what to do when you’re inside the gate & dying to color outside of the lines

I’m living with a lot of guilt right now.

Who am I to be the one with white skin and not marginalized?

Who am I to not be the girl that was stolen out of her bed and taken away?

Who am I to be the one born in the United States where I don’t have to hide my Bible, I pray in public, and I don’t worry about being arrested?

Who am I to be the one that can be lovingly embraced by a godly man each night when just-as-worthy sisters are hurting at the hands of a man who doesn’t see their heart?

Several weeks ago I was on a drive across the Midwest, sitting in the dark of the car, finding our way back home. My heart read a comment that hurt an image bearer of God and my heart split wide open. My tears flooded – “how long until we can unite for the hurting?”

What do we do when we are on the inside of the gate, and so unsure of how to reach through the slots of air to the other side? When we have new notifications of destruction lighting up our eyes and darkening our worldview? What do we do when there are children in cages, women locked in basements, men slaughtered on the side of the road? What do we do when we want to give up? When our soul resonates with King David and says “How long, O Lord, how long?” (Psalm 13:1)

There’s a story of this woman in the Bible named Esther. She has a whole book dedicated to her story in the Old Testament. It is the only book in the Bible without the direct name of God in it, but don’t be mistaken that His fingerprints are ALL OVER IT. She was a young girl made Queen. While she was handpicked and chosen, there was a genocide of her people in the land. She was a Jewish woman which for anyone outside the gates meant death. For an elite woman in society like her, she could have stayed. She could have lived in comfort and prosperity. God would have found someone to do the saving work – He will always find a way to reach His people, but He was offering her to be a part of it. She took the call. She knew that if she didn’t, even if she was somehow spared in the discovery of her true bloodline, was that really considered living? After all, as Ann Voskamp says, “When we leave people on the other side of the gate – we lose parts of ourselves.” She used her power within the gate of the chosen to stretch out her hand to the ones who were powerless. There’s this phrase that often comes etched onto Hobby Lobby signs and women’s ministry brochures that comes right out of that bloody time in Persia. Her cousin counsels her and says, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) And THIS was not a time to bolster up Esther’s image, to be a boss babe, to have all the successful offspring, to build up her own kingdom. “As long as our primary concern in life is to be interesting and thus worthy of special attention, compassion cannot manifest itself.” (Henri Nouwen, Compassion)  What she was called to wasn’t a string of successes, but a slew of Christ-like sacrifices. If I perish, Esther said in the holy hush of the moment back to Mordecai, I perish.

 


 

In the Gospels, we see over and over again that the disciples and others around Jesus were so disappointed that He wasn’t taking power in the way they were expecting.  If He said He was the son of God, why didn’t He save everyone right now? Why didn’t He not only heal people, but prevent there from being a need for healing at all? There’s such a mystery in this, in God wrapped in flesh and bone. But we cannot deny as people who routinely flip through the Scriptures that He not only wants, but delights in communion with His people. Henri Nouwen describes God-as-flesh this way in his book Compassion: “The mystery of the incarnation is that God did not remain in the place that we consider proper for God but moved to the condition of a suffering human being….God became displaced so that nothing human would be alien and the brokenness of our human condition could be fully experienced.”

“We spend our time on social networks attempting to condense our personalities into tiny profile boxes, trying to verbalize intricacies within flattened screens.

Lawyer, mother, wife.

Artist and adventurer, sushi addict.

Yoga teacher seeking light.

I find comfort in a simple truth from the Bible, that there is only one Alpha and Omega. I think this means that we’re off the hook in that department. That it is not out job to be Black and White, This and That.

I think this means we simply get to fill the spaces between – the many middles between the Beginning and the End.

We can inhale buttery popcorn and a chick flick today while rationing rice with turbaned women in Haiti tomorrow. We can fight the effects of rampant consumerism today and still purchase our mother a Christmas sweater tomorrow.

We can explore – in equal measure, if we choose – art and science. Laughter and sorrow. Truth and beauty.

We can lean in and lean out. We can conquer and retreat. We can teach and be taught. We are not either/ors. We are both/ands.”

