The Question on God’s Lips

by Amy Young on July 15, 2016

ALOS July

The Velvet Ashes book club is reading Lilias Trotter’s biography. At the same time, I read a biography of Hannah More, poet, reformer, and abolitionist. She was a contemporary to William Wilberforce and what he accomplished in parliament, she accomplished in publishing. They were both part of the Clapham Sect. I love reading biographies and hearing of life outside of the countries or centuries I’ve lived in. They remind me of how universal life is.

In the comments at the Velvet Ashes book club, the subject was raised about how hard it was to follow Lilias Trotter for those who came after her in Algeria. She was formidable, as were any number we could mention. Often, I find, we compare our today, this boring ordinary day, to the sum total of another’s life and come up short.

The urge to hustle for our worth is not from God.

Have I opened the first public restaurant for the working girls of London as Hannah More did? No.

Have I forsaken a clear talent that could have earned me world renown like Lilias Trotter did? With a hearty laugh, I say, “No!”

Am I a household name across a country like Da Sha, the most famous foreigner from Canada in China? Um, nope.

On Monday I looked at the writing schedule to see if this post would go live this week or next. I love writing and discussing issues here, but I am beginning to sense a stirring to hustle for my worth. Recent topics include:

Persecution—unless you count medical procedures without anesthesia, I have thankfully little personal experience in this area.

Misogyny in Missions (Parts one and two)—did you see the number of comments and the discussion on Facebook? Rich and necessary.

A book list that will knock your socks off—anyone else think Kay is one of the wisest people?

Missions and suffering and air-conditioners—another poignant discussion at the crossroads of theory and practice.

As I was praying about this post, the Holy Spirit whispered, “Amy, sometimes you make it too big. Let’s review two points. Where do I have you? Have you been faithful?”

For the most part, my work is unseen as I sit, hooked up to the Internet, writing posts, working on another book, helping to organize and support the work of Velvet Ashes. Now that it is summer and my weekly ESL class is on summer hiatus, the most consistent interaction I have with people outside of family is at the gym.

Part of me wants to play a ministry shell game where with a sleight of hand, I distract you and make it sound like I did not just admit that my most significant interaction isn’t with people coming out of human trafficking, or teaching street children to read, or changing the world with fair-trade.

All worthy. All Jesus infused. All not-my-life. Instead my current life involves talking with people wearing workout clothes.

Child, let’s review two points. Where do I have you? Have you been faithful?

Benita is consistently late to classes at our gym, but when she comes in, we nod at each other in recognition and I give her a hug at our first song break. About a year ago, before I knew her name, she said at the end of class, “I’d like to talk to you.” I assumed she wanted to complain about Johnny who was annoyingly unaware of the idea of personal space.

Imagine my disappointment with myself when she said, “My daughter failed her bar exam and is distraught. I don’t know how to help her and I can’t tell anyone. You’re the first person I’ve told.”

This spring, in short two to three minute conversations after class, we’ve talked about her marriage problems, her brother’s serious car accident, finding renters for her daughter’s house, and a bit about my book.

Yesterday, at the end of class, she came up to me with tears in her eyes and said, “All it took was a hug.”

She went on, “I don’t know why I am drawn to you Amy, but you have helped me so much and all it took was a hug to know I wasn’t alone in my marriage or my life. I know you pray for me.”

Sometimes we make it too big.

Where does God have you? Have you been faithful?

Those are more life-giving questions than questions focused inordinately on impact, numbers, or words like “new, innovative, or cutting edge.” Do we need to have measures for our work and the spread of the gospel? The way this question is phrased whispers an unhealthy dichotomy for our souls. We need both—moments when we pause, review, and measure and moments where we ask, “What God has called you to? And are you faithful to it?”

Too often we focus on the former and discount the latter.

If you are like me and love and appreciate the recent conversations, but then feel sheepish about your current reality, God wants us to know that we matter. If you start to sense yourself hustling for your worth, remember the question on God’s lips is not, “How impressive are you?” More likely, it is “Are you faithful to where I have you?”

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About Amy Young

When Amy Young first moved to China she knew three Chinese words: hello, thank you and watermelon. Often the only words needed in life, right?! She is known to jump in without all the facts and blogs regularly at The Messy Middle. The tag is “where grace and truth reside.” People tend to be drawn to grace, grace, grace OR truth, truth, truth. Either side doesn’t require much discipline, do they? Instead they foster auto-pilot living. But real life happens … in the messy middle, with both. It can be maddening, right? But also exhilarating! She also works extensively with Velvet Ashes as content creator and curator, book club host, and connection group coordinator. Her book Looming Transitions: Starting and Finishing Well in Cross-Cultural Service was written with you in mind. It also has two companion resources: 22 Activities for Families in Transitions and Looming Transitions Workbook.
  • Kaylee Kelm

    Yes! Thank you, Amy. Once again, love your thoughts. And I love that you make something as simple as the gym your place of interaction. Sometimes as I sit in the my house, in the middle of this campus where we work, I think about all of the street kids that need help and all of the people going hungry, etc. but then I’m reminded that this day to day training of future cross-cultural workers may yield great things when placed in the hands of God.

    • Kaylee, Brene Brown talks about vulnerability hang-overs :). Today I’m having one. Something is still inordinately uncomfortable that I’m not doing something that is more visible amazing and therefore, feels valid to share. To talk about a conversation at the gym feels rather, um, reaching for straws. In my first version I shoved in many more examples of the small ways at the gym I have “made a difference.” And knew most of it needed to be removed because I added them to hustle for my worth, not to helpfully illustrate a point.

      This tuning into hustling and then turning towards God is hard :)!! And your day-to-day training matters so much. So much! God doesn’t incite hustle, he births delight. Hope you had a rich day with your training for the future!

  • Ruthie

    Amy, thank you for this excellent post! It was so encouraging and came at the right time. Thank you for serving faithfully where you and with what God has placed in your hands. 🙂

    • Ruthie, I’m thankful these words came at the right time. God is merciful to us 🙂

  • so good Amy! I feel the same way… sitting here, brand new… writing and not really having great interactions yet. Wondering if I’m working enough, doing enough… love these two questions. so simple and true. Thanks!

    • Ah, I fear that no matter whether we are new to the field or many years in (or “back home”), if we are not careful, this sense of “am I working enough, doing enough” can sneak in. I think these are questions I need to pull out about once a month.

  • Oh, yes, Amy. I’ve also been thinking a lot about this lately – and I’ve been reading through Kings again coming to the conclusion that we basically have one of two choices (regardless of our job descriptions or how much we’re doing in the eyes of the world) doing what is right/evil in the eyes of God. Thank you for sharing great insight as always 😉 Loved this post!

  • mmegginson

    Amy, great post! Thanks so much for reminding us about being faithful to the “little” things, that are really big things! I noticed that all the responses below were from women, but as guys we need to remember this as well. As guys, our gravitational pull is toward finding significance in our work, you know, the “we do therefore we are” thing. But during this first year on the field (Costa Rica) I am having to adjust to a different reality of learning to be content with just “being” here and being faithful in a slow process. Thanks for the encouragement and wisdom!

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