Give it all away

15073490_10157786730140401_2473582584771989509_n

My current job is a ministry job. I work at a homeless shelter that believes that Jesus is Lord and when he changes hearts, he changes lives. I work at this job 8:30am until 5:00pm Monday through Friday. My husband and I also lead a married small group every Monday where we provide dinner. We volunteer at church a couple Sunday’s a month. We continue keeping in contact with friends near and far, and my dad spends almost every other weekend in our 750 square foot apartment. This is a lot of people and a lot of time. I am telling you all of this because I am an introvert; I refuel by being alone. Most of the time I can wiggle in one or two nights of rest. I can choose to say no to things most of the time. I tell myself I should say no because I already do “too much.” Though, I’m starting to wonder if this is more a selfish attitude than an attitude of Christ.

The implementation of boundaries is being preached on more and more. Saying no to something that may make you too tired or too busy is often encouraged. Let me first say there is a balance, and I do believe we need to take care of ourselves and our mental health. I’m not promoting burn out, but I am promoting being interruptible.

I am a very selfish person. I almost always choose myself. It requires the Holy Spirit to make me want to think about other people. I’ve picked up the idea of boundaries, used it and abused it. I have built walls around myself so that I don’t have to give too much, I can give just enough without being hurt. I can love Jesus and love my neighbor, but only when it is comfortable for me and when I am not too tired or when it is convenient.

Four years ago I was doing overseas missions. I was gone for about a year. Every day I was spent. I was pushed to my breaking point. I was asked to give more than I had. More time, more energy, more food, more money, more passion, more prayer, more praise, more effort, more everything. Every day I would go to bed exhausted because every ounce of me was being given. That time in my life was where I felt more alive and the closest to God. I was living and breathing the scriptures. I couldn’t do anything before first being filled with the Spirit. That’s what I think I’m missing, and maybe you’re missing it too. I’m not filling myself up. I’m not allowing God to “pour me out like a drink offering” (Phil 2:17). I will allow just enough to be poured out, but don’t pour out too much, Lord! I need to save some for myself, I need to take care of me, no one else will, right?

I’ve picked up expectations and boundaries like luggage, carrying them around with me, never letting anyone forget that these are mine. You cannot touch these.

Jesus asks for more.

He asks for me to lose my life to find it. (Matt 16:25) To love others so much that I forget about myself. He asks me to seek first his kingdom, not my own. (Matt 6:33)

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6)

Jesus lived his whole life submitted to what his Father wanted. He was interrupted time after time.

I’m reminded of the story of the woman who touches the hem of Jesus’s robe in Luke chapter 8. He is walking with his disciples through a large crowd and so many people are grabbing him, including his disciples. This woman who has been bleeding for twelve years reaches out and touches the hem of his cloak and is immediately healed. Jesus, in the midst of this chaos asks “who touched me?” The story continues with a conversation with the woman. I urge you to read it on your own, but, what I want to highlight is how Jesus stops. He stops in the midst of a crowd that the scripture says is “crushing him.” He allows himself to be interrupted. He allows himself to be given to this woman. I don’t do that often enough.

I want to live my life in submission to what the Lord has in store for me, for his family. I want to be able to come home from work and still be available to be taken from. I want to say yes to someone who is in need and desires my time instead of pushing them away because I’m tired or because I need my “alone time” first. It is all an excuse. Jesus promises to be living water. We have access to that water any time we want, just as he promised the woman at the well. (John 4:14)

I believe when we are giving ourselves and serving others, Jesus is going to provide for us. He is going to fill us because he is the well that never runs dry.

That’s what it was like while I was doing missions. Living to the fullest, and pouring it all out to be filled again. I want to know I am living at my full capacity, loving with no agenda and serving without expectation. To give all I have of myself. To love so boldly it is impossible for me to keep any for myself. None of what I have is mine. It’s all his. All my gifts, all my talents, all of myself. He’s asking me to give it all away, and that is what I am going to do.

Theological thoughts on Thanksgiving from a Native perspective.

*I have asked one of my very best friends to write something in regards to Thanksgiving for my blog. This space is for open minds and open hands and I hope this blog is received in that way. Emily is an incredible woman who has shaped my faith in tremendous ways. Please take the time to read the words written by her below.*

“The first Thanksgiving Day did occur in the year 1637, but it was nothing like our Thanksgiving today. On that day the Massachusetts Colony Governor, John Winthrop, proclaimed such a “Thanksgiving” to celebrate the safe return of a band of heavily armed hunters, all colonial volunteers. They had just returned from their journey to what is now Mystic, Connecticut where they massacred 700 Pequot Indians. Seven hundred Indians – men, women and children – all murdered…This day is still remembered today, 373 years later. No, it’s been long forgotten by white people, by European Christians…A group calling themselves the United American Indians of New England meet each year at Plymouth Rock on Cole’s Hill for what they say is a Day of Mourning. They gather at the feet of a statue of Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag to remember the long gone Pequot…
They do not call it Thanksgiving.
There is no football game afterward.”   
– The Huffington Post, 2011

(It should be noted that these colonial volunteers were actually puritans, not pilgrims, and the reason they set out in the early morning of May 26th was not to seek amiable relations among Native peoples; it was for the forced conversion to Christianity, as they knew it. It should also be noted that these seven hundred *Native Americans* laid down their defenses, and accepted. Their greeting into this new religion was massacare. This day also happened to be on the Pequot’s Green Corn Festival, in other words, their Day of Thanksgiving.)

