(our first exposure to the developing world in Tanzania, East Africa in our college days)
I remember the first Shane Claiborne experience I had. It was reading his confessions of a “self proclaimed ordinary radical” in his first book, and I was in college. It. Was. Awesome. It expanded my mind. Suddenly, I thought, the things I was reading about in the book of Acts seemed to make sense. As a young-in-my-faith, seeking believer, I wanted more and I was thoroughly challenged and excited.
And, he was right in so many ways. Following Jesus often times takes us out of the conventional and into a very real, raw, exhilarating and life giving journey. I mean, I can speak from experience in some ways. Our time in Haiti and the Dominican, our time with YWAM, helping to start Justice Water…all of it has been less than conventional. It has been difficult and rewarding, stretching and overwhelming. We’ve loved it.
We arrived home from the Dominican this Christmas Eve and have been working with the church mission trip to Haiti which Ryan helped to facilitate. Its been a busy time. However, it has also helped us to see things in a different light. There have been multiple times recently when one of us looks at the other one and mutters these words “The ordinary seems to be extraordinary these days.”
I have been thinking about our work- how much I believe in both what we are participating in and also our specific call towards that. I have been thinking a lot about short term trips to countries “in need”. I have really been processing what it all means for us, our faith, our church and the people in these countries whom we love. I have also been thinking about the flux of people whom I have encountered in the past few years who seem to be on the “radical” train- and how we totally appear to be, as well.
Before I continue, I must say this: I believe in radically following Jesus. I believe that if one confesses that they are a Christian or a follower of Jesus, that they should be transformed and begin to live a life that is one of a person who has encountered an unfailing love. I really do. What I also believe is this: being radical sometimes has less to do with grandiose gestures and more to do with the condition of your heart.
Here’s the thing: I could be living in Haiti, sweating bullets and sleeping under a mosquito net and have no love in my heart for the people we work with. I could sacrifice with my living circumstance and be fully guarded with people. I could choose not to forgive those who wrong me. I could choose not honor my commitments or finances. I could choose to say that because what I do is unconventional that it is actually extraordinarily radical. I do not believe that the two are always the same.
My life looks differently than when I first felt a pull into international mission work. My friends are no longer living in apartments with used furniture and eating cereal for every meal. My friends are homeowners. And husbands. And wives. And businessmen. And teachers. And parents. Many of my friends have what could be considered, circumstantially, as a conventional lifestyle. Everytime we arrive back in the states, they welcome us back. They welcome us in. They ask about our stories. They eat with us. They love their kids. They speak kindly to their spouses. They tell us about their struggles. They ask us to share about ours. And, honestly, they are the ones who have been teaching us about being radical these days.
What we want to say to you guys is thank you. Thank you for being so radical! Thank you for agreeing to the call of raising up beautiful kids who will be amazing examples in the world we live in; thank you for being hospitable; thank you for taking hours away to have coffee with us and hear our hearts without judgement; thank you for being advocates for people like us; thank you for letting truth, beauty, justice, wholeness, sacrificial loving, honesty and kindness be more than just something you post about on facebook. Thank you for being radical.
This month we have been challenged and sharpened in our own personal call and walk, realizing that there is so much more to being “radical” than living in another country. And, I am encouraged! I am encouraged because this is the kind of stuff that makes passages like 1 Corinthians 12:12 make sense. We are all a part of a body- and we can’t all do and live and be in all places. But, how cool is it that through our radical love for others and love for the Lord, that we can come together and begin to make a dent? Pretty neat, if you ask me.