Friday, February 12, 2010

Reflect: Being Sanctified in Haiti

The relief effort still goes on strong here at our campus, and there are many more stories to tell; we have so many entries in the works. But I want to pause and share with you some reflections that Katie and I have had.

After we had settled into a routine we were shocked to find old habits creeping back in.  We were even more shocked to realize that maybe they had not left at all, or that they were manifesting themselves in new ways. Weren’t these problems of our old lives? Why were they here in Haiti?

We realized we had been preoccupied with comfort. Namely ours. Was the food Katie was going to eat something she liked? Did things here meet my standards of how they ought to be done? These were the questions we most often asked ourselves. We also argued about the temperature. We were not thankful to have food, thankful to have a standing home and our belongings.

The problem with us in Haiti was that we were in Haiti.

My sins and habits did not stay behind in Dallas. I brought them here with me. The earthquake did not sanctify me or scared me straight. I was and still am the messed up person I was when I cam here. It is rare to have a dramatic event that causes us to correct all our faults.

A great example if this is in the movie “Funny People”. Adam Sandler plays a rich and famous comedian (hard role I am sure) who has a rare disease and very well might die. He makes some small changes, gives some things to charity, reconnects with his family. He looks like he might have some break through when he is told that the experimental drugs he is on have cured him.

Faced with this near death experience how does he live? He has an affair with a married woman he used to date and gets beat up by her husband. 

Not really a model to follow.

His side kick, Seth Rogan, has a great scene where he tells Sandler that the reason he is still unhappy is that he (Sandler) is the problem.

I watched that movie earlier this week and was wide eyed at the end. I was convicted.

Don’t  laugh, I know I am one of the few people to find spiritual enlightenment in an Aptow comedy. But I saw the parallels in my life and cringed: moderately unsatisfying lives - overcoming deadly circumstances - continuing dissatisfaction in life - moment of wonder, what is it going to take to not be dissatisfied?

The problem with Sandler’s character and with me is that experiences or circumstances do not sanctify us. Only Christ does that.

Quakes, camps, break ups, marriages, moves to new cities. None of them can do the complete job of sanctifying us that Jesus Christ can do. Sure those moments can be used by Him, but they are not in and of themselves cure alls for getting rid of your junk.

Surely I am not the only one who has done this. I think people do this all the time. We think that in the next phase of life we will become the person we always wanted to be. I have done this my whole life.

Let me self-disclose for a moment. I have always thought that in just a few years I would be more fit, have a little more money and be a better Christian. Despite the fact that I was doing nothing to move towards these goals.

I didn’t work out. I spent my money foolishly. I put very little effort into my faith.

In high school, college, young adulthood, my first year of marriage, and moving to Haiti I kept expecting my change in circumstances to make me into the person I wanted to be and knew I should be. Despite the fact that in nearly every season I just mentioned there was very little personal development.

You have no idea how ashamed I am to write that.

Change requires work. It requires effort. It requires sacrifice and denial. These challenges are not something we can overcome on our own. Success in all of these things require an active relationship with the one who already over came them. Jesus.

All of the things I just mentioned are painful, uncomfortable and generally considered to be avoided. But at what cost? At the cost of being at your quarter-life and realizing you do not like who you are? Not what you have become, but rather who you have always been? At being disappointed at who you never became? Despite your highest, but lethargic hopes?

What a terribly expensive cost.

I now believe it is more richer and less costly to pursue sanctification at all costs. I also believe that when we feel like we cannot make it we will be strengthened.

Jesus was about to heal a blind man and he asks him. Do you have faith I can do this? And the blind man says. Yes, but give me faith to overcome my unbelief.

I wonder if Christ asked me about my faith that I would have the wisdom to say, “ Yes but help me when I have unbelief.”

That is my new prayer. Katie and I are bearing down on the areas that have habitually sucked at. We are trying to be intentional and deliberate. The progress is small and results will be hardly noticeable every day. But I believe that they build on one another and maybe when I move back to the States one day I can look back on this time here and see some growth. At the very least the earthquake diet will pay off.


