“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service…and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus…to the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1.12, 14, 17
I grew up hearing about Jesus. I received Him as my Savior at a young age, and I knew Him as my best friend. I knew all He did for me, but no one told me how this relationship worked day in & day out. No one taught me to seek Him or that He was seeking me. So, although He drew me near that moment I received Him, I didn’t let Him near. I kept Him at a distance.
So, we hard times came (they always do), my faith was grounded on facts, not a relationship. On things I knew in my head as opposed to my heart. I knew what He had done for me in the past, but had no idea what He was doing in the present circumstances I faced. And so my hope in His love & His goodness quickly faded. I became very lost in darkness as I questioned, “Why would God allow this?”
All the while, I was still at church every time the doors were open. On the outside, I wore a mask. “I’m fine,” was my constant lie. On the inside, I was falling apart. But God used the faithfulness of my parents to continue taking me to church to pursue me. And it led to beach camp with the youth group. He met me during worship. I sang, “I need you Jesus, to come to my rescue, where else can I go? There’s no other name by which I am saved, capture me with grace, and I will follow you.”
I hit my knees and heard Him whisper, “I’m the only one who can rescue you.” I don’t know if I even responded with anything more than tears, but He pulled me out of the darkness right then and there. I let Him near to my heart, nearer still to my hurt, and He promised to redeem it. My life as I knew it was over. New life had begun.
Not that I never struggled again, of course, but I had an overwhelming faith that Jesus would never leave me hopeless. I asked Him simply to lead me. I started reading His word, figuring out this relationship day by day, and His word began to speak promises over me.
“God is within her, she will not fall. He will help her when morning dawns.” Psalm 46.5
And then He led me to the nations. I went on a school trip the summer after my freshman year, and in that 18-hour flight, my heart knew that it was enraptured; traveling stole my heart. I saw God as the Creator of the nations, I saw His hand at work, and I wanted to keep following Him.
I took my first mission trip the next year, and had a pretty terrible time. I felt so inadequate, so alone, so unprepared as we shared the gospel every day. Yet every time that Brazilian breeze blew, I heard Him whisper, “I am with you.” I clung to that simple truth and prayed again, “Lead me.”
“He makes His messengers winds…” Psalm 104.4
Over the next year, I had a youth pastor teaching me how to read the word for myself, and I fell in love with the words of God, this collective sigh of love, breathed into a story of humanity’s broken history and a Father’s perfect love. And something amazing happens when we fall in love with His word–we can’t help but share it. As I shared it, I sense God’s stirring within me, a passion rising and falling with the ups and downs of a high school experience.
And I had no idea what this all actually mean, though (most of the time, I still don’t have a clue!). But God gave me a clearer glimpse of what He was stirring one night as I “randomly” watched a TV show (Kid Nation, for anyone that remembers it). I only watched it because it was showcasing how kids dealt with differing religions among them. A lot of how they interacted was sweet and touching, and therefore I cried a whole lot during the episode. But then, my tears turned cold as the show took a dark turn.
It showed a young Hindu boy (disclaimer–this was WAY before South Asia was ever on my radar), bowing before an altar, before an idol, burning incense. A girl who had said she was a Christian came up to him and began to ask him questions. He explained that Hinduism has 300 billion gods. Then, he invited her to bow and burn incense with him. She joined him on her knees.
I immediately had to turn off the TV and run to my room. My heart was slashed by this moment. Weeping, I hit my face–not a common occurrence for any high schooler to do, but it was all I could do. And all I could hear were
“Here I am, Lord, send me!” 6.8
In that moment, they were my words, too.
That summer, He sent me to serve at a camp in New Mexico for 10 weeks. I mainly agreed to this because it gave me the opportunity to continue working with horses, as I had done for years. But God had way more in store. He had me–the youngest girl there–become the Bible study leader for our small group each week. I saw kids receiving Christ for the first time. And I knew this wasn’t supposed to be something I occasionally did; God was calling me to a life of serving the world with His Word.
I continued to fight with this calling, though, still so thoroughly convinced that it was about what I wanted or what I thought I should do. But the reality it, God’s plans are SO much better than our pea-sized dreams. He wants so much more for us. At the same time, He knows us immeasurably. He knows our hearts, and He knows what will truly satisfy and fill us with joy.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37.4
Even after publicly surrendering to this call to go to the nations, I still wrestled. Finances have always been tough, and so my idea of following Christ my freshman year of college became very practical. “I will work camp my first summer,” I said, ignoring both this call and my own desire, “and then I will go back overseas.” Gently, God led me from practicality to obedience. I withdrew my application for camp, and I applied for summer missions. I committed to spend seven weeks in a place I had little clue about–South Asia. All I knew what this was where He was leading me.
It was a hard path to tread before I got there–financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. But He did get me there, in His perfect ways. And I quickly fell in love. God taught me so much that summer, about who He had made me and what my heart was wired for. I was made for this place–its culture, its food, its people, its vast need for the good news. And He called me back.
“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.” Genesis 28.15
He has taken me many other places since then, but this is the one that won’t let me go. He won’t let me go.
But the bottom line of my story and yours is this: If Christ has called you to Himself in salvation, then He has called you to serve Him. The only prerequisite for serving is salvation. Our stories are different. The places He wants to take us are different. The good works He has prepared for us are personalized exactly to how He made us.
Are you letting Him near? Are you letting Him lead you? Just ask Him. He will.