Inside Out, Upside Down
Every now and then, we experience a shake-up in our lives, a powerful storm which rattles our spiritual bones and tests our firm foundation. The nature of life in a fallen world basically ensures us that no matter how hard we might strive for perfection, cling to our routines, and plan for lasting happiness, these shake-ups will prevent us from ever attaining paradise on this side of eternity.
Sometimes, these shake-ups come through external circumstances, situations outside our control and over which we have no choice. In an instant and without consulting us first, we find our worlds turned inside out and upside down.
I’m sure we could all tell compelling stories of those seasons in our lives when our faith was stretched thin and our strength was lost. These shake-ups are usually defining moments in our lives, sifting who we are and revealing the quality of our character. I think of my pregnancy with our second-born daughter, Alisa, when I describe these storms of life. My pregnancy went from low-risk and normal, to high-risk and stress-filled when she surprisingly screened positive for Down syndrome in utero. Our world was shaken to the core as we grappled with a future we had never dreamed of and certainly never asked for.
Lately, though, I’ve found myself contemplating a different type of shake-up — a shake-up that goes against our natural inclination to live tranquil happy lives. This is about a person who willingly walks into a situation that turns their world inside out and upside down. I'm referring to someone embracing a difficult situation and choosing to sacrifice on behalf of others. I am talking about the Gospel.
Honestly, my heart has been overwhelmed with emotion lately. I’ve been dialoguing with some friends about orphan care, and I have been absolutely broken over our conversations. Trey and I fostered for years, and last March, we adopted our son from foster care. About a year before we began our fostering journey, the Lord began opening my eyes to the plight of the orphan, and my heart has been with the orphan ever since.
Over the course of time, God has peeled back layer after layer from my eyes, removing the blinders so I can really see the need. God's heart is for orphans, and so should ours be. I’ve been wrestling with how to tell you here what He’s been teaching me lately, to say it all with clarity and compassion, but it’s hard because I feel the urgency and I see the need and I want to just fix it all. But I can’t, and I know that. I can’t save them all, and this wrecks me. It absolutely shatters my heart. I can’t save them all.
The Lord has been doing a deep and painful work in my heart. He’s been tilling the soil and reminding me of the inside out, upside down nature of the Gospel. What I’m getting at is this: following Jesus is not about living a life of comfort. He calls us to make those inside out, upside down choices because it is through those kinds of choices that we demonstrate His love — the sacrificial kind — to others. This life of sacrifice is necessitated by our mission of carrying the Gospel to a lost world, and it isn’t a life meant for someone else. It’s meant for you, and it’s meant for me.
The Apostle Paul put it this way:
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:8-11, emphasis mine
We don’t truly know Jesus simply through going to church every week, reading our Bibles, and going on an occasional short-term mission trip. These things can be good, yes, and even necessary in the life of a believer, but they aren’t what usher us into the deepest place of intimacy with Christ. As we understand from Paul’s writing, we know Jesus through sharing in His sufferings. We understand the heart of God when we become like Him in His death. We fellowship with the Lord when we love as He loved us — by laying down our lives for others.
This is where the clincher is: if we, as genuine followers of Christ, never make those hard choices, if we never embrace the shake-ups and walk into those inside out, upside down situations, then what?
…the orphan would never be rescued…
…the slave would never be freed…
…the perishing would never be delivered…
If not us, then who?
The Gospel turns our lives inside out and upside down. We are called to give of ourselves until it hurts and to love without any expectation of return…because that is what Christ did for us. We are called to embrace the very things that will turn our worlds inside out, upside down. But we aren’t just called to it in those unexpected storms of life, when it just happens upon us. We are called to seek out the shake-ups, to choose the hard.
And so in all my wrestling to try and tell you all I’ve learned, I’ve come to realization: I can’t save them all, but we can try. We, the body of Christ, are called to turn our lives inside out and upside down for others. We can make a difference, because we are the ones God has entrusted to carry His redemption plan to the world.
If you’ve ever considered orphan care, check back over the coming weeks. If you’ve never considered orphan care, still come back. I will be interviewing friends who have made the inside out choices. I will bring to you the stories of those who have had their worlds turned upside down by orphan care. And maybe, just maybe, as we read their stories, see their sacrifice, and remember God’s call, we will all be inspired to save a life.
“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation.” Psalm 68:5
“He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” Deuteronomy 10:18