• Leah Van Someren

Know Your Rights

Hello month four!

Month four welcomes in many new things. A new hemisphere, a new continent and yet again, a new country. We’ve officially made it to Indonesia where we will be serving with a local church (more on that in a separate post). Saying goodbye to Peru was unbelievably bittersweet — it was by far the most difficult goodbye yet. The people I met were nothing short of incredible and the Lord moved in brand-new ways in my heart. I’m learning an immeasurable amount of what it means…what it actually feels like to live as a sister of Christ - an heir, accepted and justified. Not only the sweetness of those truths, but the rights assumed as well. I’m digging in and learning.

Let me back up…my testimony is riddled with battles of major, tangible sins. Sins that the bible speaks directly against without reproach. For example, I fostered a relationship with an eating disorder for five years where I made the choice to trash my body - the Lord’s temple - on the daily. I sought satisfaction through physical and emotional affection delivered on silver platters by men who knew nothing of the gospel. I looked to the world for comfort through all kinds of numbing agents and false idols. Needless to say, the Lord and I had to work through a thick layer of junk and sin as He walked me through repentance and redemption.


Now, thanks be to our amazing and mighty God, He helped me break through that thick layer of those strongholds. By way of His strength, grace and forgiveness, I divorced my eating disorder, chose Truth over conformity and now walk in Jesus’ footsteps far more often than I ever thought probable of my own life. But guess what I’ve discovered this month…that’s just the start! 

I was talking to a teammate of mine about what it means to live a daily life that resembles Jesus and explained all that He has been teaching me about my “second layer sins.” By that I mean, God brought me through the war on my tangible sins and now He’s brought me face-to-face with my ‘soft’ sins, those that I can’t hold, touch or identify with the naked eye. In my experience, it is these the world deems ‘normal’ and therefore in someway unavoidable and accepted. But a life devoted to Jesus is never normal by the world’s standards and therefore, one must confront selfishness, pride, arrogance, jealousy…all of it. 


Those roots run real deep. And if you’re anything like me, you get practically one million times to do this a day…yay (ugh)!


Let me give you an example so perfect it’s uncanny. 

Just a couple days ago, I found myself on a twelve and a half hour plane ride from JFK to Doha, Qatar, our second layover on our VERY long trek to Bali. My squad and I flew Qatar Airlines in a beautiful airplane that looked more like a hotel with wings. AND hotdog, I even had an aisle seat! Without pause, we were airborne. As I settled in, I looked forward to resting well, recharging for the next five months of ministry. My good friend and teammate, Allina sat in front of me and before I knew it, she pushed her seat back to its most reclined position. Naturally, I found my nose a hair’s width away from my TV screen. “No matter.” I thought, “I’ll just push my seat back as well.” With a click of a button, back I went…reclining, relaxing, resting to the fullest.

That is, until I felt my own mini earthquake taking over the back of my seat. Jerked out of any hope for peace, I quick looked back to find an older gentleman piercing me with a look of offense. I asked him what was wrong and without saying a word he rapped on my headrest, clearly indicating his wishes for my seat to be put back in its original position. Again, I asked him what was wrong. It was clear he didn’t speak english and with a grunt he pushed once again. Begrudgingly, I moved my seat back to the upright and locked position…with twelve hours of flight time left. Beyond frustrated, I gritted my teeth and clenched my jaw. Thoughts flooded my head as I processed a, in my opinion, completely unfair situation.


“It is my *right* to put my seat back. I am only reacting to the person in front of me. He could put his seat back just as easily and it would be fine. I should call a flight attendant over here and explain the situation. They would make him be okay with it! Yeah, that’s it — I’ll show him just how absurd he is being…it’s only fair I get to put my seat back…after all, it’s my RIGHT!” 

Halfway through the flight, my friend got up to use the bathroom and you know what I did? You guessed it, I put my seat back! Just a little…”Maybe he won’t notice.” I thought. I was wrong. Upon his return, my 65 year old(ish) plane-mate surprised me with his sheer strength and gaul. Stiff-arming my seat, he pushed it completely vertical with a grunt of triumph. “Why I oughta…!” Fuming, I thought I might scream and then it hit me…my flesh (my worldly mind/heart/desires) was throwing a tantrum. In the name of my second layer sins, I ditched my mind that is mine in Christ Jesus and ran directly to ingrained sins that tell me I am important, I deserve things and others come second. Can you say selfishness and pride? Woof! 


As I sat straight up, I wrestled with Jesus. I diplomatically presented both sides…admittedly giving mine just a *little* more representation and you know what He did? He brought me to the Bible! Philipians 2:3-8 to be exact…


“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Last time I checked, sitting up straight on a flight never brought anyone to the point of death…at least I lived to tell the tale. And yet, my immediate reaction was far from obedient. In an opportunity to serve my fellow person and uphold his interests far above mine, I gripped and complained, highlighting my “rights”. 


But here is the truth bomb…by choosing Jesus, you forfeit your worldly rights. Those rights that tell you what you “deserve”…that your spot in line is obviously in the front of the pack and you should always be able to be comfortable. Your right to never be cut off in traffic, to always go first in line, to never be blamed for a situation gone wrong and to always be apologized to. You hand them over, right after Jesus gladly takes every single sin you’ve ever and will ever commit. It’s a packaged deal and let me tell you, we by no means, get the short end of the stick because what we receive is far greater than anything we cling to.


We get to give all of it. And guess what! Jesus takes both with joy because neither are necessary when you become a co-heir in His Kingdom. If I want to claim my citizenship in His Kingdom, I must lose my life in order to find it and I’ll speak for myself when I know my life is often wrapped up in my own 'rights' and selfish desires. Therefore, I must die to these, the soft sins that run deep, in order to find real, true life that comes from laying myself down for the desires of others. And what good news is it that the gospel saturates the depths of our second layer sins? That even when it’s extraordinarily difficult, its sweetness and truth drill down to the roots of our daily living and bring us to the foot of the cross where forgiveness and love flow freely. Sin is removed as far as the east is from the west and by relinquishing your worldly rights and accepting His gift of salvation, you gain all the freedom that is offered in Christ Jesus.

Thanks be to God.