Fresh out of bible college in 1998 and on quite a high, I felt led by the Lord to work overseas for 3 months in Russia, with street children. On joining the team there, as the newcomer, I was designated the job of breakfast washer-upper and toilet cleaner at the day centre where the children came. As I scrubbed the encrusted porridge bowls and then later the rather well-used toilet bowl (there was only one in the centre) I entered into a bit of a crisis in my mind. Hadn’t I just spent 2 years at bible college studying theology, writing papers and learning how to preach? Why then had God brought me to such menial work as this?
I battled rather ill-tempered through the next few months at the sink until eventually I sought the Lord and humbled my heart. I felt Him respond with the question, ‘If I chose to do nothing more with your life but give you the gift of salvation would you be content with that?’ I thought long and hard over the next few days. Salvation was the most incredible gift He had given me – saved from hell to eternal life! Yes, I would be content with that! In reaching that place I felt a peace settle over my spirit. The focus of my attention on my own cause shifted as I reflected on the wonderful things He had and was doing in my life. I began to give value to simple acts because of how difficult they often proved to be!
On returning to England, I then entered another work environment, this time as a carer in a nursing home. Much of my time there was spent toileting the elderly residents. Again, in the complexity of my thinking, with my longings for ‘being in service to the Lord’ and sharing my theological view points, I puzzled as to why I was doing little more than wiping bottoms! The Lord caught hold of me in my frustration and showed me afresh the passage in James chapter 1 v 27, ‘Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.’ Whoa…. that seemed so….well…ordinary and a bit too simplistic. Could He really mean it?
God began to unravel in my mind, the vital importance and centrality of what perhaps I had considered as rather mundane and not so spiritual for someone with theological training. Maybe I had (rather ashamedly) considered practical deeds of kindness and hospitality as something to be getting on with until a ‘bigger and better’ opportunity come along such as standing in the pulpit. In truth He was declaring that serving others in this way was very good, essential to life and at the forefront of His mind!
OK, so I decided, I would do it…. for a season. Then perhaps He would release me into something more important…..?
As time went on, the season prolonged. As I sought to apply myself, I came to see the pride in my heart and the lack of love I truly had for people….and for God. I was a complete beginner when it came to loving my neighbour as myself – that precious commandment of Jesus in the scriptures. I began to go through a major mindset change in understanding that God’s agenda was so completely different to mine and that the kind of things He was saying were important in this life really were important, period, and that they greatly impacted the world as He had created it to be and as He would have it be.
One thing becomes increasingly apparent, how we as women can become conditioned by the world. The world is teaching us one thing, and God and the bible are teaching another. It is imperative that we stop in our tracks now, those of us who have decided to be disciples of Jesus and start asking the Lord for spiritual discernment in how to live our lives. We need to consider how our mindsets are being arranged by the patterns of this age. We live in a world that is at enmity with God and His ways and there is a spiritual battle going on. The enemy is seeking to destroy the truth of God and the faith of saints who seek to serve Him. If we believe we are immune to the effects of its influences or able to discern easily what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ we might need to think again and come before Him with a humble heart.
When we seek to implement them in our lives, the scriptures reveal the degree to which we have been affected by the world. If we start to kick against the goads over a piece of scripture or feel embarrassed by something that we know to be written in them, let us not deny the scripture, try to change it, ignore it, mock it, or move swiftly on. Let us get alone with God and understand what is going on in our hearts; what emotions are being triggered and why they are being triggered. Let us ask ourselves if we have any pain or wound from the past that needs healing from a difficult relationship or a wrongful way that a person has tried to control or manipulate us and perhaps distort our thinking towards scripture. Are we fearful that we may fail to find fulfilment by following God’s path, or be used in a bad way by a particular man or woman? Do we have rebellion in our hearts, rejection or pride or a belief that we can do something better than another person? Opening our hearts honestly before the Lord to let Him examine them can be a difficult process but of utmost importance in discovering any bitter roots or misplaced thinking. God can help in all these situations and give us strength to walk in His narrow way, submitting ourselves to His word even when it seems virtually impossible to do so in our own ability.
The world is introducing and implementing many ‘ideals’ which it considers fair and balanced but which are contrary to the word of God. If we sleep as Christian women we will end up being blind to the enemy tactics and departing from God’s life into the world’s because at first the way seems oh so nice. If we comply with the world’s demands we will disturb and overturn God’s spiritual order both in the church and in the spiritual realms. We might not witness or even see the outcome or effect immediately because initially it feels that what we are doing is ‘good’ in our own eyes. But it is affecting things – greatly – and if we don’t reap the consequences the next generation will.
Shall we continue to be conditioned and shaped by the trends and fashions of the world thereby undermining God’s wisdom? Or shall we wake up as women of God and start once more to bend our hearts to His purposes and ways and ‘difficult’ passages of scripture with faith, courage and trust and thereby reap the seen and unseen rewards?