This is a longer one. This has been floating in my heart & mind, and you can tell in my typing that it’s just poured out. Maybe I felt that I was supposed to type it so you could read it. It’s not about my words, but what He wants to do with them. Here’s a little something He’s been working me through.
When I arrived in November, it was a very different feeling from the first time I landed in Haiti for a long term commitment. Of course there is adventure and growth no matter what a season brings or how many times you’ve been somewhere – but the unknown and sense of “Let’s explore!” was not what was prevalent after over a year of being involved in a country known by some as “The Republic of NGOs”. Instead, with knowledge of what I was walking into – not all of it, but enough to know what some of the challenges and hard days would look like – my sense of “Jump in!” has transformed into “Stay in there, don’t jump out!”. All of a sudden, perseverance and endurance seemed to jump off the pages in the quiet hours of the morning. (Quiet is relative, as you would point out the goats/roosters/sounds of neighbors sending their children off to school)
In the fast paced transition back into life in Haiti, I was brought to read through Ruth on both good days and bad, learning and remembering loyalty. Tack that onto what was already resonating with my heart – perseverance, endurance, loyalty. Not just staying but a fierce clinging onto, not leaving until death separates. And there was not a thing for Ruth to gain as she went all in with her widowed mother-in-law. And “stay” just powerfully stuck in my mind, a word reflecting all of these things and burning deeper over time.
It’s important here to point out that I adore this country. I cherish time with my neighbors and the mountains and ocean shout the name of our Creator. The way that community works here is beautiful and opens eyes to something I miss out on by being raised in Western culture. The movement that I work through is bring powerfully used by God and my team is literally my family. The fact that I am not only chosen by God to be His but to be in the center of this blows my mind on a constant basis. I am humbled now as I type it, that I am a part of anything here. Mission is just hard wherever you have decided to say yes to God. In your workplace, your community, your own home – the willingness to be on mission that every disciple is told to embrace is not an easy path. It makes sense, the Word clearly covers suffering, trial, pushing through, sticking it out, having a bigger perspective…and all of that “stay” stuff.
“Stay in Me”
So then I’m in John and God points out stay, in a way that He has placed it all over the New Testament. “One of Jesus’ favorite words was meno ( μὲνω ), often translated “remain”, “stay”, or abide”. It describes a profound, intimate, and enduring relationship.” An example, where I first saw it, is as Jesus talks of the vine and branches, and the vital truth that there must be a connection with the vine (John 17).
And I see I’m being taught about a much deeper definition of “stay”. A definition that will, in fact, be the key to me staying – persevering, enduring, being loyal – at all. There is no “staying” without that essential “stay”. Without first remaining in Him, I will not remain. Or if I do remain, I will not stay well.
“How to Stay”
Which leads to the third “stay”, coming to me weeks later. This lesson has been stretched out for months – this lesson is still being taught to me. This part is essential. This is the part that transforms the idea from a loyal employee to a world changer. Without this ingredient, I am convinced that breathing life would not result. It takes the first two ingredients to get here, but like yeast to some good pizza dough this part is essential for the other parts coming together to make something beautiful. (Guys, come on. Pizza can be beautiful. We’ll talk about it after you’ve moved somewhere where it’s not as easily accessible).
Before I write it out, let’s hop back to the Old Testament. I point out Jesus’ words for stay, but King David had a point about staying as well. 1 Samuel 26:23 (NLT) says, “The Lord gives His own reward for doing good and for being loyal”.
Being loyal isn’t just about staying. It’s about how you stay. I think that it is very intentional that it is “being loyal” and “doing good” are placed together.
Really, why even stay if it isn’t done well? In fact – you could hurt your testimony or the purpose of your stay if all you are is loyal. There are loyal employees who complain every chance they get or cheat every minute they can out of the day, there are loyal spouses who are so cold and distant within the home that both would prefer to be on their own and single but instead feel bound.
Or for me, it’s rushing by people as I have so many tasks to do – since I am here with a loyal committment. It’s being in country but being too tired or fearful to go outside and dive into relationships that day. It’s being in relationship but distracted and waiting to get out of the conversation, because I’m tired of hearing more needs. (Ouch. Those are not easy to share)
And here’s where it all comes together. In a culture where we flitter like butterflies from one thing to the next before Instagram can fully load, loyalty has a deep value that the Bible already pointed out centuries ago. First a loyalty to remain in Him, the source of life. Staying in Him will fuel us to persevere and endure wherever He has placed us. And as well, if we truly remain in Him and capture the key idea of “stay” – meno ( μὲνω ), staying in and with Christ – we can stay well. How we stay matters – what my neighbors see in day to day interactions no matter what is going on in my life or mind and the way I work no matter what the circumstances of the week are.
Staying isn’t where you stop.
And all along that’s been the point of this learning, this growing, this word constantly in my head. The point of “stay” is Him.
Being in Him.
Filling up in Him.
Vivification, Building Faith in Him.
Staying in Him.
And then bringing glory to Him.
Bringing glory as we stay, so counter to this culture and age.
Bringing glory in how we stay, doing it well and being consistent. Giving people a reason to thank God for the loyalty He instilled in us.
And it isn’t what I can/could/should do to stay or endure, or stay well.
It’s about Him, and what He can do first with me and then with my “stay” – the stay that I am only able to do because of Him.
It’s all Him.