For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened – not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” 2 Corinthians 5:4
Two weeks ago today I was in Yangon, Myanmar, 11 hours and 30 minutes on the other side of the globe, about to begin my 27th and final day of ministry in that country. As is typical when the close of an important part of life looms near, I spent a large portion of that day contemplating all that the Lord had been working inside my heart that month, and that entire previous semester.
I think the phrase from Philippians really sums it up well where Paul writes to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” This semester has been a time of working out what God has placed in me, and being faithful to walk in what He speaks.
Find His Eyes
The thing I’ve felt most heavily this semester is that I am supposed to continually ask the Lord to see people with His eyes, and not my own. As a leader in my job and my family, as a student, and as a missionary, I felt strongly to seek the perspective of my Father about His children. Throughout the spring months I interceded for Jesus’ eyes, for Christ-like empathy for His people: a heart that would weep when they weep.
As I sought this perspective in my life I learned more and more how important it is to be humble and to truly love people like Jesus does, before there will ever be an opportunity for ministry. Ministry is not built on a platform, it is built in relationships. But these relationships must be founded in humility, in Christ-like love. When this love exists, out of it flows empathy, and the overflow of this empathy will fuel ministry.
However, Jesus is so much bigger than my one-dimensional mind, as I always manage to forget, and there was more to this lesson than I expected.
A large part of the process that I’ve been walking through this year is the struggle of overcoming disordered eating. Years of dancing, staring at my mirror-image for hours every day, constantly comparing all aspects of my physical self to others, and a severe case of personal perfectionism throughout high school launched me into a cycle of isolation and low self esteem. This cycle quickly spiraled downward into a perverted relationship with food and a twisted mentality about my body.
Throughout these past 6 months I have begun to seek healing from Jesus in this area that seemed to manipulate my life for so long. I have strived to restore my relationship with food and with myself, and to love myself despite my perceived flaws.
However, even in this healing process I’ve clung to my sense of control; I’ve hung on to the very thing that’s daily worked to destroy me. Even though I have searched for healing I haven’t truly been willing to give up my perfectionism or my sense of personal success in order to receive it. Even in the days leading up to my missions trip I spiraled downward, revisiting those lies I had kept safely hidden away from any sort of restoration.
In so many aspects of my life I’ve found that Jesus doesn’t just speak to me something for one aspect of life, but He always has more sides to it. As I asked Jesus over and over to give me His eyes for other people, I neglected to see Him holding them out to me, asking me use them first to see myself. He needed to first complete the healing process in my heart before I could be a broken (and mended) vessel to pour myself out to others.
(see my friend Eliana’s post for more about how God speaks in a such a multifaceted way!)
His eyes aren’t just for the broken, the depressed, the people in undeveloped countries, His eyes are for you. His greatest desire for you is that you would be willing to take of your glasses of perfection and pride, release your need for control, and look at yourself through Him. We don’t groan to be unclothed, but to be further clothed: to be clothed with His eyes. “that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life”.
Something Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest (a must read!) is that “it is so much easier to do something than to trust in God. We would rather work for God than believe in Him. Am I sure that God will do what I cannot do?”
I was so very willing to see people through the eyes of Jesus, to love them, to serve them, to minister. But through all of that I refused to hear the Holy Spirit whispering to me to trust Him with my brokenness and insecurity, to let Him heal me. I couldn’t overflow from a place that had yet to be healed.
We are all broken vessels, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians, and we will never be truly whole, but God isn’t content with leaving us how we are either. He longs to complete the work He has started in us; He wants to give us the grace to “work out our salvation“.