It’s 12:45 and I have to be up and alive in six hours to take Charisse to school and then to go my Friday morning Bible study, which is a pretty intense two hours. I am going to be so tired. I am tired. Yet as I’m lying in bed, Chloe snuggled up at my side, my fingers are itching to move. The words are forming in my head and I just know if I don’t get them out, I’ll never be able to sleep.
I guess six hours of sleep is way better than staying up all night, right?
I went to my home group tonight. I’m really thankful for that group of people. They really challenge me and in the year I’ve been going, I have seen my walk with God grow so much deeper. I know that there are a ton of other factors that contribute to that, but home group has for sure been a major source of growth for me. In the last few weeks, we’ve prayed, both as a group and individually, about God’s will in our lives. It’s a prayer I will continue to pray for as long as I live because I will always long for what He wants for me (despite the fact that I also like to dig my heels in the ground and say no like a naughty child when God’s clear with me!). Tonight, as I was praying and drifting in and out of that sweet, sleepy place you hover in just before you’re actually asleep, I kept thinking “I don’t think…” So many “I don’t think” thoughts went rolling through my head…
… I don’t think it’s by chance I started School of Ministry in February of this year. God knew it was time for me to learn and transition.
… I don’t think it’s any accident that He brought me to this church at this time. God knew I needed a group of people who lived and taught the Bible.
… I don’t think it’s fate that the small group I’m in is the one I joined. God knew I needed people who’d wrestle and ask the tough questions.
… I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m not working now. God knew that this was a time where I’d get to experience ministry and serving His people.
… I don’t think. Yet I cannot stop thinking.
So much to ponder. Mostly I think all of these things in relation to His will in my life. Oh, Lord, how do these pieces of the puzzle fit together? It’s so hard sometimes when we don’t have foresight. Oh, hindsight is my friend. I love to look back and see how He has connected it all, each winding path — even the detours that I wouldn’t take if I had it to do all over again. He has used every step to tell a story.
But man, I want to know what the story He will tell in the future is.
There are things I want so badly. I want to be a wife. I want to be a mom. I want to speak and travel throughout the United States. I want the comfort of a family to go home to in the evenings and traditions to have and a generally pain-free existence. I want the American dream.
And yet, at the same time, I struggle with those wants. I want them… but I don’t want to get excited. Because what if those things really are just my fleshy wants and not things He has in store for me? I have heard so many stories of people saying, “Lord, I’ll do anything for you expect X and Y” and guess what — He uses X and Y in those peoples’ lives to minister to others.
I catch myself thinking and praying sometimes “Please, please, God, use my gift of public speaking. Use my gift of writing. Use my gift of words.” I went through high school surrounded by people in my church who praised my ability to write and to speak. But now, when those prayers come, I stop because I am afraid. I am afraid that if I beg Him too much for these things, He will say “No — I will use something else.” I am afraid that maybe I shouldn’t trust the comments made to me while I was young because I attended an unhealthy church. I know it’s okay to hope and to dream big in Him and that these desires and talents have been things I’ve possessed for my entire life. I know that the words He has given me will be used somehow but I sometimes think…
… I don’t think He will use them the way that I want.
Oh, I often think He will use them. After all, He made me this way. He is refining and sanctifying me, taking out the rust so you can see the shine. But if and when He uses the things I love to do, He will do it His way, the way where I must sacrifice in order to give.
Will I be okay with that? I hope so. When I stop myself from asking and praying for Him to use the things that come easily to me, and I instead pray that He will just use me however he sees fit, I still hold onto the teensiest, tiniest bit of a dream that I’ll get what I want, that I’ll be one of the people who He says yes to. Maybe I will, and if that’s the case, then I will be thankful. Maybe seven months from this late-night brain purge, when I am done with School of Ministry, God will quickly open a door up to me that uses these talents that I am so happy with (because I am happy with them — I love that God has made me a wordsmith and that there are very few times where I feel paralyzing fear at the prospect of speaking to or with others).
I do know that even if that’s the case… my call will come with some kind of cost. After all, what does a call mean if it costs me nothing? I wonder sometimes the places I’ll go and the people I’ll talk to. I wonder about the subjects I will speak about. And sometimes, the fear that consumes me is that God is going to give me a topic and put me in such a visible light that telling the people around me, like my college friends and my family, will put distance between us because they won’t be supportive of my mission and my ministry.
There is a verse in the Old Testament that we studied recently in School of Ministry. I struggle with the OT because it’s so, um, OG (wow… suuuper lame delirious joke for $100, Alex!). Seriously, there are times where it feels so… unreal to me. And then God drives home the fact that, yeah, it’s thousands of years old but it’s still relevant.
So in 1 Chronicles 21, God has commanded King David to build an altar on the threshing floor of Ornan. David tells Ornan that he wants to buy it and Ornan is like, “Nope, consider it yours to do what you consider best, King.” David insists on buying it instead of receiving it for free. Verse 24 says
Then King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.” (emphasis added by me!)
David is a pretty upstanding dude. Yes, there are a few pretty bad mistakes that he made during his days and he suffered greatly the consequences of that sin, but still — he truly loved the Lord and wanted to do right by him, and in this case, he didn’t want to offer to God an offering that cost him nothing. I’m never, ever going to go as far as to compare myself to King David (I am so not even close to his deep love and pursuit of God!), but God can ask me at any moment to give up something to offer my life as a sacrifice to Him.
If that’s what He asks, will I do it joyfully?
What I want is to be comfortable. I want to give these amazing, touching speeches that make women laugh and weep and talk amongst themselves after I’m done, that bring them closer to God. I want to write words and give hope in the darkness to women and teenage girls everywhere. And I don’t want it to cost me anything. I want a script, a tidy little story I can tell. I want a package of holiness and restoration I can sell but not at any real cost to me. I don’t want to share the depths of the pain and the shame and the doubt and the anger and fear I felt and still feel. But here’s the thing…
… I don’t think that’s what He wants for me. I think that maybe, just maybe, He wants me to be broken, too. If I want women to break and be rebuilt, how can I ask that of them without giving the same first and always? How can I expect God to move through me to change them if I am not willing to risk my popularity and my friendships and the comfort of family for the love and truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? If I give up nothing, then anything I share is not of God. It’s not of the Holy Spirit. It’s all of me, and that is exactly what I do not think I want.
He’s shaking me up. He is changing my life. I have prayed that He would and now I feel it in my soul. I don’t know all the answers and I don’t know all of the what-ifs and that unsettles me. But He is reminding me that He’s the one know sees the full picture, the start of my story to the end, and that it’s time for me to let go of it and just listen when He reveals to me some of the answers.
I’m listening, Lord. I’m listening as hard as I can.