I grew up in the church, in a small missionary community in the Peruvian jungle. It was an idyllic childhood, surrounded by saints. But somehow I missed something. I missed out on the grace of Jesus. I learned that the Bible was a list of rules to be followed, and I did my best to obey. When I was ten we moved to another missionary community, this time in the Bible belt. I made it through high school without drinking or smoking, though my parents and their peers did frown upon my choice of dress, my “alternative” music (this was the 90s!), my poetry, and choice of friends. Somehow I escaped never having really seen or known Jesus. Never mind the internal, hidden sins--jealousy, bitterness, judgement, etc., that lived in my heart. As long as I wasn't swearing or drinking, I was a good Christian girl.
I returned to Peru after college, a degree in Sustainable Development in hand, and worked in jungle villages along the Amazon River for three years. I was working with a Christian organization, but still hadn’t really given my heart to Jesus. I was still just doing the right thing. And then I got seriously ill with dysentery. I had to return to the city where I battled three days of yucky, dehydrating illness alone. All of my co-workers were still out in their respective villages. My ministry partner was in the hospital having suffered a miscarriage. My parents, who were living in the Philippines at the time, had been hit by a monsoon. My roommate was in the capital city of Lima renewing her Visa. And Josh, my stateside boyfriend, was at a music festival out of contact. It was just me and Jesus—no one else near or far to rely on. All I remember is collapsing on the floor, feeling like a broken-winged bird. I looked up and saw all of my sins & best efforts, all at once, parading before me, almost taunting me. And I realized they hadn’t saved me. My best efforts, my rule-following—they hadn’t saved me, & never could. And then there was Jesus, arms open wide, saying, “Come to me! I can save you!” And He did, and He healed me, too. In that instant I was the biggest sinner and the biggest saint; I was loved, and I loved Him back. All of my pride and self-righteousness melted away.
All of the sudden, and ever since, I wanted to follow Him, to obey Him, out of love. This meant obeying not only general mandates in scripture, but also those personal nudges of the Holy Spirit. Wow! When we choose to listen, & choose to believe that some of those little nudges we feel throughout the day, are Him, we are in for the biggest ride! Both Old and New Testaments in the Word of God are filled with the idea that blessing follows obedience. It is a given. We don’t obey so that we’ll be blessed, but when we obey, He blesses. And any blessing He gives us so far outweighs any sacrifice we have to make to enable that obedience.
There are many directives the Lord has given to our family over the years, and many of them have required tremendous faith—quite like jumping off a cliff in response to God’s call. But each leap has been caught with His everlasting arms. The result has always been provision and presence—His presence. Several years after we were married God called Josh out of the pastorate and into music full-time. God provided a home for us for free, for two years. The first year, an old antebellum riverside mansion on 35 acres. Several years later, living in Portland as parents of two, feeling like our family was complete, God told me, “Mitchy, I have another child for you.” And Peregrin Jude was conceived within the week. The blessing that followed that act of obedience? Well, you only have to meet Per-Bear to know! During that same timeframe, when Josh had been working feverishly on an album for eighteen months, the Lord asked us to give the album away for a whole year. And not just the album, but all of the proceeds, as well, for the entire coming year—given away. At the time we were a family of four with another baby (Peregrin) on the way, living in a two-bedroom apartment. We agreed, and within the year the Lord had not only freed us from thousands of dollars in debt, but provided money for a down-payment on a house. The year we thought we’d be eating only beans and rice, He brought us into a spacious place.
There have been smaller acts of obedience along the way, but I have found them to come from the Lord in the form of a tug or a question, most often. It is always an invitation. And I have found that my natural response these days isn’t dread, as if He is burdening me with something. (“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” —I John 5:3). I’ve experienced enough of these “suggestions” from the Lord, that I now look forward to them. Recently it has been the conviction from the Lord that our family celebrate a weekly Sabbath (which came at a time when there was so much work to be done, we didn’t think we could “afford” to take a weekly day of rest!), and also the conviction to homeschool our children (which simply felt beyond my capacity and natural giftings). I do feel like His grace would have covered my “No, I don’t think I can do that,” if that would’ve been my response, but I have walked with Him long enough to know that I would be missing out on something huge if I didn’t agree to it—some huge joy, growth, and the blessing of having His hand hold mine through it.
Before meeting Jesus, I obeyed out of obligation. After meeting Jesus, I obeyed out of love. I obey now, and seek to find more ways to obey Him, to be disciplined in my walk with Him, because I long for deeper fellowship with Him. And fellowship with Him is the greatest blessing we could ever hope for. Are there things you feel the Lord nudging you toward or away from? Are there areas in your life He is wanting to trim off, for your greatest good and growth? Ways He is asking you to use your time or resources? Start small if you need to, and watch what He will do. Look at your own story, your own history, and remember the times He’s asked you to trust Him in something scary He was calling you to. What was the result when you agreed? What blessing followed? Let your own story bring courage to you now. Don’t hesitate! Take the leap! Underneath are the everlasting arms. He won’t lead you anywhere He won’t be with you. Obedience can only bring blessing. And it is so worth the risk!
(originally published as a guest post on the Door of Hope women's blog in February 2015)