Wednesday, September 10, 2008

a fact and a promise

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." - Mt. 10:39

Recently I was asked to leave my women's group and area, to head up a new women's group in a different area. For a few days after being asked, I couldn't even think about it. My women's group means the world to me - every Monday night I am so eager to hear what's been going on with them - the ups and downs of family life, the ideas they've been pondering, what they think about the latest community event, what they think about the world. Women's group discussions have shaped how I perceive and experience the community. We frequently have to tear ourselves away from the conversation at the end of the night. Between Mondays I jump at any opportunity to spend time with them and share in their lives, whether it's dinner with their family, or giving one of their kids a ride to an activity, or seeing them at a concert. I would venture to say my women's group is the biggest part of how I live community, the deepest and richest connection I have to the branch. So how could I leave it?

Last weekend I finally took a deep breath and sat down to discuss this issue with the Lord. And I couldn't help but start crying. "Lord," I asked, "why do you want me to lose everything?" And the Lord replied, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

The notes in my Bible explain Mt. 10:39 like this: "One who denies Jesus in order to save one's earthly life will be condemned to everlasting destruction; loss of earthly life for Jesus' sake will be rewarded by everlasting life in the kingdom."

Well, I don't really think this verse is just about heaven and salvation and martyrdom. I think it's also about life on earth, life in the here-and-now Kingdom of God.

The first part is a fact. Whoever finds his life will lose it. Do you know anyone who has achieved his or her perfect life and just stayed there forever? I don't. You find your life - you find blessings, you get settled, you are satisfied with what the Lord has given you - and then something changes. It always will. Maybe you have to change jobs, or move to a new city. Maybe a loved one passes away. Maybe you get sick. The point is, every time you find your life, you will eventually lose it.

But here's the promise. If you lose it for the Lord's sake, you will find it again. If you see an opportunity to serve or glorify the Lord in some way, and to do so means losing your life ... well, you were going to lose your life at some point anyway. But losing it for the Lord's sake will inevitably cause you to find it, because serving the Lord always brings life.

So I had found my life. Quite a life it was, with five wonderful women that I love dearly, in an area that I loved so much too. But I would have to lose it sometime, and this is an opportunity to serve the Lord, so I'm going to do it.

Disclaimer: all this is not to say that my new women's group and area are anything to be sad about. This will be at least my tenth time changing women's group and the third area I will have lived in (plus campus division), and each new situation has had great blessings, and I am looking forward to it! The girls I'll be in WG with now are DELIGHTFUL and I can't wait to get to know them better - can't wait to get to know the others in the area either. So all the sadness I had to work through was certainly not because of what I was going to - it was just because of what I was losing.

And I'm still sad to lose my WG and my area. But the clarity with which the Lord responded to my sadness brought it home for me very concretely that He is with me, and that it's His adventure that I am choosing. And I know that in this adventure I will find my life. Alleluia!


uncle jim said...

I know women many years your senior who would struggle and recoil at the suggestion it was time to move on to another service, another life, another women's group, another area, another ...

Whatever it is, we tend to like the sameness of it - change is hard.

People say they want change, but when faced with the reality that 'they' would have to change, we find they really mean they want others to change.

Congratulations on grabbing hold of the opportunity to grow and serve in another way than you are currently doing. Your questioning and your searching ... and God's response ... "lose your life" and gain a new one. What a challenge - I know you're up to it!

justin said...

Wow Sheila! Ditto what Jim said - Change is hard, and it's what Christ is all about.

Where ya going?

Sheila said...

JW - to Paul Barrett's area - which has the benefit of Cat, Sarah, & Beka being in it, hooray! - to be in WG with Allesha and some of the other college-age women who are not in the Work College. It will be fun but I'll miss you all in the East area! (which I maintain is the best area in the branch)

uncle jim said...

East may be the best in your current estimation, but I propose that Paul's area is about to take a big jump upward with you on board.

JenJen said...

Thanks for the kind words about your women's group! :) You have been my personal gem in the group, Sheila, and I will greatly miss you. But, I am also proud of you for tackling this new challenge and all the change it involves.

I faced similar issues when faced with the decision to move here, from Mobile, leaving both the branch, and my entire family there. Whew! I definitely faced "losing my life", and I am happy to say, we've found a new life here that is rich and blessed! If we hadn't said yes to that, we'd have never met you, or any of the people who now ARE our life. We would never have had household. Our kids wouldn't be in Trinity School. And so much more.......Praise God! Change IS hard, and there are times when I miss the old so much. The Father blesses me during those times, and consoles me, usually by showing me something about the good of being here.

Onward and upward, Sheila! Love you.