Last weekend I taught a two hour seminar to writers on “Becoming an Incarnational Writer.” The point of the workshop is to help writers think about their readers and not just the words they wrote. In my pre-field training we looked at the incarnation as a model for how we could enter into our new host cultures.
It was good stuff! But I thought I knew far more than I actually did. How hard can this incarnational stuff be when you go in the name of Christ and carry good news? Right? (Ha, oh sweet ignorant Amy.)
Incarnation means “was made flesh.” In particular, that God was made flesh and entered humanity as Jesus. Whether you are preparing to go to the field, in your first term, or been on the field for a lifetime, what do you notice about the incarnation from these key phrases from scriptures:
“The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14
“In the fullness of time God sent forth his son.” Galatians 4:4-5
“Christ came into the world that he might save sinners . . . Christ might display his immense patience as an example.” 1 Timothy 1:15-17
He comes “lowly and riding on a donkey.” Zechariah 9;9
“He humbled himself by becoming obedient, even to the point of death.” Phillpians 2:8
What stood out to you? I was struck again by how integral dwelling and humility are to an incarnational approach . . . and how long they take!
Humility means to “have or show a modest or low estimate of your own importance.” Because this is read in so many locations and by such a wide range of experiences, no one way to be humble exists that is the same for each of us. But the work of having a low estimate of our own importance starts internally and is manifested externally.
It also works not only in your host country, but in your passport country too. Many A Life Overseas readers may not actually be living overseas as you read this. Perhaps COVID or family needs or visa policies have brought you to a land that you do not feel deserves the humble touch. You may be right, I don’t know. But I do know that incarnational living isn’t just for when we go to the field.
Which brings me to the second core concept that stood out to me: dwell. Being incarnational involves dwelling. I found three definitions that helped unpack what true dwelling involves:
—to live in or at a specified place
—to linger on
—to think, speak, or write at length about
What convicted me was not that concept of dwelling, but the focus of my dwelling. Maybe it’s the same for you. What do you linger on in your thoughts? What do you chew on in your conversations like a cow with her cud? Venting is fine! Having real emotions and reactions to hard situations is healthy and good. But choosing to dwell instead of process and move on is perhaps not the patience or obedience of incarnation.
Here are five principles or nuggets I noticed about the incarnation that I hope encourage you:
1. Jesus was a helpless baby. He started out as a baby! We do not have to know everything. Whew :)!
2. Jesus grew at the same rate as everyone. It’s true that he was teaching others at the ripe old age of twelve. You too will have some areas you excel in. But overall being incarnational means that you too will have to “work the program.” You’ll have to grow and achieve step-by-step.
3. Jesus built community. He had family, friends, and co-workers.
4. Jesus communed with God. We know that Jesus pulled away and spent time with God. Building community and spending time with God need to both exist in an incarnational life.
5. Finally, Jesus stayed focused on his “assignment.” Just like us, Jesus had many opportunities vying for his time such as healing the sick, addressing political messes, instructing the masses, building furniture, and on and on. While he did all of those things when the intersected with his God given assignment, they were never out of proportion in his life.
As you’ve read this post and thought about your own incarnational experience, and in particular wherever you happen to be right now, what stood out to you?