Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sowing in tears, reaping with joy

Broken Hearts often refers to our ministry (and often our lives in general) as being a 'link in the chain'. For any Christian, at various times in non-believers lives, we plant seeds, we water, we sow...but God ultimately gives the increase in his way, his time, and in his power. Getting to be a part of any step in the process is a privilege...but I'd say few of us enjoy the sowing as much as we do the reaping. The reaping is exciting and faith-building and 'glamorous'. Being a link in the chain of that process just doesn't have the same hype or recognition. It's not always clear that God's at work, that our obedience to share Him is even doing anything.

It can be downright discouraging. If people ask about your ministry and you can name the number of people on one hand who've come to know Christ in several years, it seems to leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth of the person asking. When donors give to an organization, they aren't particularly inspired to give to a ministry who can't show numbers of lives changed or quantify impact.

More than once (or twice... or ten times), I've asked "what am I doing? What are we doing out here?" We see people take big steps towards change or towards Jesus, and then see them relapse into their old lifestyle...and it all feels pointless. But God will often do something major after those occurrences that leave me humbled and pretty embarrassed when I realize he was at work the whole time - I just couldn't see...and I was questioning him and his sovereignty!

God knows what he's doing, and if he wants us to be the middle man in the process of a man or woman coming to know him, then that's up to him. We just have to be faithful. But when we actually get to see someone through the process and see the end result...well, words can hardly describe how exciting that is! In fact, because we don't get this opportunity too often, when it happens it's almost hard to believe. Seeing someone change so drastically is nothing short of a miracle.

Ok...that was a long intro to the real story behind those thoughts that arose in my mind today. I went up to Hollywood today to attend church with Antquan and our friend 'Ravi' (which is another story for another time, but he's one who's being discipled daily and getting his life on track and quite the encouragement to me as well as our team). 'Jake' had planned on coming to church, but everyone in their rehab program had been put on restriction and he was unable to leave. So instead I went to visit him after church.

I've only talked to him/seen him a handful of times since he entered rehab. But each conversation astounds me. Especially when I think back to the day I first met him. In fact, as we chatted today in the outside patio/garden area of the home, he referred to that day saying, "I was drawn to you that first day we met. There was something compelling about you guys. And luckily I was still sensitive enough  to that..I was hard on the outside, but I was still soft inside." The context of that was that God had saved him before he'd gone too far down the path of drug addiction and prostitution, and his background in the church made him curious and sensitive to God's spirit working through us.

The rest of the conversation was about his deepening relationship with God, his prayer life, about his past and family history that had brought him to the place of drug-dependence; tears over the pain that he was learning to deal with. He said he's starting to tear down his walls and become softer and more real, and that the guys in the house are seeing him change. He said after talking with me on the phone the other day something had changed and he'd started to acknowledge some of his issues. He noted that he's the only person in the house not taking meds and attributes it to his relationship with God which is giving him peace and allowing him to heal and deal with those issues rather than medicate them. And that he hopes the guys will see that difference in him and want to know about it. He talked about God having  a plan for him, pondered about doing ministry in some way again one day, and about the opportunity to try everything the world has to offer which has brought him back around to realizing that none of it compares to God.

And that's all just a portion of our recent conversations. The words that come out of his mouth with no prompting are amazing; his vulnerability and willingness to get help are inspiring, and I'm getting to see God's work first hand...changing  a man day-to-day for His glory. 

He even told me that no one in the program is allowed to engage in any sexual behavior, either, and so they're all required to practice celibacy and restraint while living in a gay community. At first I was slightly disappointed about the fact that he was entering a gay/transgender rehab program (and there are still issues to be concerned about with that, of course), but never realized how even that might be a blessing for him. He's required to function there like God would require of him in normal life. If he has homosexual desires, God will either change him or help him to refrain from those desires as he's sanctified. And in a secular, gay rehab, he's practicing how he'll have to live when he gets out.

The sweet, thoughtful, focused young man is much different from the tweaked-out, hardened individual whose apathy and self-destruction once brought me to that angry, question-asking place of "What are we doing, God?! What are YOU doing?!"

Apparently God knew what he was doing. And graciously allows me to still be a part of it...while changing me in this process as well. :)

"When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our otngue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."
the Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.
Restore our captivity, O Lord, as the stream in the south.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him." ~ Psalm 126

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