Going to Jesus {The Grove: Let Us Go}

As 2018 draws to a close, my family is approaching the two-year mark of cross-cultural ministry. As this anniversary approaches, the stress and exhaustion and homesickness borne of moving to the other side of the world and pouring ourselves into life in our new home is starting to hit hard. I often feel at a loss for words in describing how I feel at this point, but when words do come, “empty” usually leads the way.

I doubt I’m alone here: the stress and demands of cross-cultural work are real, and then can threaten to overwhelm us. I’m thankful to be home for an all-too brief holiday, and as I try to take a step back from our work and think about what things ought to look like in 2019, I’ve been learning from the shepherds.

In chapter 2 of his gospel, Luke introduces us to some shepherds. Into their lives, their mundane sheep-tending work, heaven breaks: an angel, with a message of the Messiah born. The Messiah! The hope of Israel, the one long awaited. Against the backdrop of the darkness and the silence of hundreds of years, the voice of one angel, and then a multitude, declares the salvation of the Lord.

“Let us go,” the shepherds say, for what else could they do in response to this divine display? They go, and they see the truth of the angel’s message. And then, what else can they do? Again, they go, this time to spread the word, the glorious good news of God’s acting at last to save his people.

The shepherds are the first evangelists, the first people to announce the advent of the Son of God. All of us who go, who leave the work we had been doing and the loved ones we treasure, all of us imitate the shepherds, telling others about the incredible message we have heard.

More than heard: the shepherds came face to face with Jesus. And so all of us: we have encountered Jesus — not the babe in the manger, but the living and reigning King.

“Let us go,” I say, and I think action and adventure. I read the thrilling stories of Paul and the apostles in Acts, the stories of men and women in the past, and I am eager to join them. I hear and say “Let us go,” and I think first and foremost about my activity: my proclaiming, my teaching, my discipling, my serving, my loving. The truth is, I’ve been acting self-sufficient, and the reality of my dependency is hitting hard.

Now that I am dried up, empty, with nothing left to give, the myth of my self-sufficiency is evaporating. Only now do I see that I have been working out of a sense of duty, and right, of calling even, but not out of the joy and awe that comes from meeting Jesus.

“Let us go,” the shepherds said, and so I must imitate: coming first to Jesus in worship. Then, having not only heard the message but encountered the Messiah myself, can I proclaim the good news of God’s salvation. This is how we serve and love. There can be no true going out in service, especially under the strain and stress of cross-cultural work, until we have first gone to Jesus. If we neglect that, we neglect our very life.

Every day, through his word and his Spirit, we can encounter Jesus again. Every day we can, like the shepherds, set aside for a moment the good work that God has given us to do in order to go — not first to service but to worship. First to go to Jesus, to allow him to fill us and nourish us, that our service might not be the agonizing effort of gathering water from a dry well, but the overflow of a heart in love with our savior.

What part of your work feels dry and overwhelming right now? How do you make time for worship in your life so that it can fuel your work?

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8 Comments

  1. Michele December 21, 2018

    First of all, I’m sure someone has told you this, but I want to confirm that, while everyone’s journey is different, the two year mark is notoriously rough. It’s when the reality of what we’ve got ourselves into sets in. You are definitely not alone, and I’m so glad you have a chance to breathe and reflect and prepare for what’s ahead.
    Secondly, I love the truth you’ve pointed out here, and I can testify that it’s made all the difference in 20+ years of cross cultural life, as I’ve come back to it over and over again. Just last week, I had an evening where the Lord reminded me that not one moment over the years that I had spent seeking His face and adoring Him was wasted, and how much more fun and fruitful my efforts to love people were when I was caught up in love with Him.
    Thirdly, I’m so grateful this morning for this community that reminds each other of these most important things. I remember when cross-cultural workers mostly reminded each other of the urgency of the needs. Which is funny, because I don’t think I’ve met one who needed that reminder. But what you’ve written and what is often shared in this space reminds us of what we are most prone to forget and what we desperately need to remember if we’re going to keep going! May your Christmas getaway be blessed and bring you back refreshed and focused!

    1. Laura December 21, 2018

      Michele,
      Thanks so much for your encouragement! I love what you said that “not one moment over the years that I had spent seeking His face and adoring Him was wasted.” It’s so easy for me to get caught up in the results that are immediate and visible, and I can’t be reminded enough that all of our fruitfulness comes out of seeking Him first.

    2. Paulette December 22, 2018

      Michele, thank you for your comment. No one had told me that the two-year-mark is a rough one. While it has been just about 3 years since I have been “officially” on this field, between orientation and medical needs and field conferences and trips to the city to buy supplies, it has been just over 2 years of actually living in my third culture. And while I love the people and village and this adventure of going with Jesus, it is really hard right now! Knowing that this is normal at 2 years is encouraging.

      And my heart joins yours in overflowing gratitude for this community that “reminds us of what we are most prone to forget and what we desperately need to remember if we’re going to keep going!” So true that I don’t need to be reminded of the urgency; this type of work sometimes feels like living and breathing urgency…sometimes I think we almost need to step away from the sense of urgency just a bit so we can even fall asleep at night! 🙂

  2. Paulette December 22, 2018

    Laura, thank you so much for sharing these truths. It was good to be reminded of the shepherds in whose footsteps we follow, and of their example of going to Jesus, meeting with Him face to face, and after worshipping, going out to tell others, in wonder and awe! Have a blessed time of rest and continuing to reflect on Jesus. Merry Christmas!

    1. Laura December 22, 2018

      Thanks for your comment, Paulette — same to you!

  3. Monica F December 23, 2018

    Such a timely post for me in this Advent season. I operated out of a sense of calling and duty for many years overseas… not at first actually, but later on. My heart grew tired and weary, and I would have to circle back to drinking from the Spring of Life. Thank you for writing so eloquently what many of us have experienced or witnessed in our years overseas. May the Lord bless you this Christmas season!

  4. Bonita February 10, 2019

    I love this post and it is sooooo right on and yet also so challenging. I often feel guilty for spending more time in prayer and a little less time being “productive” and “effective” but God is challenging my mindset on those things.

    I also wanted to challenge you on your last question, “How do you make time for worship in your life so that it can fuel your work?”. Perhaps this is not what you mean but it hints to me (which I struggle with as well) that the point of being with Jesus is so that we can serve him more and work more. I certainly struggle with this but have been realizing that God does not just call us to serve him, if he did he would call us servants or slaves, but God doesn’t call us this. He calls us friends and children, which is quite amazing. I have also been encouraged that the Westminster Catechism (which most churches would agree with) says that our purpose is to glorify God and ENJOY him forever. So I wonder if enjoying time with God is good, just to enjoy Him. Of course I feel like I need time with Him, like you, in order to have anything to give but I wonder if it’s good in its own right without it needing to produce anything. This is something I’m growing in as well.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. Laura Cerbus February 21, 2019

    Hi Bonita,
    Thanks so much for your comment and your question! I absolutely agree that our worship isn’t pragmatic in the sense that we only do it so that we can work more. So my question certainly didn’t mean to exclude the enjoying-God aspect of worship — worship, I think, must involve that. And you are right that worship is good in its own right and doesn’t need to produce anything…and yet, because of who God is, and the nature of worship, transformation is a promise.
    blessings,
    Laura

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