Which is harder, to go or to stay? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer because I think, depending on the state of the heart, both are equally difficult. And I now know what being called to both of them feels like.
S T A Y : to remain in a specified state or position. Specified, indeed. This word and I? We’re not friends. Nope. Until I get so lost in Jesus that I can fully embrace the calling behind this dreaded word, “stay” and I are close to arch-enemies.
For the past two years I have felt God clearly ask me to leave everything and go serve Him in another country for the summer. I vividly remember the feeling, both times, knowing that He wanted me to leave my comfort zone and trust that He would take care of me and, more importantly, that He wanted to do some incredible work in my heart through such an experience. I remember trying to balance feelings of utter excitement with overwhelming fear, and at times I let fear got the best of me by simply sitting on my bedroom floor, crying, telling Him I couldn’t do it because I was so terrified. And part of what made me so afraid was not just fear of the unknown, but of that which I also knew very well: that because He was calling me to go, He had some pretty radical purposes in mind, and I was honestly scared of what that would look like/feel like/require of me. But because of His great love and faithfulness, that fear and dread that accompanied the initial conviction to leave was soon remedied by a burning desire to grow as a person and as a follower of Christ. And, as departure drew closer, excitement overwrought any fear, and I felt ready. All of that to say, it was still really hard for me to respond with obedience to God’s call to leave home for a time. Home was where I was comfortable, which is exactly where He did not want me to stay. (*feel free to cringe because there’s that word again*) And for the past six months I have struggled with the same issue of feeling God calling me in one direction, but wanting so desperately to go the other.
These months have been full of me seeking, God convicting, me doubting, God confirming, me denying, God reassuring, and me, finally, listening. Somewhat reluctantly. Okay, more than somewhat. And all the while, He has been perfectly patient with me, as only He can be.
Since before I returned from my second summer overseas, I was already thinking about what I would end up choosing to do the summer of 2015. In the late fall, I started receiving e-mails from my Royal Servants leaders, encouraging me to come back for the third time and travel with them to Poland, Slovakia, and back to Israel (or Turkey, depending on how the conflict in the Middle East is by that time). I wrestled with thoughts of leaving for so long, yet again; of raising the money, yet again. But I also got really excited when I thought about everything I’d be saying hello to almost immediately after saying goodbye to home: being reunited with a few friends, making new ones, growing to know and love Jesus even more, eating really good food, eating really bad food, laughing, developing inside jokes, sleeping in tents, dealing with the nightmares of traveling that eventually become some of the greatest memories, and of course, being in other countries and watching God place opportunities right in front of me and the rest of my team to share His love with lost souls. Difficult and wonderful and beautiful things.
This is right about when God began to teach me discernment.
I wanted to go, so badly. I still want to go, so badly. Hence the struggle at hand. But from day one, deep down, I knew that what I wanted was not lining up with where God was and is calling me… To stay. Home. To stay home. Poland, Slovakia, and Israel, or possibly Turkey? Mmm, I think I’ll pass. I’d rather stay home. SAYS NO ONE EVER. At least, not me. This was clearly not my response, that I’d RATHER stay home. In fact, this was so far from my response that it literally took close to six months for me to accept the fact that it just isn’t going to happen this time around. I went back and forth with God on a daily basis, asking, “Are you sure about this one…? Is this something you actually do? You allow an opportunity like this to arise, only to tell me NOT to choose it? Seriously, there’s still plenty of time if You want to change Your mind. Just lay it on my heart to go and I will go.” Because here’s the thing: Discernment. Yes, I wanted to go. But there’s a big difference, I learned, between wanting something myself, and knowing when & if God wants it too. I didn’t have the same overwhelming excited, afraid, dreadful, “I have to do this” feeling about going that I have felt the past two summers. I felt that way about staying home, but I denied it for a long time because I didn’t want to pass up my other option. I had to check my motives. I wanted to go because my leaders wanted me to, and I wanted to make them happy. I wanted to go because I dreaded seeing all the pictures on Facebook after the fact and wishing I had been there. I wanted to go because I don’t want to feel like I missed out. Selfish, right? Well, eventually the deadline came and went, and I still felt the same unwavering conviction that I’d felt the entire time. It took a lot of courage for me to type and send a response, saying I will not be traveling with Royal Servants again this summer, because doing that meant it was set in stone; it meant I was officially acknowledging what God has been and is asking of me, which is freaking scary when it’s not what I necessarily want to be doing. So, in the sweetest way, it broke my heart a little bit, but God was right there, picking up the pieces as they fell. Or rather, catching them in His hands before they even hit the ground.
There’s a trend here, if you haven’t noticed yet. God really likes calling me outside of any level of comfort that I reach. And He’s really good at it. Seriously, anytime I get comfortable, He is pretty quick to make sure that I don’t stay that way. But it’s no wonder because the discomfort is where I thrive and grow the most. I reached a point in the past (the more recent past) where I honestly wanted more than anything for God to completely change me and grow me into a woman after His own heart. Whatever it takes, I wanted it. I still want it. And He has definitely remembered that prayer, let me tell you. Apparently it takes uncomfortable situations for me to grow the most, because it is in those times where I have no other choice but to fully trust Him.
So, simply put, God is calling me to stay home this summer. But there’s more. There are two things He brought back to my mind a couple weeks ago when I was asking Him for more clarity about my final decision, and they were the two very things I remember He had laid on my heart to put into practice back at home right after last summer: to fully invest in my relationship with Him, and to fully invest in relationships with people. The moment those two things resurfaced in my mind in the midst of asking for confirmation and trying to bring myself to make a final decision, I knew what had to be done.
I am staying home to work and possibly take summer classes, but I’m doing this because, for some reasons that only God knows, I need to invest myself and my time in the people He has so graciously placed in my life right here at home. I have to continue intentionally living out my faith around people I actually know. It’s somewhat comical that this is really my thought process at this point… that that scares me. But I’m a firm believer that a lot of times it’s easier to go to a completely different place and share Jesus with people you’re probably never going to see again. That’s how I have felt about it before, anyways. Why it has to feel that way, I don’t know. But now we’re back to the comfort zone thing; this is uncomfortable for me. I’m uncomfortable thinking about all the uncomfortable situations God may choose to put me in with people I know where He’ll want me to deliberately share my faith. So there’s that. Also, I’m used to anticipating jumping on a plane at the start of the summer and not coming back until right before school, and it’s weird knowing I won’t be doing that six months from now. But the fact that it’s so hard gives me more confidence that it is also right. And that’s as far as my eyes can see. I have no idea what specifically to expect out of this summer, but I know I can count on God challenging me and doing some wonderful things, and I’m getting excited.
I guess Royal Servants has become my new comfort zone, which is strange to say, considering how afraid of it all I have been in the past. That being said, for the sake of summarization, I want to restate my current calling: stay home, but don’t stay comfortable.
Here are a couple passages that have been stabilizing for me:
Psalm 37:3 “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.” -theme verse, right here.
Psalm 143:4-8 “Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is distressed. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Answer me speedily, O Lord; my spirit fails! Do not hide your face from me, lest I be like those who go down into the pit. Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, for in You do I trust; cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You.”