Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Laying Down Roots

I've been watching a lot of Fixer Upper lately (if you haven't watched it, watch it! You're welcome.) - and a theme I hear continually in that show is something to the extent of, "we're ready to lay down our roots." Most of the shows center on a young couple, or a young family, who are ready to buy a house, plant roots, and grow in a community. It's picturesque and quite lovely. And it's encouraged! The nomadic lifestyle (although exciting I'm sure) isn't a lifestyle that is full of relational depth or the highs and lows of real community. But that "laying down roots" as we think of it is not always a reality right?

This whole idea has been on my mind a lot lately; and I've felt a lot of tension in it, coming from two places; the fact that I'm single, and the underlying reality of my identity in being a child of God. How does planting roots play out in my life considering those two things?

  1. Singleness:

    I've lost count of how many friends I've watched get married, have their kids, buy their houses, and choose where to have their families and live their lives. It makes sense. It's a natural progression of life. One of the struggles we singles face is wondering where the heck we actually fit in on the "settling down" spectrum. Where do we fit in a world of families? (side note: which is a world that is more single than it's ever been) What is actually stable and unchanging in our lives? From the time I left my parents house 13 years ago till now, I've had over 40 roommates and moved 16 times. Not because of tension or fighting, but because of life. Nothing in those numbers screams "laying down roots"- it actually looks quite the opposite. I can't speak for single men, but for single women (especially as we get older), we don't always feel like there is a daily protective covering or TLC in our lives. The role my father played when I was 13 is not the role he should play now that I'm 31- and that is okay. I wouldn't want him to. But there are times I do wonder; who does care for me? (this is not discrediting the Father's care- I'm speaking in a human standpoint). When I'm driving home at midnight after a late night babysitting gig, is anyone aware? If I were to be in a wreck, would anyone even know I was missing until late the next day? Those are real questions I have asked because there is a lack of a certain type of stability. Again- this doesn't scream "settled."

    These are just a couple of scenarios I thought of as I've considered this. They're unique scenarios to singleness, and I know there are so many more.

    In this, there are two big things I have learned, and they're something to beware of and something to fight for. In the inconsistencies that comes with singleness, there is ample room for selfishness and deceit (and that is an understatement). In the number of times I've moved, it would be so easy for me to continually put up fake facades and not be known (and I have fallen prey to this). By the grace of God, I have had very stable, faithful, and wonderful friendships that have helped me fight against that or called me out when they saw it. I have to not only be aware of my sin, but I have to confess that sin to others; I have to invite them in to speak into those struggles, to sit with me as I weep in pain or frustration, to point me to truth. I have to be on guard against sin and I have to fight for community. In a marriage, it's difficult to get away from the very person who knows you best because you see them every day. For a single, it is incredibly EASY to escape any and all things. Fighting for genuine community means you're open and honest, even when it's painful, awkward, or painfully awkward; you're known.

    A word I keep coming back to in this is "faithful." What does it look like to be faithful in a world that sometimes feels chaotic? Oftentimes, the greatest hindrance to my day in-day out faithfulness in ministry and pursuing the Lord is my tendency to continually look at what's next. Not just in the big things (Will I get married? Will I ever have kids?)- but in everything. Right now, the greatest way I can "lay down roots" is to be faithful to where I am, to the church body I'm a part of, to my family, to my friendship, to my roommates (even if they change in 3 months!), with my job, and most importantly, to the Lord. Faithfulness is a good and right characteristic of a believer.

    I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth "home." Before you know it, I am calling luxeries "needs" and using my money just the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I don't think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace. I sink into a secular mind-set that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do. It is a terrible sickness. And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mind-set.
    John Piper

  2. Child of God:

    As beautiful as laying down roots and being settled is, I think it can also be a very real hindrance when esteemed higher than it should be. Following God's call and being ready to go when He says go is always, always best. It's worth any and all hassle of moving and the stresses and pains that come with change. Always. When I take a step back and just survey the Christian culture in America, the greatest idols I see are family, comfort, and safety. Family is everything for so many people. It's interesting to me that family is exactly what Christ uses when He's explaining the cost of discipleship to great crowds who were listening to them. He says, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26) Jesus isn't talking about actually hating as we view hate; He's more explaining the proper placement of love. We are called, first and foremost, to love Christ above all. Loving Christ means you love the gospel. Loving Christ means loving your enemies. Loving Christ means loving the people who spit upon Him. Yes, loving Christ also means loving your family and desiring to protect them. But if you protect your family physically at the cost of their souls, what gain is that?

    The greatest cause in the world is joyfully rescuing people from hell, meeting their earthly needs, making them glad in God, and doing it with a kind, serious pleasure that makes Christ look like the Treasure he is.
    John Piper

    The greatest need in the entire world right now is for all peoples to know Jesus Christ. The way God chose for that need to be met is through His children, those who Paul calls "Ministers of Reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5). If you profess Christ, that is you. We were not created to live perfect cookie cutter lives of comfort and ease; we were created to make much of the name of Christ by denying ourselves. We were created to live counter-cultural; to be lights in cities of darkness; to make disciples of ALL nations. As believers, we hold the greatest hope, love, and joy in our hands. We know the way of life, yet we hide in our worlds and our comforts, when 2.5 billion people in the world don't know Who we know.

    One of my favorite family stories is the Elliot family. Jim and Elisabeth met at Wheaton but were married in Quito, Ecuador in 1953, where they were serving the Quichua Indians alongside one another. There was an unreached tribe, the Aucas, who no one had been able to meet and minister to without being killed. Jim and a few other men entered the tribe; it was friendly at first, but that did not last long. All of the men were speared to death. This is where the story gets incredible- and I can only pray I would do as Elisabeth does. She doesn't go back to the States; instead, she stays in Ecuador with her infant daughter. In her ministry with the Quicha Indians, she "happened" to meet a couple of Auca women. They lived with Elisabeth and her daughter for a year; and those two women took Elisabeth and her daughter back to their tribe; the very tribe who had speared Elisabeth's husband and Valerie's father to death. They lived with the Aucas for two years; in those two years, they saw every single member of the Auca tribe come to faith in Jesus Christ.

    Our American mindsets of individualism and idealism are huge chasms between what God has called us to and what we're actually doing. What if the absolute best thing you can do is obey the Lord's call by packing your family up and moving to Turkey to share the gospel with Muslims? What if the greatest way you could show the Lord's love as a single man or woman is moving into a refugee community or hosting a foreign exchange student? What if you have a job making 6 digits so that you can give a lot of it away to efforts reaching the unreached? What if, at the end of the day, it really was all about Him? What if the roots we laid down were laid down, first and foremost, in the Scriptures; and we lived with open hands, counting the cost of discipleship, and were willing to follow Him wherever (and whenever) He leads?

    But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.
    Philippians 3:7-9 

    My joy grows with every soul that seeks the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Remember, you have one life. That’s all. You were made for God. Don’t waste it.
    John Piper