Jessi Schwertfeger discusses how she is grateful for people and the significant, but sometimes messy, relationships we encounter in our day-to-day lives…
My beautiful, intelligent, and anointed friend and co-worker Jessi Schwertfeger is my guest contributor today. I am so grateful that she has written for Pretty Little Lemons despite the extremely busy season that she is in. She and I go back nearly a decade! We met at our Overland Missions’ Advanced Missions Training school early 2008 and we have done A LOT of life together. She and her husband Jacob Schwertfeger, along with their three beautiful children, are our head of operations in Africa (we both work for Overland Missions if you didn’t guess that already). They are such an amazing family and they have hearts of gold. This entry she has written communicates a large portion of her heart, which is people. Her heart is BIG and LOVING and she has a passion for people and to see relationships flourish in the body of Christ. So, here we go…
Jamie, the blogger whom you know and love, asked me to contribute here as we sat together at her home last week, drinking tea and solving the problems of the world. What could not possibly be told through this screen as I type and you read is what this woman knows about me and how many adventures we’ve had together. We’ve laughed and cried; confronted and backed down. We’ve listened and corrected, we’ve accomplished much and had moments of accomplishing little. We’ve fought for each other. 🙂 I could just be a random guest blogger whose opinion was requested. But, I’m not. I’ve “done life” with her—and lots of other folks. And that’s what I want to contribute here today. What does it look like to be grateful for—PEOPLE?
You may have come into this piece of cyber space a little weary. You have been fighting the world’s battle for so long you can’t remember what peace looks like-and you’re concerned (and you should be!) that the world is deteriorating. Here’s a secret: The world has been a topsy-turvy place for awhile now. And while YOU may define awhile as being the length of the election season, I define awhile as being since Lucifer fell from heaven and Eve ate the fruit, and sin became an ingrained part of our natural hearts. We were created from the beginning to be in relationship with God and with the people around us. And those relationships were the first thing on the chopping block when Adam and Eve decided to walk out of a trusting relationship with their Creator and walk into a trusting relationship with the Destroyer, Satan.
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” -Genesis 3:8-13
Adam and Eve deceived themselves into thinking that they were improving their circumstances when they decided to listen to the serpent’s advice, but that was a lie. There was a consequence for ignoring the commands of their Creator, and the consequence was the destruction of their relational intimacy with Him. Immediately, they felt that they had to HIDE from God. They no longer trusted themselves in His Presence, and they no longer felt that they knew what His response would be. And the second consequence? Immediately, Adam accuses Eve of sin, blaming her for leading him down the path of iniquity. In that moment, Adam and Eve’s relationship was broken from perfect intimacy. They could no longer completely trust each other as they were meant to.
So many of us confess Jesus as our Savior. We go to church, we read the Bible, and we TRY to do the right thing. We get weary from fighting with the world and discouraged from the battle to keep sin at a respectable difference. And we feel lonely. Even when we are surrounded by people, we feel alone in our circumstances and in the hope of emotional intimacy with others. When we are looking darkness in the face and it is threatening to overtake us, we must rely on our identity in Christ and in Him as our Rescuer.
But there’s something else that we don’t always admit to ourselves. The realization is that we were CREATED to be in relationship. God didn’t form us and then sit on His seat in heaven and watch from afar. He created us, man and woman, to be TOGETHER, and then He came and spent time everyday engaging in intentional relationship with His Creation. Here it is: You will always feel tired, discouraged, and separated from God if you have no emotional intimacy with the Body of Christ—yep, that means PEOPLE.
People can be challenging. They can be complicated. And it takes SO MUCH EFFORT to stay in a place of constantly engaging with them.
I live in a situation where the relationships around me form the basis of my life and ministry. I am a fellow staff member with Overland Missions, and my family works full-time at our Rapid 14 base in Zambia, Africa. We live in community with up to 100 other long and short-term missionaries and missions students. Sometimes there are just 5 of us around to hold down the fort and keep things running. And sometimes there are dozens of us trying to keep things straight logistically and also focus on ministering effectively with the leading of the Holy Spirit. In my time at the base, we have been through every imaginable thing together. We’ve seen engagements and breakups. Babies being born and babies being lost through miscarriage. Car crashes and vehicle breakdowns. Immigration issues and medical evacuations. Huge construction projects and everyday chore lists. We’ve prayed for the sick and seen them healed, and we’ve trusted for healing in our own bodies and in our own families. We spend countless hours in worship and countless hours around the dinner table. We have given to each other financially when it felt like there was nothing to give. We have given to each other emotionally when we felt like there wasn’t an ounce of emotion left. We have given of our time when extra time felt non-existent. And we have given grace and forgiveness where it wasn’t deserved and didn’t get a thank you.
If I am grateful for anything besides my relationship with my Savior—it is this: I am so thankful that the Lord positioned me in a place to rely on the Body of Christ. I am completely dependent on His Grace and His Mercy in my life. But one of the ways that He provides for me is through the people that He calls His Righteousness. Don’t get me wrong: Those people do not always express righteousness, in fact, sometimes they can be downright frustrating! But they ARE the expression of Him here on earth, and they deal with my quirks and stay (mostly) quiet about the things I do that irritate them. They cover me when I’m trying to figure things out. The beauty and kindness of the Lord shines through them in the most unlikely places. In the gift of a chocolate bar or an offer to babysit my kids. In secretly doing my dishes when I left the house a disaster zone. In driving me to the hospital at 3am to sit with me and a sick baby. But the beauty of the Lord shines through in other ways too. Sometimes I think that He is even more glorified in the times when we have to put a conversation down to rest temporarily because our voices are getting too loud and accusatory. When we purse our lips together HARD to keep from saying something sarcastic or rude in a moment of frustration. When someone is taking more than they are giving or releasing judgment more than they are releasing grace. The glory of those relationships is in the effort put forth in THOSE moments. The moments when it would be easier to walk away. To avoid the discomfort. And to accuse, blame, and criticize. It’s in those situations when the foundations of our relationship with the Body of Christ is established. In those times where we say, “I will not leave you. I will not forsake you. You can’t kick me out and you can’t give me up. I’m coming with you where you’re going and I refuse to be left behind.”
I am so grateful for the easy relationships in my life. But I am also grateful for the challenging ones. The ones that have taken some work, some effort, some fight. I am thankful because not giving up on people—and not being given up on—is an expression of Jesus in us and a provision of Jesus towards us.
So if you have been feeling lonely and downtrodden-and like there’s no one taking a vested interest in your life: I want to challenge you. Take a vested interest in someone else’s life. Stop living the modern humanism that says that you need to take of care of #1. Love people when you don’t agree and don’t understand. And you will find that there is not a relationship that will be wasted and from which there won’t be a harvest.
Please won’t you follow Jessi and her family at their blog? You will be blessed! Guaranteed!
Here are some photos of Jessi ministering in Zambia!
Also, if you would like to partner with them financially and sow into the nations I would encourage you to do so! You can become a part of their ministry by clicking on the link provided (be sure to write “Schwertfeger” in the memo line): https://www.overlandmissions.com/donate/