Friday, June 07, 2013

subdued by obedience

When we had a little book written on my father's life, we called it Surprised by Obedience. That title seemed to catch the twists and turns of his life and the way God kept calling him away from areas of proven skill and gifting. [NB: I've posted some tributes to my Dad here and here and here].

Obedience can surprise. But it can subdue as well. This is where I am right now. Barby and I plan to move to Asia in August. We have been walking in this direction for some time. We believe this is what God requires of us. We are committed to the 'trust and obey, there is no other way' lifestyle. But I am not saintly enough to find this anything other than sobering at the moment. Leaving children and grandchild(ren!)? Moving on from the church and culture we know and in which we are known and, I guess, have some credibility? Stepping back from leadership? Sitting in the backseat? Starting again? It is all straightforward in theory - but a bit more sobering in practise.

Nevertheless I am helped by one prayer, one quotation, two lives ... and three hymns.

Each morning that I am in NZ I read a chapter from a big book (too big to take on the road!) - Ajith Fernando's Deuteronomy: Loving Obedience to a Loving GodI love the way Ajith writes. He wanders through his Bible and rummages through his life as he speaks personally, conversationally and directly into my life. On page 133 he mentions the Covenant Service in his Methodist Church. I had never heard of it. The service reaches its climax with a prayer. How did I reach 53 years of age without knowing this prayer? It goes like this:
I am no longer my own, but yours.  Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
Patrick Fung (International Director, OMF) has re-popularised a phrase from one of his predecessors, DE Hoste, in a little book entitled Live to be Forgotten. The full quotation is below. To be honest, I am not sure I am there yet - but I am asking God for the grace to help me so to live.

The quotation at the OMF Centre (Chiangmai) - on my very first training week with Langham
I've had the great privilege of working with Patrick and Ajith in Langham. The lives they live are consistent with the life to which their words point me. Patrick is the leader of a massive mission and each training week he sits through the sessions, taking notes, participating and learning along with others. He is not incessantly on his mobile phone, or answering emails on his laptop. He is not full of his own importance. I find that so humbling. As for Ajith, there must be dozens of Western churches, colleges and organisations that have tried to steal him from Sri Lanka. Nah?! Steadfastly, he stays there - and he does not just stay there, he lives simply for the sake of the poor, the young and the marginalised in that country.

A prayer. A quotation. Two lives.
They are all playing their part in my life.

Then there are the hymns.
On a recent Sunday evening, I was stirred again by the last two lines of 'Take My Life':
Take my self, and I will be                                                                                         Ever, only, all for Thee.
Ever? That means there is no time in my life when it is not true. Only? That means there are no rivals in my life making this not true. All? That means there is no space in my life for which it is not true.

Then there is the final verse of 'Lord, Speak to Me':
O use me, Lord, use even me,
Just as Thou wilt, and when, and where.
I am drawn to the way the humble surprise of 'use even me' mingles with the obedient willingness of 'wilt, and when, and where'.

Then I can always go back to listen to my Dad sing 'So, Send I You' (it is the final song which he sings in this post). I remember hearing him sing it - more than thirty years ago - when I was the age of my children and my Mum and Dad were leaving home to live in Asia. As I listened to his voice quiver more and more as the song progressed, I realised that my parents were subdued by obedience as well.

nice chatting

Paul

2 comments:

Ali said...

I admit I had wondered whether you would remain in NZ. Wow. God bless you as you continue to prepare and as you continue to obey.

Paul said...

Thanks, Ali

Interesting how each stage of life has its challenges - but then how they are the same old ones recycled in different garb. 'trust and obey' would be one such challenge.

best wishes

paul