have been following the situation, paying special attention to some missionaries of my faith that have chosen to stay to minister to their congregation! No words can adequately describe the situation that is unfolding for thousands of Ukrainians. Its heartbreaking to see mothers carrying their babies desperately trying to find a place of refuge.
The day prior to the invasion, I visited with a sweet older couple that are members of my church. By most standards, they don’t have a lot. Their apartment is small and filled with simple treasures such as cards and artwork from a friend. Due to some health issues, they live on a fixed income. They have no children but have invested their hearts into a great niece, giving her space in their spare bedroom filled with mementos. They take care of their neighbors by gathering their mail and bringing extra food. The man spends time making crafts for children in our church, while she looks for ways to minister to others. She regularly sends me texts letting me know she is thinking of me and praying for me. I left their home on Wednesday humbled by their generosity and faithfulness.
Although I had been blessed by my visit and my heart was heavy for Ukraine, I still went on living my life like always, until Sunday. In his Sunday morning message, one of our pastors challenged us to examine our motives. Do we serve God for the blessings, or do we serve because he is God? Pastor Dave asked some hard questions, including if God gave me nothing else in my life, would I still serve Him? I left church with some heavy thoughts about my own intentions and agenda.
Sunday’s message, my visit with the couple in our church, and the invasion of Ukraine seem like an unlikely trio with no connection. But all day, I have been on the verge of tears whenever I think about all three experiences. I feel like they are all hitting the same place in soul. It is a place of raw honesty and self-examination. Who am I if blessings stop flowing? How will I react if faced with a situation where I must choose safety or service? And will I remain generous when it seems apparent to others, I don’t have much to give?
It’s easy to give a shallow answer and say that my motives are honorable and self-sacrificing. But how many times have I grumbled about helping some else? How many times have I given the leftovers rather than my best? How many times have I chosen comfort over sacrifice? The answer is far more than I want to admit. Which then leads me to address the motives of my heart. Do I give for the good endorphins I feel when blessing someone else? Do I look for ways to receive accolades? Am I only generous out of my abundance?
If I was going to give myself a report card, I don’t think I would receive a passing mark when answering these questions. But this is where the grace of God steps in. He is not looking to beat me over the head and make me feel ashamed of my shortcomings and my selfish behavior. Instead, He gently encourages me to repent, reaffirm His sovereignty and remind me of Calvary. This is not an effort to change my behavior in the hopes improving my report card, instead it’s a reminder that He gave it all that I might have life. And I have nothing worth offering, but to be a living sacrifice.
There are major moments that forever change the course of your life. Some of these major moments are based on your decisions, such as a move, choosing a certain career path, or agreeing to go on a date with someone to a bookstore. Some major moments are out of your control like your family of origin, a rejection from someone you cared for, or an unexpected health diagnosis. But some major moments take place when situations collide that unexpectedly reveal something in your heart, prodding you to change.
I want to be a person who is truly generous. I want to serve without any expectations of gratitude. I want to give all that I have, not just out of my abundance. I want to choose serving over convenience. I want to stand strong when my faith is challenged. I want to empty myself of all that is me and let God flow through me. But this can only happen if I am honest with God and am transparent.
I am grateful for seasoned saints who are examples of Christian faithfulness. I am grateful for pastors who are not afraid to ask hard questions. And, for Ukraine, saying I am inspired seems so juvenile and insensitive to what is taking place. The missionaries and President Zelensky are examples of true self-sacrifice. They model this by choosing to stand for what they believe and stay, potentially giving their lives for the people they are entrusted to serve! And all I can do from my corner of the world is pray for their safety, well-being, and their sacrifice is not in vain.