Friday, August 8, 2014

No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus

Anyone who has known/lived with me for a prolonged period of time can tell you three things about me that usually become pretty clear after about three days:

  1. I do not get along with mornings. Never have, never will. 
  2. I am willing to accept mornings if I can at least have a good cup of black coffee. 
  3. I am a wee bit obsessed with Greek. 
While in China, I had to get along with mornings, accept that I wouldn't always have time to grab coffee (for I while, I was uncertain as to whether I would even have access to coffee), and I made the tough decision to leave my Greek study materials behind. 

Suddenly, I had to actually speak not long after I woke up. Sometimes I would run down to the kitchen right before I needed to be in my classroom and find the coffee all gone. Or I wouldn't even have time to grab coffee. And I know myself enough to know that if I brought my Greek books with me, I would be more likely to set aside my lesson planning in favor of translations. It was hard, but it was good for me. My distractions were lessened, and I was able to focus on my students. 

But many times, it all got discouraging. I would wake up feeling beat before I'd even started. I would pull on my clothes, smear on my make-up, load up my back-pack and trek over to the classroom. Coffee was often out of the question. I grew used to living without caffeine, but I was struggling to find time to read my Bible and pray. I don't truly need coffee, but I desperately need God. And learning Greek has been very instrumental in drawing me closer to my Savior. So here I was, without my usual creature comforts and in a foreign country to boot. And it was really hard to fight through that discouragement. 

I can remember one morning in particular that was particular discouraging. I don't really know why. It was simply just a down day. I wanted to curl up in bed and cry, not go and teach. My class was so unresponsive. My co-teacher and I spent hours brainstorming creative ways to get them to participate. We got strategies from our fellow team members and the permanent teachers. But methods would work once and then become stagnant. It was hard to even get our students to eat lunch with us more than once. And it didn't help that my co-teacher and I both have our own flavors of introversion. I kept thinking, there's no way I'm going to be able to share my faith with them. I want so badly to tell them what they so desperately need, but I can't! 

I had woken up late, as usual, and was rushed to get ready. I checked my phone. 8:20 a.m. I should read my Bible. But my mind found all sorts of other things I should do. Your backpack isn't ready. Someone said that there's coffee left for you downstairs. And shouldn't you be in the classroom early today? You can read your Bible tonight! But in that moment, two things immediately argued against my "logical" contradictions. First, without God, I wouldn't be doing any of this. Second, if I didn't pick up my Bible right now, I wouldn't read it at all that day. And I desperately needed God - the God I had been telling catch you tonight/tomorrow/in couple hours/etc! And He deserves much, much better than a "catch you later!" So I read. And I prayed. And I poured my heart out. Letting God have the burdens and the worries that had been piling up that week. I wanted so desperately to share my Savior with my students. To tell them of something greater. But that morning, I asked for something different. Something I'd been forgetting, that the story of Hezekiah reminded me of that morning. 

God deserves every ounce of glory.  

And so I echoed Hezekiah. I asked that I would be able to give God the glory that day, even if I couldn't speak His name. Because that's what my focus should always be. That is my chief end: to bring glory to His name. Yes, this is done through the spread of the gospel. But I must spread the gospel for the sake of His name, not so that I can look good. 

So I went to teach, with a peace resting on my heart. I knew that God would get the glory for that day. I just didn't know how big His name would be made. 

My enjoyment of Greek had already been brought up to my students. In the college life culture exchange, I talked about the study groups some of my Greek buds and I (try to) do. On this particular day, we were supposed to talk about our hobbies. When it comes to hobbies, I literally have not changed since I was eight years old. Reading and writing. That's it. And I had already kinda enthusiastically gushed about how much I loved reading in the Books and Movies lesson and pretty much every day, so I figured I wouldn't bore my students further. My co-teacher suggested I talk about Greek more (many of the students were curious as to why on earth I would ever want to learn a dead language). So I did. I read them some Greek phrases, talked about the type of Greek I am learning (very old, very dead), why I'm learning it, and why many scholars still learn it today. I even got to teach them the Greek words for some of their medical vocabulary. 

