In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he writes to “the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” The saints are straddling two worlds, the are in Ephesus, and they are in Christ. And aren’t we all, on this side of Heaven, straddling two worlds? The earthly one God has placed us in, and the heavenly one that is our true home. We are sojourners here, learning to live in Christ while we live in Ephesus.
Esther lived this out in a big way. When we meet Esther we are given two names for her, two identities: Hadassah, her Jewish name, and Esther, her Persian name. She is an exiled Jew, living in Persia, trying to navigate two worlds at odds with each other. And, as always, the time comes when she has to make a choice. She, and we, can’t continue to be comfortable in both. We will need to decide which one is our true identity, the one that will inform how we live out the other.
We know it is no accident, this two world living. In Acts 17:26 we read that : “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him.” This two world living is meant to draw us to Him, to cause us to seek Him, to find Him.
In Esther 4, as the Jews face complete annihilation from the Persians, Mordecai understands this, and says, “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” He understands that this collision of her worlds isn’t the problem, it is a solution. Esther, the Persian Queen, stands up in her faith, and will ultimately be the instrument God uses to save His people from destruction. But she has to decide which one is her true home, her true identity. And then God will use her in a mighty way.
So how would you fill in this sentence, “I am living in ______, and in Christ.” I could fill it with a multitude of things. I am living in chronic illness, and in Christ. I must choose daily not to let chronic illness become an identity. My identity in Christ informs how I live with chronic illness, not the other way around. God uses it to draw me to Himself. I am living in the United States, and all that that means right now – especially in this political season. But I am in Christ Jesus, and that must inform everything I say and do about what is going on in the world around me.
As we meet with women, we will see the hard situations they are living in:
I am living in a hard marriage
I am living in grief for a child
I am living in deep loss
I am living in loneliness
We need to point them to the second truth, that they are in Christ Jesus. That has to mean something. That can’t be a platitude, empty words designed to gloss over our pain.
It is easy to give advice, to tell others what we did in that situation, to point people to our favored solutions. But we need to point them to Christ. To who He is in light of the situation, who He has said we are, and what He has promised us. He did not put us in this world to despair, or to look for worldly answers, but to seek Him, and find Him. Of course, we comfort others with the comfort we have received, and we share what we have learned as we may have walked a path ahead of someone, but ultimately we want them to seek Christ, not our advice.
A couple years ago I learned about Cru’s Soularium Cards from a leader in our mentoring program. I ordered some, we used them, and I have been telling everyone about them ever since!
It’s a simple idea that promotes powerful converstion – a set of 50 cards, each with a high-quality photo of a thought provoking image. There’s a huge variety in the images.
They come with a series of questions you can use to start a converstion, such as, “What 3 images describe your life right now,” and “What 3 images do you wish were a part of your life?” There are also questions regarding spiritual life, such as, “What image would you use to describe God?”
Soularium is designed to create a space for authentic dialogue with people about their life and spiritual journey. It’s perfect to use with students, neighbors, co-workers, friends and family – people of all ages!
We have used the lighter questions for our first meetings in our mentoring program and classes many times. Throughout the year we have pulled them out again, asking deeper, spiritual questions. In January, our Women’s Ministry Board chose images that described something they wanted more of in their life in 2016. I am hoping to pull them out at our next board meeting and see how we are doing.
There is something about explaining WHY an image represents their answer that opens up dialog, and people just share more. They also seem to be more willing to talk about how they feel about something, and go deeper than ‘just the facts.’
We have also used them as a prayer concern prompt – having women chose an image that represented what they would like us to pray for them. This was really helpful for quieter women, who may have a hard time sharing a prayer request.
If you are looking for a great discussion starter try them out! Let me know what you think, and how you used them in the comments!
Check out the cards here