Almost two weeks ago Mark and I landed upon this place called Pemba and made it home for the next couple months. As to be expected, the first week was a complete mix of spinning heads over big adjustments with communal living, and beautiful moments of soaking in the living words of the Father. With over a week under our feet, we’re learning to walk, amidst all that’s new, different, and unexpected, into the place of constant thankfulness for being here.
We’re definitely learning to laugh at what life is today, and I assure you that laughter is keeping us thankful in the midst of certain stretching circumstances. Our privacy here isn’t what we would choose, but it’s an incredible thing when you can be thankful for your glassless windows or the lives of those creating the constant chatter outside.
There’s a voice of grace that is impossible to ignore to my ears in this season. Or maybe it’s not a voice, but a lens through which I am seeing this season. Either way, its words are without a doubt a banner that speaks upon us, “This. is. my. gift.”
Those words outline a land from which my feet are standing and my perspective is seeing, keeping my heart fiercely settled in thankfulness.
When Mark and I first found out about this Harvest School through Iris Ministries, we were still dating and dancing with the nebulous “ifs” of the future that floated in the air like hopeful balloons over our heads, wondering all the while if maybe one day we would be able to take hold and own them.
As we found ourselves engaged, and then married, we always wondered about this summer and the possibility of Africa. Through our processing, if I’m honest, our dreaming and wondering was always with the attitude that if we felt led to go and applied, we would be accepted. To us, it was a given.
But then, in the midst of our certainty, we found ourselves in a situation where we were unexpectedly unsure about whether we would get in. We were way past the deadline, being told by everyone that there’s a huge wait-list and that we had little chance of making it. Our supposed “given” was hugely shaken up. And in the midst of my swirling and wondering, praying and waiting, I heard the question, “What if this became My gift and not your given?”
That one simple question altered the foundation from where I look and live life, challenging my thoughts and prayers in a whole new way. I suddenly viewed this summer from a different light, praying that if He would give us Africa as a gift, we would respect, honor, and receive it as the precious outpouring it is intended to be.
What I have come to understand in the midst of His question stirring deep within me is that there is a drastic difference between a life lived by givens and a life received by gifts.
Givens (in the way I described above) are attached to entitlements. They come from the mindset that because of what I do, because of my importance, because of my giftings, callings, etc – this will certainly come without question. Then, when it does, it becomes the hand of affirmation on our backs that we allow to tell us once again that because of our work or honors, this came into our hands. Within two blinks, we can be down a path where if we keep working, moving, and pushing…we will receive it all. Over time, that can launch us into the place where we are so intertwined with entitlement that the purely gifted becomes the rightful givens.
But gifts – gifts are precious. They are full of thankfulness and covered by grace, showered out of lavish love, not rightful earnings. Gifts press the boundaries of extravagance and challenge the world’s thinking that if you do specific things, you reach guaranteed results. Gifts are the graceful vehicles that keep us thankful, humble, and longing more for only the One.
The beauty of knowing who you and I are as sons and daughters, lavished by the love of the Father, covered by His hand, destined for greatness upon the earth’s ground, is that from that place of actual identity, we can steward within our hands the great gifts without turning then into rightful givens. I am convinced He is compelled to give all the more extravagantly to those who so wonderfully keep the gifts as gifts, treating that which is before us as precious, wonderful, and grace itself.
So in my bucket showers, filtered well water, frequent rat catchings, and cozy sleeping quarters, I will so earnestly stay within earshot of the voice that keeps reminding me of this season and this place as His gift.
What if the givens became the gifts of life, that what was once seen as rightful becomes precious? How would the sound of thankfulness erupt from daily life today?