I find it quite humorous that I once thought I would be making a sacrifice to serve with Mercy Ships. I wanted God to change me and thought that He needed to take me out of my comfort zone to do that. Little did I know that in leaving my comfort zone, I would find true life.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:25, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” In the past, I’ve always focused on the loss of life mentioned in that verse, that being a believer requires me to make radical sacrifices in this life that will one day pay off in eternity. While that is absolutely true, I've learned that the second part of that verse is just as true--that the sacrifices we make to follow God pale in comparison to the joy He gives us in exchange. Sure, it’s scary to let go of the comforts of home and step out into the unknown, but I can now say with 100% certainty that His plan is better. When Jesus talks about finding life, I don’t think He’s just talking about heaven; I think He’s talking about now.
C.S. Lewis sums it up when he says, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased."
What do I love about abundant life?
- I love having little four-year-old fingers wrapped around my hair as a giggling voice tells me that my French is not good.
- I love practicing my French so that I can connect with people like Danielle and her mom.
- I love dipping my toes into the ocean and realizing suddenly that it’s the same Atlantic Ocean that touched my toes in June from the other side of the world.
- I love bonfires on the beach with two guys playing guitars and a harmony of voices singing praise songs.
- I love discovering that God can literally be my joy when I miss home.
- I love fried plantains, brownies made from scratch, and figuring out a new way to make the same old salad.
- I love having my fingernails painted by a five-year-old manicurist on the hospital ward.
- I love wondering why I keep losing my balance while doing aerobics and then remembering I live on a rocking ship.
- I love being rocked to sleep at night.
- I love new girlfriends.
- I love camping out in tents on the beach and the refreshing chill of the outdoor shower after getting covered in sand and sunscreen.
- I love realizing that bug spray really does work to keep mosquitoes (and hence, malaria) away.
- I love completing my Bible study homework and noticing that God must have arranged for that lesson to be placed in the book at the exact moment that I needed it to read it.
- I love praying with my students every morning, and I especially love hearing them check on the people for whom we have prayed.
- I love laughing with the other teachers at our morning devotions and afternoon faculty meetings.
- I love Thursday night community meetings.
- I love all of the different accents and cultural expressions of my new friends.
- I love nicknames, especially those that are acquired through a funny story.
- Most of all, I love knowing (and really trusting) that my Father wants what is best for me, and there’s no reason to be afraid to follow where He leads.
He is worthy to be trusted with our lives. Because He loves us. And because He is good. He didn’t promise a pain-free life, but He did promise an abundant one. He is able to be our peace in the midst of struggle, our joy in the midst of pain. He is able to take what is ordinary and turn it into an adventure. What we speak of as sacrifice would be better explained as trading in our trash for treasure.