When I was home in Boston the last 6 months or so, I was planning on going back to Ecuador and I would share with people my experience there and some of my future hopes and plans. There were some people who were supportive, but more than anything else, there were a lot of voices that offered other ideas.
One man I know instead offered me a job working on his project, being a project manager for the long term. Another man expressed his sadness that I was leaving and couldn’t be a part of his projects. One man I know got frustrated and would ask why I go there, when there are plenty of people in America and Boston to help. A couple of priests bailed on me, giving me the Heisman. Even Latinos that I know would try to change my mind. Life is difficult down there, it’s not a good idea to go. There’s much more opportunity up here in the States, there isn’t down there. And, doesn’t it make your stomach queezy to go down there without a clear plan about what you’ll be doing?
On my way down, I was sitting in the airport in Miami. I usually sit a bit out of the way of things, so I was close to the window in the seating area at the gate, waiting for the boarding time and doing a little reading. A pretty young woman came and sat right next to me. It turns out she’s from Ecuador going to college there and doesn’t speak english. She has an Italian passport because her grandfather is Italian, so doesn’t have the problems going into the States that other Latinos do. She just spent her spring break in Ft. Lauderdale alone, shopping. She loved the experience, and seemed proud to have gone. When I told her what I was doing, she shook her head, and wondered why. Why would you want to go there, from the States? I don’t like it there, the States is better, down there people are honking their horns all the time, and that doesn’t happen in the States, it’s a much better place. So it went on. At that point, I had to keep my composure.
See, I was getting impatient with so many people trying to convince me that it was not a good idea to go there, and here it was, the very final moments before I get on the last plane to go, and this person is trying to talk me out of it. At that point, it’s her viewpoint against mine. But somehow I settled down in the moment, put the emotional response aside, and reached down for the deeper stuff inside, the stuff that put me on fire to go, and I opened up and said, “Well, there’s good and bad in both places, and I think each has what the other needs.” Right after that, as it was silent for a very brief moment, I looked away at my stuff and out the window, and then turned back. And she was gone. I think she went off to get a good spot in line to get on the plane. Then, all of a sudden, I seemed to realize what was going on.
Just after Jesus was baptized and His Father singled Him out as His Son who He was pleased with, He didn’t put Him on the pedestal. No, He sent Him out unsupported into the desert to be tempted by the devil, tempted about who He was and what was His mission. I can imagine the thoughts. “Why do you want to leave your home area? Aren’t there plenty of people here in your neck of the woods that need help? Why would you want to be near lepers and the unclean and messy situations at the margins? And tax collectors and prostitutes – for real? Why do you want to leave job security, why don’t you stay here in the comfort zone, where you can be a boss, have other people working on your projects, and do great things for people. And why, why on earth would you want to go to Jerusalem and be crucified? Crucified?! How could God want that?” And I can see Jesus starting to feel the emotional reaction, and turning it away, and reaching down deep and saying the thing that put Him on fire to go in the first place: “Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'” (Mt 4:10) And the voices were gone.
When we respond to God’s call in life, He’s going to call us to go downward, not upward. Whether it’s marriage or mission life, or whatever He calls to, we’re not moving up, you’re moving down. He’s calling us into something messy. And we’re going to be tempted. God is going to put us in the desert without support to be tempted. The voices, the naysayers, the critics, they will come. When it happens, you need prayer.
And the ability to reach down deep.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him. (Mt 4:8-11)
A blessed finish of Lent!