Uncomfortable Extravagance (a post I wrote over a month ago), elicited more personal emails than almost anything else I’ve written. It seems that the notion I’ve wrestled with for much of my adult life — that God wants to love His children extravagantly, and most times unconventionally — reaches beyond my personal experience. You, too, seek to find the place of paradigm-shifting love, but not at the expense of your heart which can be so easily woo’d by earthly indulgences.
My inbox was full of God-spoiling stories from women who felt equally uncomfortable with His chosen method of blessing. All cautiously approaching these gifts, more cognizant to the lust of the flesh than the power of the Giver to overcome even the worst of sin in His recipient.
When I wrote that post, there were two parts in mind. And it seems only appropriate, given some of the recent developments in our lives, that I attempt the second now…
I have an unbelievably short attention span when it comes to sermons. I was raised Catholic and am pretty convinced that my mind was trained to shut off after 57 minutes of church, because no church service I attended ever went longer than that.
In an effort to curb my church-induced ADD I’ve created multiple mental tricks to stay engaged when listening to a sermon. There’s only one I feel comfortable sharing here (the rest I’m reserving for my pitch to Dale Carnegie when I get discovered).
I try and take away one thing that I can apply to my life from the sermon. Yep. You may need to read that again, it’s so profoundly good. Go ahead, go back and read it again. 😉
So this next (one) thought, which pretty much summarizes Part II is not my own. I stole it from a sermon here at The International House of Prayer. (But I might prefer to say it’s a success testimonial of my proven mental stay-engaged-in-the-sermon tactic.) It crystallized what’s been bouncing in my mind for months.
Scripture says (in Luke) from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. The banner of my life for many years was the death of dreams. It seemed everywhere I turned, things I valued and treasured were being taken away from me. In a matter of months a few years ago, I remember losing some of my dearest friends, our uncovering a bookkeeping error that resulted in tens of thousands of dollars of business losses, having our adoption path turn a dead-end corner, and suddenly wondering if my marriage was going to survive. And these are just the highlights. I came to know the God of suffering, intimately.
As the years unfolded after that time, each one of those things (and more) were slowly restored to us. It was as if God had whittled away every piece of me that couldn’t or wouldn’t surrender to His perfect leadership, only to take me to places in His Spirit that were worth far more than all of them combined. I struck gold.
God so beautifully used my years in the pit to entrust me with His secrets. He showed me pieces of Himself that couldn’t compare to financial stability, forever friendships or even family.
But with those things came one stipulation. To whom much is given, much is required.
The Uncomfortable Extravagance I wrote about was just one piece of this theme in my life. Just like the secrets He whispered to me in my darkest hour, each of those gifts from the Father didn’t come with a price tag; however, they would have been incomplete without a response. I owed nothing to God who wanted to lavish me. But a love like that — in order to be complete — would have to cost me everything.
When Jesus fed the five thousand, He gave them fish …”as much as they wanted.” He didn’t stop at meeting their need. He is not a God of the bare minimum. They ate until they were full. And for some, maybe more. He risked gluttony for extravagance.
But it doesn’t stop there. It seems there was a purpose in what could have appeared to be a miscalculation of the need.
“When they were filled” Jesus then said “gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”
In the kingdom of His extravagance, the overflow has to be accounted for. I have been given much in the way of love. He has not spared in showering me with searing revelation of His tender mercy. He has overwhelmed me with Himself. And this love would soon grow stagnant if it ended at a cul-de-sac.
So we’ve been staring at the remnants of this love — this overflow of love in our lives — and asking Him … where’s it gonna go? And after months of asking, He finally answered.
And I think I might just tell you the answer … in another post :). Soon.