I’ve been a Christian for 31 years. Or have I?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I made a decision to follow Christ at the age of three. I’ve lived my life in light of this decision. I’ve also lived my life in the shadows of this decision.

Over the past 15-ish months — in the transition from age 33 to 34 — I’ve journeyed through a season of personal crisis that touched all aspects of my life: physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological. And for the first time in my life, standing at a crossroads I made a deliberate, intentional choice to stay with, and follow, my Lord Jesus Christ. I am more aware than ever of the consequences, cost, and blessing of that choice.

I’m beginning to understand for the first time what abundance truly means.

Apparently I’m rather stubborn… and a slow learner. But my resulting gratitude increases exponentially as I grow in my understanding of His abundant pardon and abundant mercy.

What does that understanding actually look like?

It looks like gratitude. It looks likeaction. And it looks a lot like risk.

I recently returned from a disaster response trip to northern Iraq, during which our team fed and clothed those displaced by ISIS. Now, saying you’re going to Iraq is a bit of a conversation stopper. And many, many people thought, and still think, I was crazy for going there: “It’s so dangerous!” Well, yes. And so is being a follower of Jesus Christ. So is living by Isaiah 58, my personal calling and what I strive for:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?...
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.”
 Isaiah 58:6-7, 9b-10

You see, I am a Project Manager for an international humanitarian aid organization. So Isaiah 58 is not only a mandate for my life, it is a mandate for my work. Nice how that fits together isn’t it?

And yet I’m not going to let you off the hook because you’re a teacher, stay-at-home mom, writer, mechanic, or candlestick maker. Isaiah 58 has no fine print that says “only for aid workers”.

I strongly believe God protected me in Iraq. Just the other day, a car bomb exploded in the very area I was in multiple times while in-country. He heard the prayers of the many, and for reasons not yet revealed, He kept my life.

And so, my understanding of abundance also looks like a protected sojourn, praise God.

"The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.”
Psalm 121:7-8

Let’s say God “keeping” my life, keeping my going out and my coming in, looks vastly different than my definition of “keeping”. Or the definition according to those who care about me. Because it could mean pain, anguish, suffering, even death.

Is abundance worth it?

Having walked through these past 15 months - and continuing my pilgrim’s progress - I can say, unequivocally, my Lord Jesus is “abundantly worth it.”

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

Photo Credit: Wojtek Witkowski