Guess I'll have to do this the old-fashioned way and just get it all out. (Is that old-fashioned? Probably not. I don't care.)
There are so many things that I truly began to grasp this past week that it's hard to know where to begin. I'd might as well start off with what I think impacted me the most, something that took forever to drill into my head: God has great plans for me. It's Christianity 101, I know. But as we all are too aware, there are things that we know in our heads and profess to be true, and things that we take to heart and believe with a passion, and live our lives following such truths. This idea finally dug itself a place in my brain and my heart to stay, I hope. I know I will doubt it at times but this past week is my ebenezer, a reminder that the Lord uses His people to do good work around the world, meeting all kinds of needs. He passionately wants to use me as His hands on this earth for the duration of my life. He loves me enough to want to involve me in His wonderful plans, and loves me enough to let me choose whether or not I want to take part.
Now that I've truly learned what this means, I'd be an absolute fool to push that cup away from me.
Can I just recommend the sermons of Dr. David Platt to you? Look him up if you can. He was the main speaker at the Unveiled Conference for Campus Crusade for Christ that I attended last week, and God used him to put me in my place about who this life belongs to. He talked about how scripture presents a different Jesus than the one some American churches seem to embrace today. So many people call themselves Christians, only to mold faith in Christ into their vision of the American dream. They are certain that the God of the Universe desires for them to move into a large house in the suburbs, marry a beautiful spouse and have 2.4 kids, have two cars, and hold down a successful job that brings in the dough. Warming a bench on Sunday morning is enough.
But this Jesus doesn't make sense when you look at the more reliable Jesus of the bible. He calls people to drop what they are doing and follow Him. Matthew 8:20 says the Son of Man has no place to rest His head. Jesus repeatedly tells people to store not earthly treasure, but heavenly, because nothing in this world will last. He preaches against the pursuit of money, stating in three of the gospels that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. James 1:27 commands us to care for widows and orphans, just as we avoid sin.
What kind of good news are some of us trusting?!
You'd think that people would be turned off by a Savior who commands that we not cling to riches but give them away. Some probably are. But it absolutely ignited my soul. My heart breaks for the people of this world who are not being taken care of. Millions are starved, impoverished, ill, and oppressed. Millions need to know Jesus Christ. Why would they want to believe in a Messiah who has yet to help them in their hour of need? Hearing the lessons that I heard really showed me just how much God wants to use us in radical, unexpected, daring ways to reach His people, showing His love practically as well as revealing the scandalous grace He offers.
I used to want that American dream in some form or another. The idea of having a secure life with a handsome husband and a comfy job was so alluring before. But now, it seems like a dead pursuit unless God Himself points to that calling and says, "Yes. This is my will for you." The very idea of going against His plan for me is chilling and grotesque. I want Him to push me further than I thought I could go, force me to break and depend on Him for my strength, reveal His love and magnificent mercy through my imperfections so that I might magnify Him that much more in my failure. A verse stood out to me that epitomized just how I feel:
"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." -- 1 Corinthians 15:19
Imagine having faith like that. If someone looked at how devotedly you chased the cross, to the ends of the earth, proclaiming the gospel and sharing everything you have with people who need it, thirsting for His word and praying at every moment, and that person felt sorry for you. They see your pursuit as a loss if Jesus was not who He said He was. It would be a waste of a life.
But I can't imagine wasting my life on anything else.
This revelation opened up such an exciting world for me. If God calls me to live in another country as a missionary when I graduate, then I will do it. If He wants me to go into the workplace, I'll do it. If He wants me to keep going to school, that's what I want to do, too. I am not used to listening for His voice in my life, but I think that now that I've recognized how much I want to and how willing I want to be in accepting His call, I am faithful that He will do it.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the ocean." -- James 1:5-6
Beginning to understand how sovereign and loving God is in paving a way for me has also lightened my heart about relationships. If you know me, you know that this is hard. I've never held down a relationship in my life. No one's ever asked. From my little doubtful place, it's hard for me to understand how this could happen in the future if it hasn't before. I will surely struggle again with such thoughts, but God is still a God who works miracles. I went to a seminar at Unveiled about preparing for marriage one day, and the speaker encouraged us not to linger in neutral safety (aka settle for someone in college early on if it isn't right) out of fear that the Lord can't work in mysterious ways. His own sister was working at an orphanage in B.F.E., Honduras, which is probably the opposite of a logical approach to seeking a spouse. She couldn't have planned that a businessman in California might donate to that orphanage eventually, go back and forth to see it himself, and fall in love with her. How on earth does crap like this happen for believers in Christ if God does not orchestrate things for our own good? My heart is so much healthier and I can breathe so much more freely handing that area of my life over to God, trusting Him to take care of me while I am able to follow the awesome opportunities He has handed me at the present time.
One of those opportunities is very clear. There are myriad places I can go this summer on missions. I really feel like God is calling me to do this. The question I had was, where? My friends who went to Asia were telling me about it, and I began to apply, but for some reason chose to wait until after Unveiled to send it in. I also decided to wait to tell my pastor that I was planning on summer missions. I don't know why, but I did.
When I got to Unveiled, I went to a meeting at one point just for fun, about summer project in Sarajevo, Bosnia. It just sounded weird and interesting to me. Once the leader described what this mission trip would be like, I was blown away and had to reconsider everything I'd been planning. Almost 4 million people live in Bosnia, and only 700 are known to be followers of Jesus Christ. They are a people hurting from civil war and atrocities, in a country that is Muslim in name but secular in reality. The call to prayer will sound and no one will stop smoking a cigarette to do it. It's a challenge. They almost stopped sending college student missionaries there because they had been going for 9 years, and no one had believed the gospel in that entire time. Until the last year, when 7 students gave their lives over to the Lord.
I don't know what it was exactly that made me feel this way, but the challenge presented is almost so intimidating and nerve-wracking that I feel like it is what I was supposed to do.
Jumping into a totally different place is a hard thing for me to accept in my mind, and I definitely want to pray it through before it's a sure thing. But my willingness to be sent overseas to share the beautiful news that I have is not the question. Today, I went before my church and told my pastor that I thought I was going overseas on mission, and the church promised to support me financially and through prayer. One thing that terrified me on top of just talking to people about Christ was paying for the opportunity to do so, and here is an entire body of people excited for me and willing to help.
God is good, yes?
Gosh, I haven't even touched how close I grew to other people, and the things I learned about truly making my life an example of how Christ uses people like me to change the world in little or big ways. Lazy, selfish, mean, thoughtless, jealous, proud people like me. It will have to wait until tomorrow when I have slept adequately.
I hope you come to know all these things yourself, if you don't already. And if you do, I hope it's fresh in your heart and that you live like it's true.
Talk to me if neither is the case. Much love!