  1. Your post was a challenge to me. Can you believe that I'm in my 50's and still am struggling with sanctification issues? A Christian brother once told me, "Cars have a way of testing your sanctification." As I was digging my kid's car out of the snow this morning because someone had left the car door open a crack and the battery was dead and I needed the car dug out in order to hook up the battery charger, I must confess that my thoughts were not godly ones. The exercise was probably God ordained in order to give me time to consider the true state of my heart and to relinquish once again self control and to place my dependence on my Savior. A phone call of apology for attitudes was in order and once again I continue that life-long journey toward His likeness which will fully be realized in Glory, bless His name!

  2. Ben,

    Very powerful post. Thank you for being so open and honest - you have no idea how that has impacted my life to read!

    You don't know me, but I have been following your blog since the "event". I read every morning and check back every night...because you and Katie are doing what I cannot - be there, helping, healing, loving. What I can do is to pray.

  3. I love your honesty and your heart that you have shared. You have challenged me today!! Thank you for your words. I will be praying for God to change you and for this time to be one of significance in your spiritual journey towards knowing HIM in an intimate way!

    Love you!

  4. Ben and Katie, you don't know me but I also went to Baylor (06) and another Baylor friend linked to your blog. I just want to say that reading about your experiences after the earthquake has been amazing, much more informative than any news source, and I have been standing with you in prayer every time I read. Thank you for doing His work! God bless you both! -Amelia

  5. Ben and Katie, I'm also a follower of your blog (though I did not go to Baylor, lol). I think I found you guys through a friend from Dallas (where I grew up) who mentioned you all on Facebook. Anyway, as with Amelia from the above post, I have been reading for some time. Today's post was particularly convicting for me as a single, 20-something, working person in Austin (who has the best intentions of being sold-out for Christ in my next life stage). Thank you for your honesty and sincerity of heart. It is so meaningful to me to see your persistence and your faithfulness to each situation God has placed in front of you. Despite your 'comfortable' roots (and the urge be 'comfortable'), you seem to have allowed God to direct you and to use you in some pretty cool ways. How awesome that amidst all of your circumstances, you're still asking Him (and allowing Him) to refine you! Take Care, Erin

  6. Don't know how I found your blog (friend of a friend of a friend, perhaps) but have been reading off and on lately. I am deeply touched by this post as it deals with things that parallel my life.

    I especially like the reminder that "experiences or circumstances do not sanctify us. Only Christ does that." So true. Lord forgive me. Help my unbelief.

    Thank you for your open honesty. God is using you in Haiti, and your testimony is shining here in New Zealand also. - Becky

  7. Thank you, Ben for sharing this. I have found your blog through some work friends at the BGCT. I have been praying for you two and can identify with what you are going through as it pertains to spiritual growth. My pastor at The Village Church often says sanctification is a crawl, not a run, and although the changes are small, years from now we can look back and see how God has changed us. No doubt that is what God is up to for you guys!
    -Stephanie Midkiff

  8. Ben,
    Wonderful post. For once, I'm speechless.

  9. I can't get this post out of my head. So often, I wait for the literary elements of exposition-conflict-resolution to be perfectly paralleled in my own life. But the denouement is never a perfect resolution. You're right- the idea that a catastrophic event or life struggle is what will change us is impractical. Events don't change us. Not even CHANGE changes us. God does. These situations are His tools for shaping our character, but only He is the one who does the shaping.

    Thank you so much for helping me to realize this today. Since graduating last semester, I've been thinking often about "the person I want to be;" I've been planning to "start living my life," waiting for something to spark a change. It's time for me to stop waiting and start living the life He wants me to live.

    Praying for ya'll, as always! (Ben, I don't think we ever knew each other well but I went to FBCR and know your sister, and met up with Katie a few times at Baylor.)


  10. Ben,
    The last post said she was speechless. I'm not speechless. I am watching someone grow in his faith that I have watched and prayed for for years. I am still praying and want you to know that I am still in the same struggle toward sanctification. It is one we will continue in until Christ comes. But I see you gaining ground faster than I did. I praise God that He has provided this opportunity for you and Katie. Y'all are doing a wonderful work for our Lord. Hang in there!

    Love you both.



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