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Life Verse

I have a life verse. It’s not an expected one. If you rounded up the usual suspects, my verse probably would not be there. If I were going to choose a life verse, this probably would not have been it. It would have been a more comforting verse, like Psalm 37:4.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

But no, that’s not how I do things. I suppose I would have to say that I didn’t choose my life verse. It chose me, or more accurately, God chose it for me.

Before I continue to reveal said verse, let me note that you are probably realizing that this blog is not written by Bernie, the usual blogger on the Remember Mongolia website. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually helped him out with material here. Probably because for me, blogging is a way to process and verbalize what is going on internally. Over the past couple of years, social media has allowed me to do that with some things and writing and teaching Bible Studies has given me an outlet with others. Neither of those venues seem appropriate here. That said….

More years ago than I want to mention, I was a college student living in Memphis, Tennessee. I don’t remember how I came across this verse, maybe because I was reading a book or studying about Philippians. When I read verse 3:10, it was as if something would never be the same.

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,”

and then of course, the conclusion in verse 11 of attaining the resurrection. I was drawn in and intrigued and the response that rose up from within was a prayer.

“Lord, I want to know You like this.”

I can still see it clearly in my mind. I had a dear friend, Alva, working in a law office in downtown Memphis. I met her for lunch in their conference room that was in a high rise building with one side completely made of glass. As I looked out on the beautiful clear day at the mighty Mississippi River, I shared my prayer with her. I can still remember her looking me full in the eyes and saying, “Renee’, that is a prayer God always answers.”

She went on to share with me of her own experience. She had been with a missions organization and during that time had spent six months in a Turkish prison for sharing the gospel. I knew that she knew what she was talking about.

What is it about youth that can romanticize something like prison? Perhaps its that idealism that comes with believing so strongly about something that you have to do something about it. And yes, this was also around the time that the missions spark was ignited in me. Now, I would say, “Oh, wow, that must have been rough.” I don’t remember what I said, but I know what I was thinking, “Oh, wow, that is so cool.” Do you ever miss naivety?

That was my first understanding of that verse. Suffering equals persecution. It means standing up for truth no matter what, and that was the kind of thing that appealed to me.

As I grew older, I continued to pray this prayer and, as Alva promised, God continued to answer. Then I got married and had two children. One day it dawned on me, that if I prayed that prayer, something might happen to my children. I understood suffering to be loss. I didn’t want to lose my husband or my children. We lived in a neighborhood with several police officers, and sometimes when they turned onto our street it looked as if they were turning in our driveway, and my heart would leap up into my throat until they passed by. So I stopped praying that prayer.

God, however, did not stop answering, and over time He gave me the courage and the faith to pray that again. He continued to answer.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having lunch with three very special Mongolian friends, Bayarmaa, Doggi and Onon. And God brought us, in our discussion, to this verse. I shared with them that this was my life verse. In the last couple of years, I have learned a new dimension to this verse. The four of us have to different extents. Suffering sometimes equals persecution. Suffering sometimes equals loss. But sometimes suffering is pain inflicted by others.

As I considered the Lord Jesus in His last days on earth, I thought about the different types of pain He went through. Certainly He was being persecuted. Certainly He suffered loss – He had to give His mother to His friend, John, to care for. I have to wonder, though, if the greater pain was in the betrayal of those closest to Him. The crowd, who just days before had cheered Him on with palm branches and loud Hosanas were now shouting for His crucifixion. Judas had betrayed Him with a kiss. Peter denied knowing him. The version of that incident in the book of Luke is very telling. He adds the detail that Jesus turned and looked at Him. I can’t imagine the pain in that look, to both the giver and the recipient. Peter himself went out and wept. Of all His followers, only John, his mother, his aunt and Mary Magdalene were with Him to the end.

Now I realize that if I continue to pray this prayer, I do so with eyes wide open. Suffering involves rejection. It involves betrayal. It involves rejection and betrayal at the deepest levels. Not by the fickle rabble, but by those with whom we thought we were safe. Perhaps if I were still that young girl watching the river power its way to the ocean, I could idealize this. So what if I get hurt, it’s for the cause! But hurt is just hurt and it doesn’t get easier. If anything, it gets harder. As it does, the prayer gets more and more difficult to pray.

Can I put in a request to change my life verse, please? Probably not. On the other hand, I don’t think it would hurt to line it up beside a companion verse.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

This soul needs this today. Especially if I am to stay the course.

Reader Comments (1)

Thanks, Renee. Its been a difficult week. I want to be reminded over and over again that it's all for Jesus' sake and the children that I raise for Him. They don't seem to want to take the way, but God is still being faithful to them. And I, by the grace of the God I serve, intend to be faithful to Him. Just Bev

April 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeverly Rhoades

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