So That Nothing Is Lost

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.

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14 Responses to “So That Nothing Is Lost”

  1. Larry Miles on

    Thoughtful post. I wonder who “whittled away the parts that couldn’t or wouldn’t surrender”? Not sure God does the whittling (at least without us asking for that specifically) – I know many say He does – not convinced personally though… I do know that He lovingly and extravagantly fills in those part after their gone… if we ask him to.

    …I’m very blessed to read that He’s revealed to you what he wants you to do with the over-flowing fragments. I believe there is a specific purpose for every single one of the fragments of His Love that overflow. (If Jesus said to be careful to gather them all – they must be important).
    Blessings to your beloved family!
    LM

  2. Sharon on

    I am so excited to see where your love will be overflowing. I didn’t email you, but I was certainly impacted by your post and was just re-thinking about it again the other day-trying to make sense of it in my life right now…still chewing on it.

  3. Gina Lind on

    The combination of your two posts struck a cord in me and touched me deeply. Thanks for sharing and for re-posting. I have already re-read these posts several times. You were a blessing to me today!

  4. Sara on

    Larry,

    Interesting thought. Allows or orchestrates, I’m not sure either. He does discipline those He loves, but whether that whittling was discipline, I can’t really know. I asked a friend once in the height of our struggles, “is this God, is this the enemy, or is this my flesh?” and she answered a simple “yes.” It stuck with me.

    I like your approach …focusing on the fact that He fills those parts after their gone.

    Sara

  5. Sara on

    Gina,

    Thank you for commenting. It’s something that’s been buried deep for a while and, just like anything so close to your heart, there is always an insecurity in putting it out there. I appreciate your encouragement!

    Sara

  6. jessie on

    Sara, I appreciate your postings and re-commenting, you always show me new ways to look at things, but I admit I have struggled with Part 1 a lot. My more complete thoughts are on my blog, and I don’t want you to take them as disagreement/judgment/attack, but I’m just wondering if you could provide any additional insight. I know you have suffered much, and I know God loves you and wants to fill you (and us) up. But how are we supposed to respond when material gifts are given by God, and serious prayers about serious struggles are not? I know you’ve experienced this in greater depth and detail than I have, so I’m just wondering if I can coax some more insight out of you. I trust you, and I hope from our short time together you can see this is the inexperienced and immature side of me, nothing more.

    jessie ray

  7. Nate on

    Jessie, I’ll jump in on this one. I’m not *in* Sara’s head, but I’m pretty close to it :). She may add more, later, as well.

    And, this may seem to be a trite answer, but I think what she said was akin to understanding God’s kind heart for His creation.

    We’re all familiar with this verse (or at least the song :)):

    Job got to his feet, ripped his robe, shaved his head, then fell to the ground and worshiped: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth. God gives, God takes. God’s name be ever blessed. Job 1:20-21

    In some ways, in my experience, it’s “easier” to say to my soul: “Blessed be the name of the Lord” in times of trials — only because we’ve become so used to seeing this life as struggle.

    And to your question, I don’t exactly know how to respond when he gives “things”, but he doesn’t answer longed-for, “deeper” prayers. We know that dynamic intimately. I suppose Job’s response, though, is what we should say.

    But we shouldn’t, in the same way, neglect seeing that God even cares for material things as well, and, even, blesses by way of them. I think we’re so scared of the “prosperity gospel”, that we’re hesitant to even ask for material things.

    I think every person’s pain, blessing and beauty mix is unique, how He blesses them is unique, and that God is over all … and that the world still reels from the effects of sin.

    Come, Jesus.

    Not sure if this helps, or answers. Sara may have more to add.

  8. Sara on

    Jessie,
    Thank you for your comment — I so appreciate your humble approach. I just read your blog and posted there.

    In short, God is a mystery to me. Just when I decide that He works in one way or doesn’t work in another (e.g. His eye is on the widow or the orphan and blessing someone materially surely couldn’t come from the same God who calls us to care for the poor) …He surprises Me. Why a few of my deepest prayers, particularly for physical healing, have yet to be answered but others that drift through my mind in an instant come to fruition, I don’t know.

    God is dynamic. Beyond what our human minds can construct Him to be. And the end goal of all of this is Him. Just Him. Not one single answer I’ve gotten to a prayer has been as good as what I’ve tasted of Him. But that hasn’t stopped me from praying. It actually makes me want to engage with Him more in prayer, in the little details and the larger life changing issues.

    It’s clear from your blog that you are seeking Him out, searching His word, and asking His Spirit. While you wait on the responses, I can already see that He is giving you Himself. Keep pressing in.

    (And keep commenting … I love your heart!)

    Sara

  9. Jessie Ray on

    I just thank you both for listening and helping me work through it. yes Nate, I think God absolutely does speak in individual ways, so what works for some is not going to be right for others. on my way home tonight from the airport, i thought about the tremendous material blessing that God has provided for this wedding. and i admitted out loud, that really, there is no comparing the two. i wouldn’t want one over the other, (spiritual/physical healing instead of provision), they are just different. and thus, we must continue to press into the Mystery.(is that in Peter, or 1 or 2 John?) Thanks for the encouragement! Miss you all!!!

  10. Jenna on

    What a beautiful, beautiful post. You are better than a deep spiritual thinker…..you are a deep spiritual thinker that can also write powerfully. While my thoughts get stuck in the straw from my brain to my mouth (or fingers as it were) like a McD*onald’s milkshake, yours most definitely do not! 🙂 I read and I am encouraged and challenged, and I’m thankful for that!

  11. Adam on

    I grew up in the exact same situation at my Catholic church so your 57 minute church service comment really made me laugh! So funny!

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