“DO BIG THINGS FOR GOD! BE RADICAL! If it’s difficult or not what you want, it’s probably God’s calling.”
To a young girl with a performance/achievement-driven heart, this sounded a whole lot like, “If it’s not big and audacious, it’s probably not for God.”
When I was 4, I told my mom and dad that I would be a missionary when I grew up.
When I was 16, I said, “Yes” to God in front of my church family.
It was assumed that (since I am a girl) this meant I was “submitting my life to full-time missions as a vocation”. I didn’t argue…because everybody knows that the top of the Super Christian Food Chain is reserved for missionaries to Africa. What I really meant when I said yes was, “God, it’s yours. Every day is Yours. And I want all of these people to help me keep saying yes to You.”
But, I tried anyway. Boy did I try. I wanted to do those “BIG THINGS!” that youth pastors said He had planned for me.
So, I was the girl who went every summer to somewhere new. I’m not saying that short-term mission trips for a youth group are bad things. Not anymore than painkillers are bad things. Use painkillers for the wrong purposes though….and you’ve got yourself a problem.
Fast forward to college…
This meant packing boxes or suitcases at least once every 4 months for 4 years back and forth to Tennessee with a life changing trip to Africa right there toward the end.
It took a couple of months in Namibia for me to see that there is no such thing as doing a glamorously, BIG THING for God. He is God, after all. My Evangelical Heroin who was out to reach the unreached masses found out that she was still just her – just herself in another geographical context.
After the last box was packed for home in May 2010, it was unpacked in Missouri and not repacked for a long time (almost 3 whole years now…sheesh I’m dramatic). There was the possibility of West Africa. There’s always the possibility of West Africa or North India. Then there was the possible trip to Nepal full of uncomfortable details including how I couldn’t “disrupt their culture by sharing my religious beliefs”. That meant Nepal was really just a philanthropic field trip and in the words of a wise man named Dad, “His calling to go to the nations is more than an excuse to see those areas of the world that we dream about, sweetheart.” So, I stayed.
Just recently, there was the possibility of India. Not north India, but the India that is home to the red-light districts. This possibility brought out that girl again, the one who loves to leave, to go, to be sent. But what if the India that I saw at 17 looks different through these eyes at 25? Now that I know it’s not a group of girlfriends waiting on a bus to come, it’s a line of girls selling their bodies for the profit of another. Is it terrible that I felt some relief upon hearing that it’s not going to work out just now?
Since we were always taught to forsake all and GO. Not many lessons are taught on the work of staying put.
What does it mean to stay with purpose, on purpose?
I’ve found that it means no masks, it means that claustrophobic feeling of being known, it means allowing a whole-hearted, slow and steady type of building, and it means those hard conversations with accountability locked in that can only come after lots of time. It means getting to experience the ups and the downs of every day with real people.
It means being a working part of a community. I’m not talking about “community” in the church culture sense; I’m talking about an actual community as in a city or a neighborhood. EX: A young woman’s body was found on our street a couple of weeks ago and a couple who were fleeing from the police after an armed robbery and assault were arrested in those same woods just last week. Do my neighbors know that I hold the Truth? Do they know Peace even in times of uncertainty? They are my community – my “place” in the “theology of place”. That might not be as exciting or adventurous as going, but it still takes courage and it surely takes some perseverance.
All of that comes in and through the ordinary, the every-day. And you know something I really like? I like that the parables and teachings of Christ come in those “ordinary” times; catching fish, breaking bread, sowing seed…all vehicles to communicate the Kingdom. And my staying means taking exams, wearing a bridesmaid dress, speaking with a young ladies at a safe house, unhurried listening…all vehicles to communicate the Kingdom.
Oh, I can convey the Gospel to the unreached peoples beautifully in my thoughts, I’ve thought about it all the time. This radical act of staying is teaching me, the over-thinker, that thinking is not doing, intentions and strong convictions aren’t worth a dime when compared to real-life engaging in the here and now. That’s the call I’m answering.
Moses and the burning bush.
A story for the every (wo)man. We do this thing when we hear the call of God: we disqualify ourselves. Moses, he heard God – he heard God out loud – and still he responded with all of the reasons he was disqualified from this call.Right there on Sinai, shoes off, feet directly touching holy ground, there he gives the list of reasons why God needs to reevaluate His choice.
I can stand in the midst of His calling and begin to tell God why I’m not the girl for the job. And in the moment of my defiance, there is a crowd of witnesses to testify against me. The enemy, cowering there in the corner, is first in line to hiss out the evidence of my failings, my smallness, my inadequacy, “Who do you think you are? You’re not built to stay put this long? They’ll find you out.”
Right. Who do I think I am? I didn’t actually hear from God, did I? Who would ever think what I had to say or create matters, anyway? Here Lord, let me give you my list of all the reasons why I am disqualified from this vision, this plan, this dream of Yours.
I can tell you how God didn’t react to these pity parties. He didn’t give Moses (or me) a list of all the reasons that Moses was the right guy for the job, he didn’t compare Moses to those who weren’t as “spiritually mature” as Moses was. God gave Moses the only qualification that Moses needed – that was that I AM was sending him. And with that knowledge, Moses lived out obedience among his own people (well, an eventual, most-of-the-time, reluctant obedience). And that obedience changed the fate of his nation.
I’m not saying that I am a Moses….but I could. Because it’s not like he was divine or an unattainable figure. He was a human man with a sinful nature just as sure as I am a human woman who is inherently sinful. So, given that we are one in the same with the same God (the Great, unchangeable I AM), it is safe to say that history could repeat itself. 😉
So, staying with purpose on purpose is the plan for now. And with that plan for 2013, I have HOPE.
It’s all about this hope in the promises He has made.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what he sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
:: Romans 8:24-25 ::