Sunday, July 3, 2011

Comfort vs Calling

Oh how I love the good old U.S. of A! I am shamelessly patriotic. My entire house used to be decorated in Red, White, and Blue. There is a 25 ft. flagpole at the end of my driveway at home. Last year, on the Fourth of July, I wept while singing patriotic songs on the lawn of parents' church--knowing that in a few short days I would be leaving the "land that I love" for foreign soil. My citizenship gives me rights and privileges that most of the world envies. And I am truly grateful.

But having lived abroad now for almost a year, I have had the opportunity to see things from another perspective. Nowadays, I can actually spot Americans on the streets of Paris before I hear the inevitable English spoken from their mouths. They are usually wearing white tennis shoes and  talking very loudly. They look confident and they smile a lot. I am not ashamed when I see them, I am one of them. But after a year in France, I find that we blend in a little more. People, French people, will stop to ask us for directions, not realizing that WE are Americans until we speak French with our Yankee accents.

And after a year here, I am beginning to understand how Europeans view Americans in general, and specifically, how European Christians view American Christians. Their perspective is rather fascinating...and, well, sometimes convicting.

Let me give you an example:

The French pastor/evangelist who will be training us in church planting recently asked me, "Do you know John Smith?" (Okay, so his real name isn't "John Smith," but since he is a very well known American Christian leader, I changed his name. While I believe this story is true, it is just hear-say, and I have no desire to gossip or slander. Besides, the real name is not relevant to the story.)

I answered, "I certainly know OF John Smith, though I've never met him personally. I have read some of his books."

Our mentor was integral in inviting this American Christian leader to Paris to speak to a group of French Christian leaders. But John Smith would only come on the condition that he could stay in a hotel with a king-sized bed. A king-sized bed is a VERY rare thing in France, even in Paris. Perhaps such a request is not extravagant in the United States, but it was a major conundrum here. They scrambled around and found a way to accommodate him, but I can only imagine the head shaking and eye-rolling that went on in the process. Because the real issue wasn't the bed. It was the attitude that said, "My willingness to minister in France is contingent upon my own personal comfort."

Yes, we do love our personal comforts.

In fact, last night, while having dinner with some friends, we were told that American Christians have a reputation for determining the will of God based upon ease. Our European friends explained that Americans are known to retreat from a calling when opposition presents itself. Shrugging, the American says, "It must not be God's will, or these doors would not have closed." Our friends asked us, incredulous, "How is that Biblical? What person in the Bible, when given a call from God, did NOT face opposition?"

I wonder, is this just our excuse? Is this the way that we avoid having to go outside of our comfort zone? Do we assume that if God is going to ask us to do something He is going to make it easy?

So as I hear these stories and process these impressions of my fellow countrymen...of me, really...I find myself convicted. Just yesterday, I was whining because my life was lacking comfort. We have had several un-budgeted expenses lately, mostly related to traveling back and forth from Paris to Loches to figure out housing and to prepare for our move. This has resulted in a need to economize in other areas. Yesterday I found myself grumbling through my entire grocery shopping trip. Rather than being thankful for the fact that we would have plenty of food to eat, I was irritated because I could not buy the KINDS of foods that I wanted. Rather than praising God for His faithful provision, I expressed disappointment for having to pinch my pennies. My basket was full of food, yet my heart full of ingratitude. I am a spoiled brat.

I could conclude that IF God is really calling us to Loches, it would be easy. There would be no need to "tighten our belt" financially. In fact, IF this is really God's will for us, then wouldn't the house be available BEFORE the kids start school instead of 2 weeks AFTER? Wouldn't God make all the pieces fall perfectly into place with no effort on our part, and certainly without asking us to make sacrifices of time, money, or convenience? After all, He's God, so wouldn't He make it simple AND comfortable for those who are seeking to do His will?

Not necessarily.

Maybe its more about obedience than comfort. Maybe God allows the opposition to help develop perseverance  Maybe He allows it so that His glory can be revealed. Maybe the opposition is from the enemy, who seeks to thwart the will of God. Maybe He wants us to fight. Maybe He has already won the battle on our behalf, but instead of engaging, we retreat, and therefore we never see the victory.

Where oh where does God say, "Follow me, and you will have smooth sailing all the way!"? He doesn't promise comfort. He actually promises the opposite. So why do we cling to the idea that we can follow Jesus without getting up from the LaZboy? Christianity is not a spectator sport. It is not supposed to be comfortable.

If you are feeling comfortable with your Christian walk, then whatever you do, DO NOT READ the book, Radical, by David Platt. It doesn't just "enlighten," it meddles.

But if you do read it, please let me know what you think. Our family is now reading it together, and when we finish it we are going to decide if we, as a family, will take the challenge that Platt presents at the end of the book. I have a hunch that the Williamson boys will be "all in."

I will tell you this, it is no small challenge. Not if  it is taken seriously. It will mess with our worldview and it will disrupt our lifestyle. We will not be able to continue as we are. It will not be easy.

What about you? Have you read Radical? Will you read it? If you do, and if you decide to take the challenge, let me know. We love to make journey with you.


  1. I have two thoughts. First, LOVE the new header!!!! The new pictures and the new font are perfect. Second, this post could be my words. After experiencing one week with the most broken kids I have ever met, I came home from camp with some of your exact thoughts. I love that we are journeying in completely different areas of the world but yet are also experiencing some of the same things together. Can't wait to buy Radical. I'm on board!

  2. I have to agree with Mamahollioni, I love the new header!!
    Then, this is one of the more difficult posts I've read. Have you been looking into my heart and selfish nature? This brought tears. I've also been frustrated that God is praised when everything goes as we want, but He's also there and a good God when things don't work out as I want.
    I picked up Radical just the week before you posted this. I'll be reading it along with your family. Could the winds of change be blowing?

  3. Stumbled upon your blog ... Love what I've read so far! I've read Radical and it changed my life. My family leaves in a month to move to Kenya. We had already begun most of what he challenges us to do ... but now I must say, we're all in! And though our plans for Kenya were in place before reading the book, it has definitely changed our perspective!