My dream when I graduated from high school was to be a missionary and have six kids. I was pretty sure that was what serious Christians did. And if you were really obedient to God’s call, you’d go to Africa. Obviously. Don’t be jealous but back in the day, I was what we liked to call a soul’d out Christian. I was a bonafide Jesus freak. Despite the fact that I was a basketball player, cheerleader, volleyball player, softball player, and straight A student, I was also president of the FCA, attender of every church camp known to man, quoter of the Romans roads, and Bible thumper in the kindest sense of the word. I carried my Bible to school and witnessed to people in the hallway. I just knew I was destined for full time ministry. Or at the very least Amway. I upped my game by learning the smoky eye, in honor of Tammy Faye. Because Africa needs more missionaries from the South with a tendency for big hair and heavily applied eye makeup.
Fast forward 25 years and none of those dreams came true. I didn’t go to Africa. I birthed a measly 4 kids (wimp) and I went to medical school instead of Bible college. In my defense, I continued to perfect the smoky eye and am considered the resident hair and makeup artist in my circle of influence. It’s really too sad that my talents with beauty products never reached Africa, but many a Southerner have enjoyed the fruits of my smoky eye labors. Pardon me, I digress, good people.
When I said yes to Shaun to come on this trip, that dream that I had the courage to write down in ink on the first page of my senior book all those years ago bubbled right to the surface. To be honest, that dream has haunted me more times than I’d like to count, especially when the insecurities of quitting my job as a physician began to mount. Okay, so let’s get this straight, my inner smarty pants would say, “So, you first dreamed of becoming a missionary and having 6 kids and you didn’t do that. Then you spent 13 years in school to be a doctor and now you’re not doing that either. Instead, you’ve taken to making cornbread and apple butter, knitting dishcloths, and making your girls watch videos of D.Ray White, clogging on a piece of plywood. It all makes perfect sense. To no one in the history of ever.”
God silenced that voice in my head this week, and replaced it with the laughter and squeals of little girls putting on lip gloss a half a world away.
He made me a missionary and gave me two more daughters.
He redeemed the dream. In His own good time and His own perfect way.
Today, I met Julissa for the first time. I’ll let the photos tell the story but be forewarned: her deliciousness may cause fireworks to shoot out from your computer and if your computer crashes from the cuteness and volume of the photos, that’s on Keely.
Love at first sight, if ever there was such a thing.
We were privileged to walk her home and meet her mom and siblings.
And then all my training in beauty products made us bff’s. She’s a pretty quick study with the lip gloss. Maybe a little globby at first but she’s got potential, this one.
Girlfriend’s got this.
I told her to keep practicing and when I come back in a few years, we’ll start smoky eye training. She’s on board and willing to do the work!
It was a life-giving visit, full of fun and joy and hope.
We prayed with her family before we left and her momma told me that she prayed God would bless my family, too. (Cue the waterworks.)
Then, she gave me the gift she had made for me —a hat that said “obedient” in Spanish. Her teacher from Compassion said,
“Her family thanks you for being obedient to the Lord.”
I loved my new pink hat and put in on and gave her a big smooch. But, there was an awkward silence in my heart.
Obedience. The word that might be best translated submission or yielding. The thing I wish I was. But the pink hat tells lies about me.
I have not been very obedient in my life. The sting of it sucker punched me. I have not surrendered. I have not submitted or let go of my own way. I have been stubborn and selfish and hard-hearted.
I have broken the two greatest commandments. I have not loved the Lord with my whole heart and I certainly have not loved my neighbor as myself.
I began to grasp for ways to justify myself, for ways to make the pink hat true.
What I realized is that despite my own guilty soul, I have the fruits of obedience in my own life. Other people’s obedience, that is.
—in the youth pastor that faithfully took me to church every Sunday when I was a kid.
—in my own mother, who worked two jobs, trying to put food on the table.
—in my pastor, who preaches the Gospel every. single. Sunday., when the Christian culture around him is busy with flashy programs and flimsy fads.
—in Diana’s father, who picks through trash heaps, to piece together a living from everybody’s leftovers.
Perhaps leftover from my days tangled in legalism, I have a visceral reaction to the word obedient. I immediately feel shame and guilt. I know me. I know what I am. I have done everything but yield.
It’s just like me, though, to want to write my own name on the little pink hat. To think that I am the one the word is about. It’s the oldest sin in the book.
The truth is, He is so gracious. He has been obedient in my place. He submitted His will to the Father’s, even when it meant death. He was God and free to do as He pleased, but Jesus yielded His power and freedom in love for mankind. The pink hat describes Him, not me. I breathe relief in deep, like it’s air.
And yet, in His faithful love toward me, He has imputed His perfect obedience and righteousness on me, freely, by His death on the cross.
I am living on borrowed submission, on hand-me-down surrender. The song may be catchy, but I haven’t surrendered all. I am just blessed enough to know the One who has. And He clothes me in His obedience and gives me everything I need, to make me free.
The question is, what do we do in that freedom?
Since He has done everything for me, the only person left to worry about is my neighbor.
I am free to submit to my neighbor. To ask what his needs are and if I can meet them. We do this all day everyday, with our family and friends.
Today, I’m asking you to see the needs of little neighbors like Julissa; to release children from poverty, to give them a safe place, to give them the chance of salvation in Christ.
I’m not asking you to obey.
I’m asking you to trust in the perfect obedience of Christ, who gives his submission to you freely, in order that you might care for the least of these.
His obedience has freed you up to love and serve your neighbor.
And Compassion has made it so easy for you to do that, for less than you spend on one dinner out with your family.
I’m asking you to take a child by the hand and walk her safely Home. When you get there, you’ll realize He was carrying you both.
Wanna change the course of someone’s life today? Sponsor a child. They are waiting patiently and they fully believe we’re coming for them.
(But be careful, that changed life might turn out to be your own. As it turns out, pink hats are kinda magical like that!)
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My friend Kelly wrote an important post about the centrality of letter writing in Compassion’s program. If you are thinking of sponsoring a child or already sponsor one, read her post and be reminded of the power of the written word.
You’ll be in tears after reading Shaun’s post about how Nicaragua was changed forever by a boy and his nanny.
The more you share these posts with your friends, the more children will be sponsored. THANK YOU so much. I’m already a mess just thinking about how you’ve loved on us all this week.