Humility and the "Super-Simple"

Typorama“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-11

Being new to Budapest, I am in a transition phase of fighting between immersing myself in cultural adjustment and pursuing God’s ministry for me here.  Pursuing the “real work” involved in being an artist missionary in a cross-cultural context.  I put “real work” in quotation marks because ministry can’t be turned on and off, but extends to every part of life.  Therefore, since there is so much new right now, there is a lot to adjust to that goes beyond just developing the arts ministry. 

I’d like to share a story that illustrates just one of these moments of growth where I fall upon God’s grace in this saturated time of newness.
I was on my way to pick up groceries for a breakfast we bring to a transitional home for refugees.  I’m feeling pretty peaceful; this moment feels like it has purpose.  Lately I have been tempted to demonize the mundane or purely pragmatic and idolize what I perceive to be significant, groundbreaking or exciting.  My whole attitude and conviction for what is productive and not productive has been rocked since my move to Hungary.  Here I am, during a quiet morning at my local grocery store, doing a simple task that is productive and constructive for my ministry.  I think to my self, “This is such a minimal task, I couldn’t possibly mess this up – finally something so basic that has limited opportunity for confusion – etc. I’ve got this.”

I look down to the purple post-it note in my hand and read my grocery list as I come to the realization that I am going to need a shopping cart instead of a basket.  I have yet to grab a shopping cart in Hungary.  I think to myself, “That’s cool, no big deal…” while stepping into yet another situation of learning and uncertainty.

The carts are locked, and require a returnable coin to unlock them.  I take out my lowest value coin and put it into the slot to unlock the cart.  Nothing happens.  I keep trying until I give up, I’m on a time crunch.  I figure, I probably used the wrong coin, but instead of trying a coin of a different value, I enter the store and grab two baskets.  They stack, they roll, it’s not that unusual of a solution, right?  Rolling and stacking the baskets quickly proved to be more of a ridiculous solution than just carrying them as they rattled around on the ground while I walked, so I rearranged my things and carried them in my hands instead.  As I am perusing the tea section, I see in my peripheral vision a woman walking towards me.  She starts speaking to me in Hungarian with a laugh in her voice.  I get the idea that she finds my basket solution quite humorous, and is telling me that I can use a cart.  I am always humbled when others help me instead of letting me just bare with the consequences of an unconventional solution to a given problem.  After a confusing back and forth between this woman and I of broken Hungarian, body language, facial expressions, trying to go through a gate the wrong way in the heat of the moment and animated gestures, this woman gets a cart to me.  She laughed and I expressed my gratitude as she took my silly baskets away from me.  I was so thankful for her willingness to step in.  (I’ve been using a cart for this grocery run ever since.)

It is during times like these where I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:9-11.

Being in a new country is disorienting.  There is a preconceived idea that God has equipped me with strengths and that my weaknesses are a stumbling block to living out these strengths.  However, time and time again the contrary proves to be true.  God uses these times of misunderstanding to His Glory.  For some reason, he never gives up on us and is glorified in our striving, no matter the outcome.  He does not care if we cannot always be in our “strength-filled” element. 

When I think I am being productive, the roadblocks of cultural misunderstanding and a stunted ability for what productivity used to look like creeps in.  When I don’t think I am being productive, God uses it.  The moral of the story is, my effectiveness in ministering well here is so unbelievably dependent on God, and I constantly forget this and try to do it on my own. 

I am not perfect, God calls us on the journey towards further sanctification, but  instead of purely making it a series of messing up and correction, I think there is a way to do it with joy in an acknowledgment of the abundant amount of grace He gives us.  We get to do this within community and free from shame.  It takes courage to admit our imperfections, but He is not startled by our imperfections and brokenness.  We are free to be in relationship with God no matter where we are in life.  Our right and wrong doings cannot get in the way of God’s power and love.  We are only debilitated to the extent that we are deceived from the truth that our true identity is in Jesus.

The chains of pride are disguised in the appealing appearance of competency, strength and power.  These are all good things, but can either be used rightly as they were intended or exploited.  Humility gets twisted to look like weakness, laziness or just so backwards that there is complete blindness to right intention.  In reality, humility is an underrated and grace filled link to recognize God as all-powerful and good.  Humility is a blessing that frees us from relying on our own imperfect selves and limited worldviews. 

What are you working for that feels “super important” but can become a pride builder or distort your relationship with God and/or others?  It is not worth it.  You might not have to lose this thing, but it is best if you surrender it to God.  See it in a new light.  Invite God to redeem it. 

“Jesus declared, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39

I am trying to do this.  It is easier said than done, but exponentially more powerful done than said.  Be covered in grace, guided in humility and motivated in love.

— Posted by Anna

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Seeing God in the Holy Mundane

holy-mundaneA few days ago I spent the morning playing squash with three close friends – two Hungarians and a teammate. If you’ve never played, it’s like tennis for introverts played directly facing the wall. Out of our group, only one actually knew how to play, and he took the opportunity to coach us in a very serious manner. I needed the most coaching, due to my random dance interludes on the court. On the way back to our respective workplaces, all four of us squeezed into bus seats facing one another. I don’t remember what we talked about, but the feeling of being close to one another was more than just tight bus seats. I went to lunch with my Hungarian friends to a little buffet eatery near our destination. We sat eating our lunches, sometimes talking and sometimes sitting in silence. I tried to tell a joke that my dad texted me earlier, but it fell flat. It was a moment for me of breathing deep and sensing God’s delight in us as His creations, as His beloved. The three of us around the table couldn’t be more different, but we were each uniquely crafted bearing the image of God. Life in Hungary consists of many moments like this, feeling God’s presence in a squished bus seat or over a silent lunch. It’s in the holy mundane where I see God move these days.

— Posted by Betsy