This post is by Joanne Wu.
If there’s one thing this ongoing pandemic has reminded me of, it is that truly, my life is “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14 ESV)
More than once a day, I find myself asking a mix of all the following questions. What is the point of everything? What is the point of working overtime to feed my family, if I can’t spend actual time with my family? What is the point of having a family if I want to be at work so I can avoid being around them? What is the point of attending church, if going makes me feel more averse to following Jesus? Why follow Jesus, if it seems so many appear to be succeeding at life without Jesus? Wait, what does a successful life look like? Obviously, we all die. So if we all end up as dust, then what is the point of life?
For me, this pandemic led to a toppling of my own Tower of Babel. It has been so painful, but so freeing, to admit out loud how I’ve wasted decades trying to live a “godly” life apart from surrendering to Jesus. While I knew and could say I was a sinner saved by God’s grace, I secretly believed deep down that God loved me because I was good at trying to be a good person. Although I said God loves everyone, I actually secretly thought God loved me more because I had done more “holy” things. And as a result of my good and holy behavior, I was actually closer to God. All of these misaligned beliefs about what it meant to be a Christ-follower had really made me question what God Time actually is. And what it actually is for.
A year ago, I was still in the throes of nursing all hours of the day. In that particular sacred season of mothering multiple children who still could not wipe their own bottoms, my mantra was to make it to bed time, while feeling awake enough to remember how cute my children are. Those preschool, toddler, baby, newborn years were a foggy time of real exhaustion and real joy, and my God Time was laced throughout the day as prayers or listening to the Bible or bits of podcasts while my baby was nursing. And napping was, and still is, resting in God’s arms.
Currently, no one needs to be nursed. My toddler and preschooler keep trying to wipe their own bottoms, and I’m the one asking them to please slow down and let me check. In a blink, I find myself in a completely different season with my children, stuck at home because of this pandemic, and coming with different pleas to God throughout the day.
But as I’ve witnessed tremendous divides across the Christian community in both North America and in Asia, I’ve been left wondering, again, what does it mean to follow Jesus? Now that I am less sleep deprived, I can actually think again and ask myself why do I pray to God throughout the day? Am I actually spending time with God when I do that? Or am I actually expecting something of God when I cry out to him?
To answer my own questions, I skim through recent journal entries, mentally note when I cry out to God for help, and also say aloud what kind of life I’m hoping God will guarantee me because I am crying out for help so frequently. My little personal survey unveils that most of my journal entries are about how I’m feeling wronged and feeling tired. I cry out to God hoping those around me will see things my way. I want a comfortable life without trials or pain. Essentially, my God Time is all about me.
With this humbling realization, my approach to God Time has been different. Perhaps to those around me, it looks like I’m doing the same thing. But internally, I’m opening my Bible not to find something helpful for me to get me through my day, but I’m opening my Bible to learn more about our triune God who is love. Inside my journal, I write to help center God’s kingdom ethics as seen in Jesus’s public life on Earth, instead of centering life through “my” way. When I cry to God for help, it’s because I’m letting myself feel the pain from real life, and I need the Spirit’s help to let me not lose heart.
Life is a mist. Every night, I take a few minutes to ask myself variations of the following questions. Am I living today’s life in such a way that reflects a loving God? Does my ephemeral life reflect a life submitted under the lordship of Jesus Christ? Do I respond to crises in a way that shows I believe the Holy Spirit is with us right now? Usually, my answers are “nope, maybe, I hope so…” and I find myself laughing and giving a humble thank you that God loves and saves wretches like me. And then I pray for God to help me live a life surrendered to the cross.
Joanne is a SoCal native who currently lives in Taiwan with her husband of thirteen years. An introvert, she loves Jesus, is learning how to love herself like he loves her, and is challenging herself to get uncomfortable and love her neighbors. She is a wife to a man who makes her laugh even when she’s crying, and a mama to five amazing kids and a beautiful Golden Retriever. She cherishes free time to take leisurely walks, to sleep uninterrupted, and to slowly eat her food. You can find more of her reflections on Instagram @mom.of.wu.
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