Outside of any of my own efforts, contrary to all of my expectations, and as if to bring all of my fears to the surface and prompt me to overcome them, God has invited me to Africa this summer and subsequently given me His perfect peace to accept the invitation with excitement.
Post-graduating in May, I’ve had this tentative plan that I will immediately look for a full-time job and then work toward one of my goals of moving out. That’s generally what people do when they get a degree, right? Get a job, “start” life. Makes sense.
As the reality of being done with school (for now) has continued to set in these past couple of months, I’ve been praying a lot about the future, asking God to make clear to me what is next. I’ve been telling Him about my tentative plan, assuming it’s lined up with His since nothing else has come up to change it yet. I’ve felt pretty directionless for awhile and as the weeks keep coming to an end, each one faster than the previous, I’ve felt more anxious; more frustrated. God, why do I not know what I’m going to do after this? I started telling Him that I expect Him to bring something along. Any day now. What I didn’t know was that that thing would be something so unexpected.
On March 24th I went to my usual Friday afternoon Bible study with some friends. We spent the first ten minutes in reflection and prayer, thinking of a word to describe how we felt about life at the moment, and then talking to God about it. My word was “expectant” because, as I mentioned, I expect a lot from Him right now. As in, answers to the question of “what the heck will I be doing in two months??” I’ve been trying to be okay with not knowing because I’ve learned that God really loves keeping me in that state. So I’ve been growing in trust and I’ve become expectant. But honestly, that has come more from a place of frustration rather than patient waiting. I don’t want to be idle and just wait around for God to drop something in my lap, but I don’t know what to pursue/how many things to pursue in hopes of landing something..?? I don’t even know what I want, HALP. I started writing this prayer… God, I expect You to bring the right thing to me. But I’m afraid I’m expecting too much from You and not taking enough responsibility in actually trying to find that thing myself. I don’t want to miss it, but I also don’t even know where or when to start or what to do. And also, I’m frustrated that I don’t know yet. I’m about to have a degree… generally people know what they plan to do with that, so why don’t I? Why are you making me wait? I want to have the right expectations from You… just tell me/show me at what point I should step in-” and before I could even finish my sentence, I was literally interrupted by the most spontaneous and simple thought about Royal Servants. Sometimes I have random thoughts, yeah, but there are certain ones that are clearly not my own. This was one of those, and I know because it was so out of the ordinary and yet seemed so poigniantly placed right on the words “step in” that it was worthy of me actually drawing an arrow and making a note: “RS flashed through my mind right here.” I didn’t know what I was going to do about it or why I wrote it down, I just found it curious. Maybe I would revisit it and pray about it later. So I kept writing. Pretty soon Bible study ended. And I didn’t really think about what happened until about three hours later when I got a text. One of my 2014 Israel trip leaders, who I haven’t talked to in months, invited me to prayerfully consider returning as an assistant on his team this summer. I assumed Israel again because he’s gone there every summer for the past ten years, but I was wrong. Sierra Leone, Africa, actually. How perfect… ly not the trip that would be my first choice. But that’s the thing. The past couple summers that I’ve considered and even tried returning with Royal Servants it’s been on my terms. I’ve always prayed something along the lines of Okay, God, I think this would be a really great summer to travel with RS again. And also I’d really like to go to *insert any location besides Africa or China.* So just say the word and I will go.
He didn’t say the word in 2015 or ’16.
The thing is, this (life) isn’t my story to write. Ever. And I am realizing how much better it is when I don’t try to.
Anyway, an answer was needed asap, so I spent the next seven days in fervent prayer… occasionally in tears… pacing my room… repeatedly telling God I have never felt so stuck in the middle of a decision in my life; telling Him much of me doesn’t really want to do this, but I don’t want to say no just out of fear; asking Him to please give me His heart for it if I’m supposed to go, and to once again turn my fear into excitement, the way He always has; telling Him I will go wherever He wants me to or stay wherever He wants me to, but I just need to know where the actual heck that is. The decision felt a lot heavier this time around. Am I just afraid of going? Or would I be going because I’m afraid to face the otherwise unknown that awaits after graduation? Is the timing of this completely ridiculous? Again, why can’t I just know??
In a fit of frustration, fear & uncertainty I started reading in Deuteronomy and let me just say, that book brings me to tears no matter what emotional state I am in. So you can just imagine the wreckage that ensued when I came across these gems:
Deuteronomy 7:9 – “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
7:17-19 : “If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’-you shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs and the wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out. So shall the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid.”
7:21 – “You shall not be terrified of them; for the Lord your God, the great and awesome God, is among you.”
8:2-3 – “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”
9:3a – “Therefore understand today that the Lord your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire.”
12:5 – “But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.”
13:4 – “You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”
Need I say more? I think I knew in those moments what to do, it just took my a couple days to be brave about it.
It threw me off (in a thrilling kind of way) to have this opportunity presented to me suddenly, unexpectedly and yet in such a timely fashion. Looking back I feel kind of ridiculous for how difficult it was for me to figure this out, but I do believe that keeping me so unsure for a solid week was God’s way of reminding me how to seek Him wholeheartedly; how to take everything in me – every fear, desire, expectation, doubt – and truly lay it all down at His feet; how to pray for His will and want it above my own. I knew He would bring clarity and by Thursday afternoon I knew for sure that I’m doing this. Friday morning I felt no different, so I made a phone call and sealed the deal. (!!!)
In the span of one week He has answered prayer after repeated prayer and proven His faithfulness yet again. Pretty soon I started to see not going as no longer an option, and going as the only option that makes sense. Pretty soon my fear, just as I asked, was transformed into excitement. I was scared at the beginning because I didn’t come up with this myself, which is why I know there’s a reason for all of it, I can feel it. And that potential scares me as much as it excites me. Ultimately, God has given me a desire to be part of equipping and empowering students to do ministry overseas that has become greater than any of my fears. I know what it’s like to be a student doing this for the first time, and I am stoked for the opportunity to be on the other side of it now; to turn around and take what I have learned and use it to encourage a new team of Jesus lovers who have no idea what the heck they’re getting themselves into (ha!), nor how pivotal of an experience it will be.
Thank you to everyone who has been praying with me and for me in this decision, and for continuing to do so as I prepare for another adventurous six weeks!