What Would I Do?

Our Easter service was incredible and though it’s already been a couple weeks ago I still want to write about it…
Our pastor, Travis is a very down-to-earth kind of guy who is easy to talk to and whose sermons are straight forward, challenging, and easy to understand. One of my favorite parts about his preaching is that he almost always leaves us with simple practical applications related to his message. Sometimes it is a challenge to do something, to act on what the Spirit is saying to us. Other times it is simply questions to ask ourselves internally and evaluate our heart responses.
On Easter Sunday Travis started out with a couple of hard hitting questions in his introduction. His overall message had to do with serving and being served. He opened with this question:

 If you knew that the big earthquake (apparently “the big one” is due to hit Salt Lake at any time) was going to happen tomorrow, what would you do? Would you pack your family up and leave town? Would you stay here and plan to help those in need, those who are hurt, confused, lost, and suffering?

I thought to myself, I would stay here. I would make sure we were safe and prepared for the big one, and then do whatever we can to help those around us in need. Okay, that was simple enough, but Pastor Travis didn’t stop there. No, he raised the stakes with his next question.

If a terrible disease, a plague, was spreading through the Salt Lake Valley and you knew the chances that you or your family would catch it and possibly die were great, what would you do? Would you stay and help those suffering and dying? Would you flee?

I looked down at my beautiful daughter, happily chewing on my fingers and felt a stab in my heart. What would I do? When my life involved just me, and even when it was just Kris and I, decisions like this weren’t so difficult. Sure, there were risks, but to be serving and meeting such a real need seemed worth it. We’d often traveled overseas, knowing that we were at risk of contracting diseased or parasites. We rock climbed, knowing the intrinsic risk in such a sport. We took it all in stride because we were adults who could weigh the costs and make decisions that were (hopefully) wise.
But now, now that another life depends on me, now that a part of me that lives outside of me may be exposed to suffering and even death, my easy answers faded from black and white to a confusing grey. Just the thought of my little daughter suffering from a terrible disease was almost more than I could bear.
The rest of Travis’s sermon was fantastic but I had a hard time listening because I kept coming back to that question. What would I do?
I found myself searching my mind for scriptures that would guide me. Bits and pieces of Matthew 10:37  and Matthew 19:29 would come to mind and I would choke down sobs of fear and dread. Would God really ask me to put my beloved daughter in danger? Does he want me to sacrifice her safety and wellbeing? Aren’t she and Kris my primary ministry? God gave his only son to suffer and die for my sins and the sins of this world. We praise him for making such a sacrifice, for being willing to see his beloved son suffer for others. Now, he, GOD, would he really want me, a mere mortal, to do the same thing? How can I possibly? How can I even imagine doing that which God has done?
Since Jennika was born I’ve struggled a great deal with the realization that I’m not in control and no matter what I do, no matter how good, devoted and pious I am I cannot guarantee the safety and happiness of those I love. I can’t make deals with God, though I desperately want to at times.
A dear friend of mine recently went through a harrowing ordeal with her precious four month old who contracted a dangerous virus in his heart. They almost lost him. He is recovering now and things look good for him, but in those twelve days of touch-and-go my heart broke for my friend. I cannot imagine the gamut of emotions she felt. She experienced one of my worst nightmares. Yet now as they are pulling out of that nightmare she is able to say that God is good and that she is convinced that he used that situation to “groom” them for something in the future. What an amazing perspective! Could I say that if I was in her shoes?
Another friend of mine recently told me about a class she is taking on the Psalms and that through it she is realizing that “we have domesticated a God who is as uncontrollable as a thunderstorm…” It’s true and I know I’m guilty. I know that I often want a safe god, a god who will give me what I want and not make me tremble. But then I don’t want that, because then he wouldn’t be the God of the universe. I wouldn’t stand in awe of him, I wouldn’t be amazed and I wouldn’t trust him with everything that is dear to me, because he wouldn’t be great and powerful.
So, in the dead of the night when I am lying awake in bed and suddenly struck with the fear that somebody or something will take Kris or Jennika away from me, all I can do is give them back to God, and pray that He keep them. I often feel so helpless and vulnerable. I feel like my heart is fully exposed and no longer safely inside me but now with those I love and I hope it is safe there, but there are no guarantees.
The funny thing is all of this has led me to a place that I think God wants me to be. I am vulnerable, I always have been, but now I know it. Every day that I wake up with Kris beside me and Jennika calling for me is a day that I should thank him for giving me such wonderful gifts. I haven’t earned them but he has blessed me with them. I am learning how to rest close to him, a big, scary, dangerous, loving, powerful, wonderful God who has wonderfully taken care of me and those I love.
So what would I do? I honestly don’t know. I don’t think there is one right answer for everybody or every situation. Sometimes I think God does ask us to put at risk that which we love the most, he did with Abraham. Other times I think he tells us to protect those same things. So my hope is that I will continue to stay close to him, nestled in his arms, scared but trusting, giving him all that I love and all my fears. I hope that my response to whatever he asks of me will be, “Yes, Lord.”  

