Cue Eminem’s catchy beat and lyrics: “Lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you betta neva let it go. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo…” Ok, we’ll stop there. Eminem had a point (sans all the other outlandish things that are said in the song).
What does it mean to “lose yourself”? It’s almost like this phrase is romanticized. It kinda sounds cool…or maybe it sounds scary—depends what angle you take. But the idea of getting lost in something feels sort of exhilarating. In a world where we are constantly working so hard to keep things under control, the thought of letting go for the sake of fully immersing yourself in something is quite liberating.
Now you can lose yourself in, well, anything. But should you lose yourself in anything and everything? Probably not. Too much of any good thing can become a bad thing. Like, food. Food is good. Too much food? Heart disease, diabetes, the works. Wine. Ah, wine is good. But I’ve heard one too many stories about too much wine leading to addiction, divorce…and other not so great things.
Eminem suggested losing yourself in music or a moment, and I’ve done that in both of those scenarios. It can be cool for the moment, but what about losing your. whole. life?
Exactly what everyone must’ve thought when Jesus made this bold statement to 12 insecure (and probably frightened) men as he sent them off to go do some heavy-duty work—“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
What does that MEAN?
Jesus had such a clever way of leaving you clueless, yet yearning for more. I sort of understood what Jesus meant when I first read this—sort of understood until I met someone who really understood.
I’ll now introduce Maria.
Oh, Maria. (Maria, she remind me of a west-side story. Ok, I’m done)
I met Maria last year while on a mission trip to Iquitos, Peru (aka, the Amazon). I had accompanied a fellow leader to meet some local missionaries in the area at about 11pm at a coffee joint in the center of the city. Maria and I began chatting about life and sorts. It wasn’t too long before she began to share with me her story.
A story that would impact my life for…well, ever.
Growing up in Argentina, Maria had a regular life (you know, decent amount of money, great family, food in her fridge…she was good). In her early twenties, Maria had a supernatural encounter with God (the kind that turns people crazy…in a good way). After Maria’s “aha-moment” (if you will), she began seeking God hard-core. Like all who seek God, they are sure to find Him. (After all, He did say in Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”)
One night, Maria had a dream. In her dream, she was doing some pretty amazing things with some funky folks (from a village who had an equally funky name).
Have you ever had a really impactful dream that you just couldn’t shake? Well, after having that dream, have you done something about actually pursuing it? Probably not. But guess what? Maria did. And it rocked her world…
Since God had done such an out-of-this-world job at changing her life, Maria thought it was only natural to give herself up to change others’ lives. Soon after her dream, her church family announced that a few of them were going to begin training to live on mission in Peru. You see, Peru is one of the countries with the most unreached, indigenous people groups. The north part of Peru is composed of none other than…The Amazon. (dun, dun DUN). There are still thousands of tribes that are yet to be discovered. Indigenous people, like the kind you see in movies…who wear the funky stuff through their nose, speak their own dialect, don’t have a written language, and worst of all: practice hardcore witchcraft. Like literally sell their soul to the devil kind of witchcraft. Burnt offerings, voodoo dolls, human sacrifices, the works. The jungle of Peru is a dark, dark place. Let’s sprinkle in killer tarantulas, super-giant-disgusting bugs, pumas, jaguars, and more. PLUS, the insanely infamous Amazon River surrounding it (that’s so scary they make movies about it) with ginormous killer anacondas (Hi, Jennifer Lopez) and deadly piranhas. Yes, the Amazon is cool, if you’re paying a tour guide to take you to where it’s already been trekked and explored. But, the deep parts of the Amazon are not places you want to mess with.
Anyways, back to Maria. After a few months of prepping for her journey to Peru, the leaders of the team announced the name of the tribe they were going to reach out to. And yep, you guessed it: the name of the tribe they were going to reach was the exact name Maria had the dream about. (eek. Okay, God. We get it). Maria knew she was headed for a serious task (just like the 12 men Jesus was speaking to in that verse about losing their lives; to check out the whole passage, click here).
After packing her things and bidding farewell to her family, Maria headed towards the unknown with no real clue of what she was getting herself into, but a sure idea that her jungle expedition was exactly the path paved out for her.
"Maria Canilla we're praying for you"
Her initial arrival to the tribe wasn't at all what she expected; this was the first Westerner they had ever encountered. But after spending months visiting this new tribe daily—pouring out her love for them (the real kind of love—the kind that is sacrificial. The kind that will eat monkey brain, learn a new language, sleep in a heat and bug infested hut, and use a tree as a toilet), they began to really believe she came in peace—and for a deep purpose. Not too long after, they invited her to live with them!
It wasn't difficult to see how seriously oppressed these poor people were. Demonic stuff had a strong hold on them. Children were being sacrificed to their “god”, people were coming down with outrageous sicknesses--it was clear that evil was definitely reigning. But the more time Maria spent with her new family, the more her heart ached for them. She was determined to see God do a miracle—transform this tribe from the inside out, like He had done with her. It wasn’t too long before Maria was able to learn their language enough to communicate with them who her God was—share with them His love, His grace, His power. In fact, He loved them so much, that He had commissioned her to leave everything and go live with them so that they could be freed from the darkness they were living in. This God had to be real—Maria was living proof. One by one the people began to believe. In no time, a church was established and soon enough, the evil no longer had dominion over the tribe. Instead of trying to do witchcraft on each other, they began to love and sacrifice FOR each other. It was beautiful, and so full of well, God.
After miracles had abounded, Maria knew her time at that specific village was up—it was time to keep truckin'. She bought a small wooden boat, and made a five day journey through the Amazon to her next location. After putting the same effort into her second family—watching miracles happen, and evil flee and love abound, Maria moved on to the third tribe to do the same.
Eight years later, Maria still lives on her boat, traveling back and forth from all three churches she has helped start. When I met her, she was in the city of Iquitios recovering her health after her 5th time battling with Malaria. I watched Maria’s eyes water as she shared her struggles of loneliness, “I don’t have a home or a family,” she admitted. “But watching people be freed from demon possession, orphans being adopted into families, and tribes coming together in love and unity, it makes it all worth it.”
“Although I’ve given up my own life for the unreached, I’ve never actually been more alive. This life is not my own anyway, and earth is just my temporary home.” Maria is a true testimony of what it looks like to lose your life, yet actually gain it in the process.
Do you sense God asking you to give up your life for someone? Maybe it’s not for the indigenous people groups in Peru, but maybe, just maybe, there is someone in your life that needs the same kind of sacrificial love.
Dear friends, I encourage to lose yourself today. I promise that when you lose your life, you’ll be so much closer to finding it.