Fill in the Blank4:00 AM
You want to do great things for God. You care about the needs of the world. You love the lost souls. You have a passion for the Gospel. Now what? Because you're probably still in high school. You're in college. You're staying home for whatever reason. Your responsibilities and current life make a missions trip to Africa about impossible. Your first thought is getting out of your current life situation. Quit college. Go abroad. Raise money. Enter the ministry. And perhaps God calls you to do so.
Whether He does or does not, one thing is certain: He calls you to surrender that current life situation completely to Him.
I read books like Radical and hear sermons about the needs of the world and think about the dire poverty, severe emotional pain, imminent danger and utter lostness of people everywhere. I believe God calls the church to be His hands and feet, piecing back broken hearts and strengthening others with the Gospel through the Spirit's power. I can't just sit on the sidelines until I'm older -- I am older. I don't have youth's excuse anymore. What am I waiting for? A sign? A natural transition from single girl to missions-focused, awesome spiritual person? An opportunity to fall into my lap?
Whenever I start thinking this way, I try to convince myself to pull out from college and go into full-time missions. It doesn't feel right and I haven't any idea where I'd go or what I'd do, but for heaven's sake, what else can I do? God expects sacrifice, yes? Abandoning my current life situation -- giving up this dream I'm living -- that's sacrifice. That's radical.
Except for one thing. More and more I'm convinced that God's calling me to surrender, not sacrifice -- or rather, He wants me to surrender as my sacrifice. It's far more theoretically glamorous to feed orphans than make macaroni and cheese for tousled-hair siblings. It's easier to go on a one-time missions trip than consistently evangelizing and ministering to the people I rub shoulders with every day. Sometimes I want to do big things for God because I sincerely want to do big things for God and there are big things to be done. Sometimes I want to do big things for God because it's boring to do the little things for God.
Now, hear me -- don't think that adjusting or abandoning my current life situation is ridiculous and requires talking out of. We need more Christians -- all Christians, really -- to be missions-minded, to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, to get dirty and real with the needs of the world for the glory of Christ. That goal should never change. I'm talking to those of you who are "stuck," more or less, in their current life situation -- the students, the underage, anybody who can't immediately pack up their tent and change.
It's interesting that Paul emphasizes staying in the current life situations God calls people to. If you're married, don't divorce. If you're single, don't marry. If you're a slave, don't worry about it. If you're poor, it's ok. If you're rich, don't burn down your house. That always befuddled me, since situation changes seemed part of the natural progression of life -- singles marry, poor people work their way up the ladder, slaves ache for freedom beyond anything. I think I get Paul's point now. It's not about staying poor or staying single but surrendering every second of your current life to God until He sees fit to change your situation.
But aside from the theoretical principles that apply to the general Christian populace -- what about me? What about you?
What would my life look like if I took the current situation I am in and gave it over to Christ? What would that life look like if I reevaluated it and directed it to spreading the Gospel? What does that life of surrender look like for me?
What would it look like if I was bold, radical and creative, if I started not from the world's expectations or the typical Christian's expectations but from the expectations I know God is calling me to? What is the most radical thing God is calling me to do in this life situation?
I'm a college student. Traditionally, Christian college students are supposed to stay Christian and be good stewards of time and money -- namely, studying hard and avoiding parties. And that's important. I know God has called me to Hillsdale to work hard, play hard and grow hard for His glory. Study and solid friendships are important ways to glorify Him and grow as a person and as a Christian. That's why I'm in college.
But I'm not just going to stay there.
I started with a blank piece of paper and wrote down the things that came hardest to me, things that God's been convicting me to do. I ignored the niggling thought that "you'll never be able to do all this"; I didn't factor in my weaknesses or time constraints; I only considered the most radical possibilities based on the things I know God wants me to do. And I have the guts to believe that the Spirit can empower me to do these things.
They may not look radical. They look somewhat basic, actually. But they require a total refocus of my mind, time and energy -- a surrendering of the easy-ish Christian college kid life. Here's my list, my blank check to God for this particular semester:
- Spend time alone with Him. Fundamental, obvious and something I fail miserably at. I swallowed my pride and asked one of my best friends to hold me accountable this semester.
- Grow closer to my Young Life team. Young Life carries the Gospel to local high schools and middle schools. I already co-lead a high school girls' Bible study -- a major highlight of my week. However, it's been a struggle to get to leader meetings and team dinners. God's been working on my heart to develop closer relationships to people ministering in the same way I am. I need that community to minister effectively to my adorable high school girls.
- Care more for others outside main group of friends. This chiefly means including loners in the conversation, asking them about their day, making eye contact and inviting them along. I get super self-focused during the school week, wanting only to chat with my hilarious, brilliant friends and receive their affirmation and love. I forget that I'm not the only person in need of good friends.
- Start Bible study/accountability group with close friends. Since that close group of friends are some of the most amazing people in the world and genuine Christ-followers, we need to take the next step and center our friendship around Christ. We need accountability and encouragement not just with relationships and papers and stress but also with walking with God, growing in the faith and becoming others-focused.
- Invest more time in my adopted family. A sweet family from my church adopted me -- fed me meals, sent me encouraging notes, made a point to say hello after the church service. I took that for granted instead of thanking them and seeking to love them as much as they tried to love me. I want to write more notes and talk longer and help them out with things they need.
- Stay longer at church to chat. To break out of feeling awkward and unconnected with my new church family, I need to at least get my name out there and learn the names, families and needs of others. This means cutting in on my lunch/friend time to talk to non-student members of Christ's body. It's simple and a no-brainer, but sometimes my growling stomach gets the better of my resolve.
- Look for more ways to be involved with local church. I turned down an opportunity to help in the nursery when somebody needed me to help. I don't want to do that again. I don't want to be a leech off this fantastic church body -- I want to serve, help and grow right alongside these people. This means putting my needs on the backburner. College students aren't the only ones with crazy lives.