How do I, a woman of Chippewa descent, interact with a holiday that has wrongly been painted as the end of our war with the White Man? How do I in unexplained terms share the history briefly with the person who asks: How do you feel about this? Moreover, how do I incorporate my living, breathing faith in Jesus into a nationally recognized day that really was only the beginning of harassment, abuse and mistreatment of my people? May you grant me the space and vulnerability to explain.

Firstly, let’s discuss what Thanksgiving is not. Thanksgiving is not the celebration of two heritages coming together. Though there were eager interactions at one point, the majority of Native Americans lived alongside re-settled Europeans for the sake of better protecting their land and keeping further inquiries about it at bay. The truth is – there were feasts together, where no one died and conversation was light. However, intent is almost always more important than action and it is clear, according to history and experience, the intent of Europeans settling on the shores of the United States from the time period of 1492-1900 was to take and colonize. The friendly relations, the regular trading, the invitation to dinner… They were all means to an end.
So, you have to understand when a person of Native descent hears ‘Thanksgiving’, they are really hearing: broken treaties, manipulated relationships, forgotten history and social exclusion (such as, marginalization). They were asked then forced to learn a language that was not their own, adapt to a dress they did not know and express spirituality in a way they did not understand, for the only purpose of colonists to feel comfortable and superior (in a place that was not theirs to begin with). These small yet significant acts of rape [to seize and take away by force] eventually led to boarding schools where children could not know the inheritance that was theirs to hand down. Colonization led to wars that could not be won and families moving across country simply because someone else wanted their land [see, Trail of Tears]. Now, the reality of all those things are buried under ‘Indian and Pilgrim’ dress-up days at elementary and your high school social studies class skipping over hundreds of years of history, to their convenience. To say the least, the day of Thanksgiving, for Native Peoples, is painful, deep and real.

Selah, to pause. Ok, keep reading.

Secondly, there is freedom to make this day worthy, notable and hopeful. While the above paragraphs are true, truer than most would admit, the presence of Creator in our story is true, too. Let me be the first to say, he was not pleased when these zhaagnaash (“white man”) tagged his name to their atrocities. He was not in their corner, cheering them on. Creator’s Son came and experienced ridicule, mockery and harassment; Jesus understands injustice. He gets being ripped from his culture of kingdom and being questioned by foreigners. He is not without compassion or sympathy when it comes to our losses; he is also not standing by idle.
The White Man’s god may push you around, disrespect your behaviors and leave you for dead. Jesus will not. The White Man’s god may solicit murders on behalf of innocent men, women and children. Jesus could not. The White Man’s god may make promises with the intent purpose of not keeping them. Jesus does not. Here is my point: Jesus is not the White Man’s god. Our greatest gift as believers of the Jesus way is the gift of the Great Spirit. And with the Great Spirit, there is hope. There is an assurance that we are not alone, that our voices do not go unheard and that redemption (the buying back of something previously sold) is possible.

Finally, there is a way forward. There is a way to acknowledge the truth of history and the reality of hope in Jesus. Here it is: We all live in tension. Every single human lives in a tension. Of joy and grief, or of loss and gain. Of expectancy and disappointment, or of provision and of lack. And let me tell you something: It’s not surprising to God. He – Creator God, Everlasting Counselor, Prince of Peace, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit – is not afraid to dwell there. In fact, often times, he makes his home right there in the middle of it. In the loss, Creator is bringing light. In pain, Creator is bringing perspective. In real anger over injustice, Creator creatively strategizes to bring unity, forgiveness and a better way. May we not miss him in the tensions. May we not overlook, or ignore the uncomfortable and hard. It is there, in those places, we will confess, and we will grow.  

This Thanksgiving, take time to consider what you’re celebrating + why. Take time to praise a Chief who fights on your behalf and is making all things new.

emilyselfie
Emily is on a journey of expressing her ethnic identify in faith and is passionate about sharing her experience with any who would have an ear to listen. She loves living in Atlanta, Georgia where she lives among refugees and cares for babies. In her free time, she likes weekend trips to New York City and a good cup of tea. Any inquires, encouragements or questions you may have, feel free to contact her: emnaganashe@gmail.com or follow her on instagram @emnaganashe