— Erin Loechner, Chasing Slow

You see, we weren’t made to be slivers of our ideal selves. And certainly God cannot and will not be shoved in similar boxes of two-dimensionality. We are meant to offer our whole self over to Christ every single day. If we offer our fake smiles, who will see that God has set us free from the pit? If we don’t show His faithfulness through the course of our stories, who will know God’s power in our generation? If all we want to be is the polished versions of ourselves, sitting high next to earthly power, the glory goes to us. If we show up knowing that Jesus has paid our debt in full, we serve confidently giving all the glory where it is due.

We weren’t made for simple fixes, we were made to live out a story of redemption. If you came looking for a five step plan, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If you came for fruit bearing, adventure, and intimacy? Look no further.

In Eccelesiastes, the wisest man to walk the earth tells us that there is a time for everything. “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…. a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace…” If this is true, who are we to compartmentalize Christianity’s moments into only mournful ones or only joyous ones? “He [Christ] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1L17-18, emphasis mine)

Christians aren’t robots who spew one-liners all day. We are reminders to the world of the Incarnation, of the bloodline that makes us all brothers and sisters. While much of the world wants us to stay in our lane and keep church at church, there is no truth in the gospel if it doesn’t pour out into every nook and cranny of His creation. Because, opposed to our 21st century beliefs, Jesus isn’t one Way if you feel like it – He is THE WAY for all our wandering hearts. There is not one political party, earthly movement, or one action that will lead to our redemption. The blood of Jesus has sealed our hope forever and we need not look elsewhere.

 


 

So, what will we do? 

Coloring outside the lines might look less like what is expected of small minded people and more like sharing the Good News that was paid for in the red blood of our Savior. When we are dying to color outside the lines – maybe the answer is dying to self and coming alive to Christ. Reaching outside the gate might not be a one time, feel good endeavor, but a way of continually emptying ourselves so that others can find relief and join the kingdom.

We can bring our whole selves to the table trusting that God gave us our many tensions and personality on purpose. He has more than enough room, and He has more than enough power. He is enough to hold all of our both/ands, our either/ors – He created them. In Him all things hold together. The parts of us that fight for justice and love on brand new babies. The side of us that laughs at sitcoms and cries at the sight of injustice. The part of us that like making our homes beautiful and the part that heart cries for the poor and lives with palms wide open to the needy. The sides that social media sees and the sides only our intimates see. We will not be paralyzed at the thought of everything that needs to be done, because we know that every glass of water given to someone thirsty is a way of giving a gift straight to the hands of Jesus. We will begin, we will mess up, because we can’t afford to sit in the inside of the gate, win our safety, and lose our souls. We don’t wait until we have it all together in an award-winning paragraph of clarity, because life is messy and we don’t have to wait to be filled to experience His fullness.

Who will we be? 

As people modeled after the life and character of Jesus Christ, we will be righteous, dealing wisely with situations at hand, executing righteousness and justice in the land. (Jeremiah 23:5)  Ann Voskamp pens the truth of this justice-seeking-journey: “Some questions you can’t answer theologically, but only with your life.” We know that the work is His and we are participants in it.

“As long as we continue to act as if the salvation of the world depends on us, we lack the faith by which mountains can be moved.” — Henri Nouwen, Compassion

A few weeks ago when I was exposed to more and more of the shocking reality with child sex-trafficking I texted my friend Caley and said, “Do you have any specific ideas of what we can do?” And the truth of the matter is, we are all called to something different (which she so wisely reminded me). Esther was called to put her life on the line and use her freedom to set others free. Her people were called to fasting and prayer. Jesus gave a different calling to John than He gave to Peter. He told Moses to lead the Israelites, He told Noah to build an ark, He told Martha to sit with Him, He told Timothy to steward His message well. If we want to know what’s next, we have to know Him first. We have to bring our whole hearts into the Presence of God and trust that He is enough to hold all this brokenness.

Maybe we aren’t meant to feel guilt because we are inside the gate, but to use our placement for His purpose. We will be truth seekers regularly sitting at the feet of Jesus and being the feet of Jesus, walking in step with the Spirit. It’s true, you don’t have to – He will find a willing heart to bring more into the fold. Will you take the call?

I can’t wait to see where He takes you.

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” — Isaiah 30:21

 

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