“To pray is to change. This is a great grace. How good of God to provide a path whereby our lives can be taken over by love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. The movement inward comes first because without interior transformation the move up into God’s glory would overwhelm us and the movement out into ministry would destroy us.”
Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home
If you have been following Christ for any period of time, you might have discovered that it’s not all “sunshine and roses.” The world is in such need of God’s love that you could give all you have to everyone who asks – and they will ask A LOT – and never reach the bottom of the world’s insatiable need for God’s love.
For example: the aftermath of the April 27, 2011 tornado in Tuscaloosa. My church became a distribution center. An 18-wheeler full of bottled water showed up to start it all off, and it didn’t stop for about a month. It didn’t take long for us to start wondering if all the people who came for help – for groceries, toilet paper, diapers, water, etc. – were actually storm victims, or were they just enjoying the bounty of generosity that comes after all major disasters.
We decided, after one particularly “major fail” of a day where we tried to check driver’s licenses and “FEMA cards” (to this day, I’ve never seen a “FEMA card” and don’t even know if they truly exist), to just give whatever was asked and let God deal with each individual conscience. I was proud of my church for having a major discussion about the mission of the church. We are called to give, not judge. I still like to maintain that philosophy, but it is hard. When someone comes to my church for help, I often find myself silently passing judgment on what I deem to be their “bad choices.” You know. We’ve all done it: “Well, you might be able to pay that power bill if you didn’t spend so much money on . . .” God forgive me!
I think that is the “destruction” that Foster warns about. We are destroyed, not by the world and its need, but by our response to the world’s need. The need is so huge that it will eat us alive if we aren’t sufficiently mature in our relationship with God. Notice he says that maturity is being “taken over” by the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc. – see Galatians 5:22-26). When you are ‘taken over,” there’s not much room for anything else. When we are “taken over” we rely on God’s strength and love and not our’s.
When we choose to step out into the world as a follower of Christ, we should be prepared for challenges, So, we better make sure we are sufficiently “taken over” by God. “How good of God to provide a path” for the takeover.