It was business as usual for me. But even before I had prayed that morning, God knew what was about to happen. He knew what was happening in the heart of my student who raised her hand during question and answer time and looked straight at me. 

"What is the difference between Catholics and Christians?" 

I was so stunned, at first all I could say is, "That is an excellent question! I.. I guess I will tell you!" 

And right there, in front of all my students, I explained salvation. I talked about sin. And how I don't measure up.* And how I never will. And how I need Jesus' gift of salvation. And how the Catholics have missed the point, because they believe that being good will mean that somehow, maybe, just maybe they'll make it into Heaven. But our good is never going to outweigh our bad. And it will certainly never buy us a ticket to Heaven. But when I accepted salvation on faith and faith alone, I received the guarantee that I will go to Heaven when I die. As I spoke, my co-teacher drew a diagram to help them visualize it. That diagram remained on the board for the rest of the day. A reminder of the miracle that took place that day. And the miracles kept coming. 

My co-teacher and I were able to share the story of Esther with a student who had chosen the same name. A fellow team member that was helping in the classroom that week shared her musical hobbies. She passed around one of her music books, open to a song that she showed me after my student's question. And then, several of my students wanted to hear her play the piano. And so she started her after-school concert with that song. And we used the projector to show the students the words. 

I would love to tell you what I think of Jesus,
Since I found in Him a friend so strong and true;
I would tell you how He changed my life completely,
He did something that no other friend could do.

No one ever cared for me like Jesus,
There's no other friend so kind as He;
No one else could take the sin and darkness from me,
O how much He cared for me.

All my life was full of sin when Jesus found me,
All my heart was full of misery and woe;
Jesus placed His strong and loving arms about me,
And He led me in the way I ought to go.

No one ever cared for me like Jesus,
There's no other friend so kind as He;
No one else could take the sin and darkness from me,
O how much He cared for me.

Ev'ry day He comes to me with new assurance,
More and more I understand His words of love;
But I'll never know just why He came to save me,
Till some day I see His blessed face above.

No one ever cared for me like Jesus,
There's no other friend so kind as He;
No one else could take the sin and darkness from me,
O how much He cared for me.

A couple days later, I was able to spend an evening with the student whose question started a chain reaction. I discovered she had many questions about the Bible. Everything from the deity of Jesus to His life to what it all means for us. She asked about the Last Supper and the circumstances behind Jesus' crucifixion (her eyes were so wide with wonder when I told her that Jesus knew what would happen to Him, but He went anyway). I learned that she had watched History channel's series on the Bible. I was able to present her with a gorgeous Chinese/English Bible and ask her to read the book of John. And she immediately started reading. She came to me Monday morning wanting to know why Jesus is called the Lamb of God. This girl is fervently seeking answers. And it made all of my time, struggle, and sacrifice worth it. I would gladly give up coffee again if it meant that I could share about my Savior in these ways again. 

This is what it's all about. Giving God the glory - whether or not we can speak His name. This is something I am striving for even as I am back in America. We are not going to have people chasing us wherever we go, begging to hear about the gospel. But we will encounter people from all walks of life wherever we go. And we can bring glory to God simply by reflecting Him through our words and deeds. Getting to tell people about Him is just an added bonus. My opportunities to explain the gospel with words while in China were few. 

But I saw the reality of living for Christ in a place where I couldn't share His name. I got to see how God can be glorified wordlessly. Despite a language barrier with one beautiful family I met but once, I saw nothing but their love for their Savior. Their faces shone with the beauty of Jesus. I remember shaking their hands, exchanging names, and looking at them and thinking that's who I want to be. Someone who emanates God with every fiber of her being. Who makes a difference, not so that people will say Look at what Rose is doing! but so that they will say Look at what God is doing! Because praise from man for man is meaningless. It's empty. It's finite. It will pass away. Praising God and giving Him glory is the chief end of man. And I wouldn't have it any other way. 

*Whenever we talked about the gospel in the classroom, we had to speak academically or in relation to ourselves. In the classroom we weren't allowed to apply our answers to their Bible questions to them. Outside the classroom, however.... :) 

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