Thursday, November 17, 2011
Two Months and Counting....
Two months? Two months? Time has flown by, as I thought it might. I'm always remarking about how quickly time has passed. It's always expected, and yet I'm always surprised when it happens. Next thing I know, my ten months in France will be up and I'll be boarding a plane headed for American soil.
My thoughts are all over the place tonight... So many dreams.... so many convictions... so many hopes... so many realizations. Forgive me if this post ends up being scattered and incomprehensible.
Yes, time has gone by so fast. But there hasn't been a second of it that God has not used to grow me. Even my mistakes. I am learning more every day what it means to follow Him, what it means to love Him. I am learning more every day that He loves me. I am learning more every day what it means that He loves me. I am learning what things He cares very much about, and He is slowly beginning to bring me into these battles with Him. Yes, I've been learning so much these last two months.
As far as learning the French language?.... I found a quote from an Australian woman named Sarah Turnball that puts it perfectly.
"The language remains a mystery to me-- a gorgeous, mellifluous gabble which I can listen to forever without identifying where one word ends and the next begins. Those sliding liaisons and smooth syllables, the to-die-for accent and controlled cadence; together they make an incomprehensible verbal stew."
I'm happy to say that I can now tell the difference between one word and another. Usually. But French is not a language that can be learned in two months. Or even in two years probably. But I'm making progress, and that's what counts. There are small victories here and there. I try not to get discouraged about how very difficult it is to learn French, instead learning to enjoy the process rather than caring only for the end goal.
And faith.... oh how my faith has been tested. Reading about religious history in France can be do discouraging. Several weeks ago I was reading a book about it, and despite the fact that the words were written in a dry, historical fashion, I found myself being sucked into the story. Oh to think of those many faithful men and women who died rather than reject their Lord. Those blessed saints who fled the country when they were told they could not worship their God. What mighty spiritual battles have taken place in this land! The country has never been the same since that mass exodus under the rule of Louis XIV. My heart breaks as I think about all the souls who perished without the gospel, as I realize how very long it has been since the people of God have rapidly multiplied and flourished in this country. And then sometimes I get so upset at the many thousands who have been given the Word of God only to reject Him. France has had her missionaries and pastors. The gospel has been preached in her churches and streets. I've heard from many people that the majority of French evangelical churches are filled with immigrants. Oh they are a proud people who have rejected the One who made them!
It's only been two months and already I've had thoughts of leaving and never looking back. They've rejected Him. Shouldn't we flee the country and shake the dust off our feet?
But His faithful, steadfast hand holds my heart here. I remember all the ways that He has proved I am just where He wants me, the great works that He has done to get me here. And He whispers softly to me, "There was a time when you rejected Me too." And then my heart melts and I am filled with yet more love and grace. How steadfast, how loving He is. As soon as I realize His love for them, I remember that most French really haven't heard His Good News. Bibles remain unopened, Catholicism has promoted idol worship and salvation by works, and the majority think that evangelical Christianity is a religion that believes that one can get into heaven if he is good enough. With that being the case, why on earth would anyone want to become evangelical? Aren't they all trying already to be good? What good will God do them if they must earn salvation on their own? Oh if only they saw Calvary. If only they understood that He gave His all for us, and that we must give our all to Him.
Yes, my faith has been tested. I believe that God can work in France. But do I believe that He will? Do I believe that He actually wants to? Sometimes I look at history and I struggle in praying for the lost. They've rarely seen Him before, what would make things change now? I have faith enough that He will save one person during my time here. But five...? Twenty...? Fifty...?
Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (Mark 9:23-24)
Yes, God has given me a love for the people of France, but how small and pitiful that love often is. How much of myself will I really give to them so that they can know Him? What cost am I willing to pay to see some come to Christ?
"Do not we rest in our day too much on the arm of flesh? Cannot the same wonders be done now as of old? Do not the eyes of the Lord still run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those who put their trust in Him? Oh, that God would give me more practical faith in Him! Where is now the Lord God of Elijah? He is waiting for Elijah to call on Him." -James Gilmour of Mongolia
This morning I finished reading the book of Judges. It is tempting to think about how wicked and stupid the Israelites were without ever examining msyelf. It is evident that they needed to put their idols away for good and keep following the one true God. Could they not see that everything went wrong when they stopped worshipping Him alone? And after having such deep, profound thoughts, it is tempting to shut the Bible and go on with my day thinking about how much more clever I am that I choose to worship God and they so often did not.
"But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." -James 1:25
Today I keep thinking over and over again about how prone I am to be like the Israelites in Judges. How easy it would be to look into that perfect law and then forget all I hear! Idolatry snuck up on ignorant Israel and sneakily took over their entire lives. Oh how sneaky sin can sometimes be. They were not keeping watch over their lives, their hearts, their people. They let in one small compromise at a time until it became full-fledged idol worship. Is there compromise in me, Lord? They failed to be zealous for the glory of the Lord, tolerating others' sin until they themselves grew cold to it. Is there a zeal for Your glory in me, Lord? It would be so easy to think that I am doing everything correct because I don't have any statues set up in my room that I bow down to every now and then. But that's not what God's talking about!
God demands every part of my life. He alone must decide where I go, what I do, what I think, what I buy, who I talk to, what I speak.... everything. He alone must determine whether I get 8 hours of sleep or 8 minutes, whether I fast or whether I thank Him and enjoy the good food He has given me. Only He can determine my life...
And I am so thankful that He does, because when put in control I always mess everything up.
Two months in... and I have seen more of Him. But there is so much more to see. I have learned. But there is so much more to learn. I have loved, but His love is still yet greater. I have spoken bits of truth, but there is so much more He wants these people to know. Two months in.... And I'm eager to see the rest.
He is a good God.