Recently, I read the book Radical, by David Platt. Great read. I highly recommend it.
However, part of me was wondering why the book wasn’t as “radical” as I thought it would be. I wondered why I didn’t have the sudden pull to sell all my possessions and move to the inner city or to a hut in India. Then a friend/blog reader suggested perhaps Radical wasn’t so radical to me because, maybe, I was already “there” in a lot of ways. Maybe I had already been through my own personal Radical transformation…
Hmmmm…. Not that Platt doesn’t do a fantastic job of stirring the heart toward radical living. He does. And not that I’m so selfless that I’ve already achieved Radical status. I haven’t.
But here’s what I think. Serving God and truly asking Him to lead and guide me every single day is radical. Honestly, many times, God asks me to do things WAY outside of my comfort zone in the name of setting aside my own desires and serving Him. There’s nothing really radical about that. But when I obey Him? Now, that’s radical.
Before Radical was even a glimmer in Platt’s eye, I read another book called An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, the biography of the late Rich Mullins. Rich was radical, by anyone’s definition. Though he was one of the most popular contemporary Christian artists in the late 80’s and early 90’s, he chose to live on only a fraction of his income and give the rest away to the poor. It’s not that he considered his millions, kept enough for himself to live in a mansion in Nashville and drive a BMW, and then chose to give some away. He actually chose to be ignorant of his monthly income altogether. He decided on a small amount upon which he could live—in a trailer—and trusted a financial-type person to distribute the remaining money (whatever amount that was) to the needy. He didn’t even know how much money he was pulling in each month. He pretty much took an oath of poverty, so that he could bless everyone else with his material wealth. He dedicated his entire short life to serve God radically by serving others.
His testimony was the beginning of a radical transformation in my life.
I started looking around my cushy, suburban life and wondered where God would ask me to sacrifice and serve so that others would be blessed. I went through a radical phase of cleaning out all our stuff. Our clothes, our toys, our kitchen cupboards. I didn’t sell anything. I simply gave it away. All of it. Minivan-loads full of stuff.
I felt like I was making room for God in my house. It was sort of like the strong nesting instinct mothers get before they have a baby. Only there was no baby.
God’s message of giving my life away for the sake of others was following me (dare I say “haunting me”) wherever I went. I couldn’t get away from it. I couldn’t stop talking about it. God was preparing my heart in radical ways because He was about to drop a radical bomb on me.
One day, I was minding my own business on the elliptical in my basement, scrolling through the channels, looking for something to distract me from the pain and sweat of exercise. I stopped on an adoption show and the next thing I knew I was sitting cross-legged in front of the television, with a box of tissues in a puddle of snot and tears.
On the television, there was a woman in Guatemala who lived in a metal house about the size of my kitchen. The size of my kitchen! In it she housed 14 children. Some her own, some her nieces and nephews. She worked at a fruit stand, her only source of income, to provide for them. Despite her best efforts, she could not afford to feed all the children, so she put her nieces and nephews in an orphanage. A heart-wrenching decision for her.
Meanwhile, an upper middle-class couple from Tennessee already in the process of adopting a small child from the orphanage, debated about whether they should also adopt one of her nieces, a 14-year-old girl. Unsure if they would be able to provide adequately for a child who was nearing adult-hood, they decided to ask the orphanage director what the girl’s dreams and goals were for her life. Maybe she planned to go to medical school. Or maybe she would like to be married and raise a family of her own. Perhaps, if they knew her dreams and goals, they could better assess if they could provide for her, along with their other children.
Do you want to know what she said? Do you want to know the dreams and goals of a 14-year-old girl in a developing country who has lived in a metal house the size of my kitchen and in an orphanage with a hundred other children?
Her dreams and goals for the future were to have a mom and a dad…and to have food to eat every day.
God ripped my heart out of my chest right there on the floor of my freshly-purged basement.
I got up from that, uh…conversation with God, and slowly walked around our house. A house that was often the source of my complaints, because it was too big for me to keep clean. A house filled with so much food, I often had to discard left-overs after they’d gone bad, because we couldn’t eat them fast enough. I could hear God saying, “You have room in your heart and your home for more children. Use your wealth to change the destiny of another child.”
That night I sat on my bed and blurted the entire Guatemala-adoption-show-metal-house-orphanage-tissue-box-goal-in-life-to-have-food-everyday- mess out to my husband. I could see the look on his face…
“First she gives away half my stuff and now she wants to go adopt a foreign child…sweet baby Moses, what’s next?”
And thus began the journey toward my daughter, Elliana.
I’d love to say, after we started the adoption process, it was all roses and baby kittens. But it wasn’t. And this is the radical part. God had to do a major reconstruction in my selfish heart. At the time, my youngest, Elijah, was about to enter kindergarten, and I was seriously beginning to pursue publication for my writing. After being a stay at home mom for 9 years, I was about to enter, for the first time, the Land of Seven Hours A Day of Writing Time. I fantasized about that Land. I could hardly wait. I thought about it every day. I had been doing a mental count down for probably the three years prior. No lie. I could see, what I thought was God, already opening doors for my writing ministry. In just a matter of months, I would be a full-time author.
Then, suddenly, God was asking me to lay all that aside for YEARS—maybe forever—in order to save the life of an orphan. He was asking us to pull in the reins financially, and set aside our plan of paying off our house, so we could cash-flow what would turn out to be a very expensive adoption.
Adoption isn’t a short-term mission trip. Once we adopted the child, we would actually need to PARENT the child…another sacrifice that would last, pretty much, forever.
In retrospect, the house purging was symbolic of what God was intending to do in my heart. It was painful, looking at each “blessing” I knew was from God and choosing to give it away to someone else. My time. My freedom. My money. My goals. My dreams. My sleep.
Radical, I tell you.
And it wasn’t like God was pulling an “Abraham/Isaac” on me. You know, asking me to give something up, just to test me and see if I would really say “yes.” But then at the very last minute, stopping my hand and sending a substitute sacrifice.
Nope. He didn’t stop my hand. Or send a substitute.
But like every other thing God asks us to do, there are blessings beyond comprehension on the other side of “yes.” For me, the blessings have not come in the form of book contracts or hours-upon-hours of suprise writing time. God wasn’t joking when He asked me to set all of that aside for now—or forever. For me the blessings come in the form of a little girl looking in the eyes of her father for the very first time.
In the form of rocking the lives of my son and daughter while they interact with little kids in another country.
In the form of pajama-clad children climbing on my lap, asking me to play baby dolls.
In the form of peace, knowing I saved one child from a potential life of poverty and not really caring anymore if the book contract ever comes.
In the form of clarity, due to an uncluttered house and an uncluttered heart.
And those are only the blessings I can see now. I imagine the full spectrum of blessings—both immediate and eternal—are so far-reaching. They can only be described as…well, Radical.