So you’re not sure you feel “called” to go overseas as a missionary. As a matter of fact, you’re not even sure what this “calling” thing is all about. Urbana motivated you. But for what? What should you be doing if you’re not pursuing a “call” to overseas missionary service?
I get that feeling sometimes too. I see Jesus saying things like, “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for the master to return from the wedding banquet,” (Luke 12:35). Or Peter, who says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring to you when he is revealed” (I Peter 1:13).
Prepared? What For?
What is it that we’re supposed to be prepared for? The surface answer in these passages and others like it is, “Be ready for the day of Christ’s return.” But what’s there to get ready for? He comes back and takes us into heaven with him. Near as I can tell we don’t do a lick. So what’s the purpose of us spending our time and energy getting ready?
The consummate scriptural image which describes Christ’s relationship to us is one of a bridegroom and bride. Revelation 19:7 says, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready.”
The marriage relationship has the potential to represent the most intimate and profound relationship any human can experience. That has been my experience as a husband of many years now. When Janine and I were engaged we were separated by a good distance. We were relegated to forms of communication other than face to face. This was hard. Preparation for a wedding not only involves many hours of thoughtful planning, but there is a good deal of emotional energy wrapped up in the approach of a marriage. For me, it seemed as though time had only one purpose—to finally arrive at December 29, 1984. Everything in my life pointed toward that date. Every calendar was marked. Most every thought was colored by the approach of our wedding.
Character and Maturity
Christ has envisioned his marriage to the Church since before creation. He is moving all of history to consummate in this climactic event. I believe that when our bridegroom thinks of this day, his heart beats faster. But he wants a bride which has taken some care to prepare herself for this union. Not a bride who is large (numerically speaking, that is), but one who has character and maturity.
A couple of years ago I had a kind of mid-life crisis, but because I was only about thirty I call it a 1/3rd life crisis. Things felt too settled. I wanted nations to come to Christ through my witness. I wanted to be involved in the strategic out-working of world evangelization. Instead I was shoveling snow and mowing the lawn in Wisconsin. Janine and I had pursued various mission opportunities but the doors seemed to close. Then one day, as I was feeling discouraged over my lack of front-line involvement in some dark, unreached corner, the Lord spoke to me—“You love my mission more than you love me.” It was true. Since then I have learned that even his mission is rubbish in comparison to the surpassing greatness of knowing him.
Preparing for the Lover of Your Soul
“And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” Revelation 21:2. For the person living in first century Mediterranean culture, bridal preparation and adornment involved three things: cleansing, anointing with oil and donning the clothing of a bride.
Let us concern ourselves with cleaning up the trash in our lives.
We tend to be deeply influenced by the wickedness around us. For instance, the United States is the largest consumer of drugs, the most prolific producer of pornography, and one of the most materialistic nations on earth. Those of us living in the U.S. cannot help but be affected and, at times, drawn in to these realities.
Let us allow the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit to fill us again and again.
As George Verwer said at Urbana 96, the Holy Spirit filled us upon conversion but we leak. Ephesians 5:15-20 encourages us to keep on being filled with the spirit while we make music to the Lord in our hearts. Take praise seriously in the days of preparation.
Finally, let’s get dressed.
Paul says in Galatians 3:12-14 to clothe ourselves with things like compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and, “above all, clothe yourselves with love.”
Concern yourself with preparing to marry the Lover of your soul and the confusion over “going vs. sending” will be swallowed up in a passion for him. Out of the intimacy that grows from engagement love will come clarity over how that love should be walked out in the world.