Being set apart - A call to Holiness

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about what it means to be set apart for God and how all of us Christians are set apart for God.  I've thought about how I started the race well as a child, having been confident of my faith and committed to living differently as described in the Bible. 

Then considered how my teenage years I gave into pressures to "conform to the world."  It was in little ways that I gave in - telling a dirty joke, laughing when I shouldn't, and wearing "attractive" clothes.  I remember hearing my grandmother say on multiple occasions, "what is so bad about being a nerd?" 

Then in college, I chose to be set apart by joining other Christians at a Christian college. I had hoped to be humbled by having others around me of deep faith.  Instead what I discovered were things that I didn't like about Christians.  Yes, I was blessed my first couple of years in a cocoon of growth, but in the later years I began to question Christian holiness and the pain it caused others.  I was pushed to the edges and discovered deep within me this desire to care for the marginalized, and so I did.

 And it truly was a calling, to serve those who are marginalized by society for being people who lived on the edge.  And it was good, until I let it absorb me, and my own evaluation of right and wrong started to become warped.  It was then that God called me away. 

And I went with a rebellious spirit to my first seminary, where I was surrounded with other seminary students who all had rebellious spirits and could not answer the question, "What makes the church different from a country club?"  And there I discovered my need to once again be set apart for Christ, and it made me uncomfortable, but it was necessary for survival. 

I soon transferred to another seminary, nearly one thousand miles away.  I found myself living in a home with other women who were at points of transition in their lives and we let each other "be" in those points of transition.  It was there I discovered work as a Christian consultant that helped me to rekindle my voice, while struggling to find a godly balance between expressing the gospel in a holy manner and speaking into our culture and caring for our country's needs. 

And then I got married, and was shocked when marriage made me revisit the Scripture to study what God really says about relationships.  It was then I really came to the realization that the church doesn't always speak the word of God.  Sometimes the church speaks its own word and says it is from God.  And through this whole process I was rediscovering what it means to be set apart for God, without even realizing that was the lesson that was taking place. 

I then began working for a church in an affluent community, an environment that gave me permission to not just be an evangelist, but also to be one who disciples.  I learned how the intellect and analysis gifts that God had given me could be used in teaching and challenging people to be sold out for Christ and convinced of their faith.  It was great!  Except, I also learned that I had some strong ideas as to how the church should function and that the environment I was in ran counter to those beliefs about prayer, teamwork, the movement of the Spirit, relationships over programs, and mutual submission & respect. 

Thus, I answered a call from God to be open to the possibilities of where He might be calling me next and I found myself returning to my childhood home to the very church where I first found faith.  And here I am serving as a missionary among an amazing congregation of believers.  A group of people who sacrificed it all in order to answer God's call to start a new church and I am finding myself being called back to holiness.  In many ways I feel as though I am being reborn in my faith and it is wonderful! 

This is all to say that this morning I read the story of the blind man who Jesus healed on the sabbath with a little dirt, saliva, and a pool of water identified as "Sent." (John 9) I read of this man who had been born blind and was considered by the religious leaders as sinful from birth.  A man who had lived a life "set apart" from everyone due to his disability.  Who, as a result of his miraculous healing, had the opportunity to be fully accepted by society, but chose not to receive the world's embrace in order to become a disciple of Christ.  This choice meant he would more than likely be dismissed from the synagogue.  He could handle this choice though, because he was familiar with the consequences.  He had more sight when he was blind than those who claimed they could see. And Jesus said that he was born blind, so that "the works of God might be displayed in him."  I wonder how the works of God were displayed in him prior to his receiving Christ's healing touch?

The Bible calls us to be set apart.  We are to throw off everything that hinders and run the race that God has set before us with faithfulness.  Over and over again we see lists of morality - what a Christian should do and what is forbidden - what reflects the presence of the Spirit of God and what deters the Spirit's work.  And so I am learning again what it means to be "set apart" and discovering that it is a really nice place to be.  And my admiration and respect for those who have remained "set apart" from childhood to adulthood has grown.  Two of my amazing roommates who were raised in Christian homes, home schooled, and understood that being "set apart" wasn't a bad thing, but a good thing.  Two friends who remained a witness even when I didn't get it.  Thank you!

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