 

Lessons Learned in Moab

Anybody who knows me even a little knows that I am a planner through and through. I love love LOVE making lists and schedules. How much you ask? Well, for example, each week I make a menu of what we’re going to eat, a grocery list, and a to-do list. I even have sub-divided my lists into short term to-dos and long term to-dos! Crossing items off those lists gives me such a great feeling of, not only accomplishment, but I think also security. In my mind I’m valuable because I have done something notable. Even if it was just emptying the dishwasher, it was something written down and set to be done. And I DID IT. Good job Nikki!
 I know that this isn’t really true. That God doesn’t peek over my shoulder at my crossed off items and say, “Nikki has gotten seven things crossed off her list already! Man, I knew I really liked her for some reason!”  
Romans 8:38-39 says:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now I know it doesn’t mention anything in there about to-do lists, but I think that falls under the “anything else in all creation” category. The thing that stands out to me about this verse right now are the first four words. For I am convinced…am I? Do I really believe that no matter what I do or don’t get done today I will still be immensely loved by my Father? Well on days when I do get a lot done, sure I am convinced, because I feel good about myself. But on those sad, bad days when nothing seems to go right, or when I just can’t get going and motivated, those days when my list seems daunting and, rather than inspire me, it seems to point an accusing finger at me, I have to say I’m not convinced. On those days, which do happen all too often, I feel worthless, old, tired and discouraged.
This last week my brother and sister-in-law came up from Durango for a visit. Friday morning we decided to accompany them part of the way home and spend some time rock climbing and hiking in Moab. Then we’d part ways, them heading further south to Durango and us back home. Moab is about 4 hours from our home and an incredible place. We enjoyed the brisk afternoon weather, sunny but still chilly, as we hiked through winding canyons with sandstone towers rising several hundred feet above us. At the end of the hike we were rewarded with an incredible view of the valley. As we ate lunch at the local Wendy’s Kris suggested that we spend the night and then have some more time playing Saturday morning before we headed home. As he jogged across the street to check out hotel rates, a battle began to rise inside of me. The list-making part of me panicked. We haven’t planned for this! We didn’t schedule this! We don’t have any extra food, clothes, or really anything to spend the night!
But then a little part of me was excited. What a fun little adventure! We can “rough it” for one night and then enjoy this beautiful place a little more.
I think I hid my internal battle fairly well. Kris came back and said there were very few rooms left in Moab due to a half-marathon event that weekend. If we wanted a room we needed to make a decision quickly. My first (internal) response was relief, this would be easy to get out of. I played the religious card and suggested that we go on our outing and then decide afterwards if we wanted to spend the night or not. If a room was still available then we’d know we were supposed to stay. If it was “God’s will”, in other words, a room would be held for us.
Kris shot that idea down quickly, his logical mind calculating that it would be very unlikely that we’d come back and find an available room.
“Okay, whatever you think is best is fine with me, Kris.” I said, trying to sound convincing. Deep down the list making Nikki was losing and she knew it. The spontaneous, adventure craving Nikki was rejoicing at this opportunity. Kris quickly made a phone call and reserved one of the last available rooms in Moab.
This seemingly little decision ended up being the beginning of a huge revelation for me. That night as we settled into our hotel I felt young and giddy. I was excited as Kris went to the store to buy toothbrushes and I washed out our clothes in the bathroom sink with hand-soap. I know there’s nothing all that daring or crazy about what we were doing. But I realized that sometimes my desire to have things planned and scheduled can rule out a certain element of fun and adventure.
The revelation continued Saturday morning when we got up and drove out to Arches National Park. We spent the next five hours on a strenuous, beautiful, breath-taking hike. We saw incredible natural arches and sculptures, some that may only exist for a little while longer before succumbing to gravity and erosion. Repeatedly aloud and silently I thanked God for making all the beauty that surrounded us and for giving us the pleasure of being able to see it. I thought a lot about the last twenty-four hours as we hiked and felt like God was showing me how much he loved me in that hike. I had not accomplished a single productive or notable thing since we left home but oh, how blessed and loved I felt. God loved me enough to inspire my husband to extend our stay so that He could take me out into His creation and speak to me about how silly those lists really are. Yes, He made me to be a planner and a list-maker. But He didn’t make me to derive value, blessing, my sense of purpose, or even really pleasure from my lists and plans. He wants me to come to Him for that, and really that’s the only place where my pleasure and true value will ever come from. I’ll never be disappointed when I look to him, in fact, I think I learned from this trip that I’ll end up being amazed.
So now, in the trunk of our car sits a little overnight bag. It’s packed with all the little items we’d need should we ever decide to stay the night somewhere at the last minute. Because all of me, even the scheduler, wants to ALWAYS fully embrace all the adventure that God has for me. 🙂 Hidden Away in the fins of Arches National Park

For the rest of our pictures from this trip, click here and video made by Willie.