Jessica and I just returned from a trip to VA for her sister’s wedding. It was such a great time and really one of the only times that Jessica, Logan, Connor, and I have ever been alone together. It was awesome. The stress of a home with 8 children disappeared. The struggle of getting up every day knowing that issues are bound to arise (with this many children, it is pretty much a guarantee!!!). It was a great break from the same old scenery, same old drudgery, and same old circumstances. But it was also more than that. It was a time where her and I got to see each other as really husband and wife. Without the pressures of everything that we usually have, we really were able to connect in a way that was void of struggle and frustration. It really shook her and I to the core.
Upon returning, we had about a half hour’s reprieve and then…. “BAM!!!!” the world slapped us in the face, one more time, the way it has so many times before. The stress immediately began to pile up, and it just seemed like so many things that we had enjoyed went right out the window.
I write all that to say this, “Life would be so much easier not doing what the Lord has called us to do.” Whoa! I bet you are thinking, “Did he just write what I just read? And him, a pastor of all things!!!” I did write that and you did read it correctly. Jessica and I could spend every night in privacy, enjoying each other the way a husband and wife should. We could be pouring ourselves into Logan and Connor in ways that would take them mentally, emotionally, and spiritually years from where they are now. We could have the freedom to move wherever, work wherever, and do whatever. Seeing her parents would involve planning it out with them, not having to spend weeks finding babysitters for six more children. Our grocery bill would be significantly lighter. We could get by with one vehicle. We could actually have a guest room!!! Wait, we could actually have our own room instead of sleeping in a converted living room.
But by doing so, I wouldn’t be Justin Countryman… servant of God. Jessica would not be Jessica Countryman… servant of God. We would be Justin and Jessica Countryman… servants of self. She might get all of me in a certain sense, but she would not get all of God in me, as there is no way she could get that if I am not living out the fullness of His plan for my life. We might not have the stress we do now, but we for surely would not have the sense of purpose and the joy that comes from answering the call God has placed on your life. We might smile more on the outside, but we would be restless and torn on the inside. We might have the freedom to move where we want, do what we want, and work different jobs; but we would be bound to the thought of not giving God our all… and there is no freedom in that.
Matthew 19:29 says, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Strong words with strong responsibilities on our end that follow such words. I have long struggled with what this verse meant, but I believe, in some small way, that I am beginning to see what it means. While I have never forsaken Jessica and the kids and ran off to the mission field elsewhere, I have forsaken Jessica in that she does not get all of me she rightfully deserves. Raising children takes time, energy, and sustenance. It has to come from somewhere. Raising foster children involves the same but on a much more magnified level. Pastoring involves service and sacrifice. There are times when my family gets put on the back burner due to the needs of somebody in the congregation. I am forsaking my time with them in order to follow what the Lord has asked me to do.
I may be rambling, and you may think that I am completely off my rocker by saying what I have said, but for me, at my time in my life, this is what this verse means. Even though doing what the Lord asks of us costs, it is well worth it. When I think of what our life would look like without these children, I see a completely different path, and one that does not look so good. I would have never married Jessica were it not for the years of sacrifice in Lame Deer. Connor would not be born. I would not see Logan having the godly mother he so badly needs that he has found in Jessica. I would not be where I am in my relationship with the Lord, as every thing that has ever cost me something in His service has not only brought an amazing lesson from but also brought amazing growth from.
It is just like the Israelites: they were freed and told to follow the Lord. However, because it cost them something (mainly time spent wandering) they began to complain. When their complaining grew to a higher level, they began to remember how great it was in Egypt, how they ate meat around the campfires, and how it wasn’t so bad. It was all a bunch of lies. If we can let the enemy trick us into complaining even just a little bit, we miss out on where the Lord is leading us to and where He has lead us from, and trade eternity for a daydream. A while ago, in another blog or another paper, I wrote this: Complacency is accepting what is, causing the death of what could be. This is what the Israelites did. This is what you and I could be doing right now.
I never want to be a nominal Christian. I do not want to be a Christian that just does enough to get by. I do not want to be someone that lives a great life that knows of Jesus. I want to be someone that has a great life born out of my relationship with Christ. This means that my life may not be everything I ever dreamed it would be… and that is okay. My life can be everything God the Father planned it out to be, and it will be the better because of it.
If I have to have a little stress, or a little more stress, or a ton of stress for a little while until I can hear, “Well done, My good and faithful servant,” then that is okay with me. This life is not the life that matters… my eternal life is what matters.
As I am writing this blog, there is a song playing that says, “We will worship You like it is the last time on earth we will be able to.” That is the attitude I want to have every day I get up. “Lord, you woke me up this morning, so I am going to live this day like it is the last day I have on this earth to serve you.” And there is nothing the “Pharaoh’s” or “Egypt’s” of this world can do to take that from me!!!
My life is not my own, for it was bought at a price. How naïve to think I could accept the gift of salvation, call Jesus my Lord and Savior, yet retain the rights and privileges of keeping my life my own. My life is His, and as His, He owns the rights and privileges to it. It is His to do with as He pleases, whether I agree, whether it makes sense, or whether it fits into my schedule. The cost: heavy; the reward: unequalled.