Today, something incredible happened.
I actually had already began a post this morning to catch people up on how God is changing me here (don’t worry, that will still come), but then God did his thing in one of my classes, and I can’t help but share.
I have a student named Kanha. She is 22 years old and though she began her curriculum at the BEST center as a Buddhist, after reading and learning about God and Jesus, she now believes in Jesus and wants to have a relationship with him. However, the church that she occasionally attends apparently has some discrepancies about baptism, and so she hasn’t understood why she would even want to be baptized. When I first began class with her, she was in the curriculum’s “Book 4” which teaches about, among other things, baptism. Which was cool (sarcasm), because when I stepped off the plane here I wasn’t really all that clear what I even believed about baptism. (My journey through that over these last two weeks has been great, but is a completely different story.) Makes it hard to teach when you are unsure about something yourself.
Enter the Holy Spirit.
Yesterday, I was talking to a friend who is struggling with his faith. For some reason, the Spirit moved in me to tell him that God wasn’t trying to make things worse for him, but was trying to make a really good trade with him. He (she, it… the Spirit) put the image in my mind of a really old, beat up Razor phone as my friend’s life–it is falling apart and just isn’t working for him anymore. And God says, “You give me your old phone, and I will give you a brand-new iPhone 5 with an unlimited data plan. Just a trade. Sound good?”
Um, yeah. Sounds pretty good.
Anyways, we have that conversation, and then later, I start to think about it more. I think about the fact that even if you technically had both phones at the same time, you only have one “phone number,” so there could only be one phone activated at a time. And how stupid it would be to reactivate the Razor when you had the iPhone 5 sitting right there– no one would do that! But God already said that we can’t get the iPhone 5 without trading in the Razor. We can’t have our new life without trading in the old. My brain (plus the Spirit, none of this actually comes out of my own mind) jumped to the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 9: “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment… neither is old wine put into old wineskins.” We must get rid of the old to begin again with God.
So that all runs through my mind, and I actually text my friend to tell him how cool it was that God used what I had told him to teach me something as well. That I am glad I got to talk to him because God teaches me more from my metaphors than I even realize is there. I recognized that God had wanted me to learn from this illustration as well.
Also yesterday, I had one student cancel class for the day, another group of students have to take a test, and my regular two hour-long breaks, so four hours total of time that I could pretty much do whatever. I really had a strong desire to read, so I devoured “not a fan.” by Kyle Idleman. I almost read the whole book. One really key point of the book, at least the one that stuck out to me, was that following Jesus doesn’t come without a cost–it’s not easy, and to present the gospel as sunshine and butterflies strongly contradicts reality. Kyle made the point that we shouldn’t be trying to make the gospel look as attractive as possible, we should be sharing the truth. Otherwise, when the going gets rough and our “wealth and happiness and blessings all-around” message proves false, the people who came for that will be gone for good.
So, cell phone trade-in. No bows in Jesus’ hair.
Fast forward to today.
Kanha really wants to understand baptism. She asks me questions all the time, hard questions. I have tried to explain things the best I can, but sometimes the complex subject + worldview differences + language barrier just proves to be a bit too much. And even when it doesn’t, I can tell that no matter how hard I have tried to present baptism as from the heart out of love for God, it still has felt like LAW to Kanha. Which doesn’t bring life into the situation at all. So we are talking, and she is asking me questions, and I can tell that what I’m saying just isn’t making it to her heart. All of a sudden, the Spirit powerfully reminded me of the cell phone metaphor. Now, I was using that metaphor yesterday to talk about how God isn’t trying to cheat us–we can trust that he wants to give us something better–and yet here it is popping up in a conversation about why we should be baptized….
so of course, it fits perfectly.
Using that, I begin to explain to her that when we are baptized, we are making this trade with God, our old life for the new. That we can’t hang on to the old life and still expect to receive the new. That it is the best trade we could ever make, and it would be crazy not to.
She gets it.
She gets it she gets it she gets it and all of a sudden she is smiling and happy and she understands. AAAHHHH! (Dances around the room) I show her the verse about the wineskins to show her where Jesus talks about this and you could tell that she really understood! Wowza. I had just told my friend yesterday that I felt like God had wanted me to learn from that metaphor, and then he proved it! Talk about being humbled.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.
Wanna know what she asks me next? (I bet you can guess.)
“So, when we are baptized and follow Jesus, he gives us everything that makes us happy?”
Oh, no worries Kanha, God actually cleared up my teaching schedule yesterday to make sure that I would be prepared to answer this question. WHAT?? I was trying to keep from freaking out. It was so surreal.
I told her NO, not even close. I told her that following Jesus actually makes life really hard in a lot of ways. The world is going in one direction, and we are going in the opposite way–we are bound to get pushed around, stepped on, run over. I reminded her of the phone analogy and how we do have to give something up to follow Jesus. I told her about the disciples being persecuted. I told her how even Jesus himself warns us that people are going to hate us because of him. But the whole time, I told her how much it is worth it. At one point she asked if I ever felt like I had lost anything because I was following Jesus, and I told her yes and talked about the romantic relationship I’ve had to give up for God. But I told her that as hard as some things like that may be to lose, life with God is still worth trading for every time. I told her that even if the entire world hates me, the God who made that world love me, thinks I’m beautiful, thinks I’m worth dying for, so the world’s hate pales in comparison.
It all literally poured out of me.
And the greatest thing was, the more I told her about how hard it can be to follow Jesus, the more assuredly I was able to say it was worth it. The more I told her about how hard it can be to follow Jesus, the more joy I spoke with, and the more she smiled with me. It was amazing! Here I was, telling her that life with Jesus isn’t easy, that people may make fun of her or even hate her, etc., and we are both smiling and excited. OH MY GOODNESS IF THAT ISN’T THE HOLY SPIRIT MOVING I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS. It was so full of life! The truth brings life and freedom and it did today.
Oh, and by the way, I actually was voice-recording that class when all of this happened. I’m sure God is going to use that at some point in my life as well.