I (Megan) am so very honored to be sharing a piece written by one of our BPP board members, and a very sweet friend of mine. Anna is one of those people that just “gets it”. She is someone who is so very committed to following Jesus and living life in God’s bigger picture, and I couldn’t be more proud of her. I hope you find encouragement in her words today!
“One of the most frustrating and beautiful things that I have found about God is that He has no formula. Each and every time you think that you’ve figured Him out, you find that you couldn’t be further from the fact. If James 4:8 tells us to draw near to God and He will draw near to us, then why are there days, months, and even years when I seem to seek God with my whole heart, yearning for His presence, and find silence every time? I have been guilty of using scriptures such as this one against God, which of course never works, because He’s always got something to throw back at me. It’s usually a slap in the face sort of reality, one that stings but is always covered in comfort and truth, and here it is…
What is endurance if we stop seeking God as soon as we cannot “feel” Him each day?
It’s as if as soon as we can’t feel God holding our hand and telling us our every move, we suddenly find ourselves crippled and unable to walk in the freedom that He has CALLED us to (Galatians 5:13) and now we are allowing the very truth that shaped us to be wiped out by a moment of distance from God, who (by the way) is more aware of what we need than we will ever be. Instead of pressing on, enduring, and practicing steadfastness, (which according to Scripture is what actually leads to our becoming perfect and complete, and that when we let steadfastness take it’s full effect on us, we will be lacking NOTHING -James 1:4) but instead we let complacency and fear take over, and we choose to step away, because surely if God isn’t speaking loud and clear to me each day, He must be absent. I can only wonder of the depth of steadfastness that God so desperately wants us to reach with Him, but instead we give up after a sprint instead of pressing on and enduring each day, even when it seems pointless. What would it look like if we continued to pursue Him even in the driest of times, choosing to trust that He has purpose in all things? Don’t give up just because you haven’t heard from Him in awhile. You have no idea what He is waiting for, what He is preparing you for, and you’ve heard it before but here it is again, there is always so much more purpose in the waiting than what meets the eye.
I have been the most guilty of growing weary in the waiting. Time takes a toll (which can mean waiting in agony), time anticipates, and sometimes time disappoints, but God uses time to our advantage. We can see that time heals, time prepares, time matures, time brings clarity. I have seen time do a work in my life, and as of recently, the waiting seems to be coming to fruition after years of curiosity and anticipation.
You see, long story short, I knew after the summer of my freshman year of college that the Lord had planted a seed in my heart to dedicate my life to full time ministry in the inner-city. Had you asked me at the time, I would not have called this a “seed” because it certainly felt to me something that was more sure than the suns ability to rise each day; it felt much less like a seed and much more like a full grown field ready to harvest, and had I been given the opportunity, I probably would have jumped right in without giving it another thought. This is how sure I was of this calling, and I’ll be honest and say there has only been one particular moment over the last 3.5 years where I actually questioned whether or not I was going to step into this calling. This was more of a weak moment of doubting that I could do this, and doubting God’s provision rather than His calling… but praise God for closing doors and for making me wait and mature. You see, here I am 3.5 years later and I finally have the opportunity to step into full time inner-city ministry, and while I have a greater mix of emotions that I can explain, above them all is the greatest dose of peace and assurance that this is where the Lord would have me serve His people. I have known for years that God would place me in a city, likely in the states, but have had no idea where that would be. For years I pursued an education based on this calling, seeking out opportunity to serve in conjunction with this, wondering how the many pieces of the puzzle could possibly work out, but assured that they would.
I’m not sure about the exact moment that I realized I would be stepping into this ministry. It happened sometime after a week of serving at a summer camp that served inner-city teens. This was a camp that instilled the hope found through relationship with Jesus to a group of kids who had seen and experienced more tragedy in their 13 years than myself and most of my loved ones combined. While my heart broke for these teens, my heart was so humbled that they felt safe and comfortable enough to share their biggest hurts, fears, doubts, and heartbreaks with myself, someone who was virtually a stranger who had never experienced even on her worst days anything close to what they have experienced as a norm in their lives. At some point after this week at summer camp, I knew that I would spend the rest of my life having relationships with people who had a completely different life experience that I did, and as much as I loved one week at summer camp, I knew that I would be in relationships that would be much longer term, and for me this meant full time ministry. I questioned (and still do, more often than I would like to admit… okay virtually daily) the reasoning for God to call me into something that I seemed so completely unqualified for. This last year, God has really been instilling in my heart that He made me exactly who I am to do exactly what He has called me to do, and that He made no mistake in making me who I am AND calling me into this ministry.
While I was waiting to finish college, I found ways to serve in the city that I was already in. I commuted over the course of two different semesters of college into Atlanta to serve (cumulatively) over 450 hours, thanks to a major requirement, (shoutout to human services nonprofit management) which I switched to after being called into this ministry. I sought ways to spend my summers serving at an inner-city Christian camp, where I had the opportunity to continue growing in ministry while also being poured into and following after leaders who dedicated their life’s work to this ministry long before I did. And despite the number of times that I received “yes” answers to serve in several capacities of ministry, I experienced (on multiple occasions) confusion of doors being closed in my face when I sought out ways to serve in communities that seemed like exactly where God would want me, but instead often ended up with my second or third choice serving in environments that I did not enjoy as much, but that taught me skills and lessons that would turn out to be crucial to my growth before stepping into full time work.
I don’t have a story that would be crazy by anyone’s standards, but I can tell you how God turned an incredibly comfortable, normal life into something where comfortable will never be the norm again. I can tell you stories of seeking His will, stories of absolute failure in doing so, of trying so hard to follow in His ways, and taking one small step at a time towards what He has (and I don’t anticipate that this will ever end). I can tell you stories of God being silent for months, and I can tell you stories of feeling so close to Him that I didn’t want to spend time with anyone else for days on end, because I simply wanted to soak up every moment of His nearness. I am an incredibly normal person with absolutely normal struggles, great fears, and questions that come and go more often than I would wish, but I have experienced waiting and hoping in a very real way, so I just want you to know that if there’s something that you think God has planted in your heart, take action even in a small way today towards that conviction, and continue to seek Him while you wait for Him to give you the next step. Then, have courage and take that step, even if it seems tiny or meaningless (hint- it isn’t meaningless).
I am experiencing a ton of life change right now, and I wanted to document it in some way. When I have shared my next steps with people, I have often times gotten the reply that I am “living the dream.” When I sat down to document all that is going on in my life right now, I was going to write a piece about living the dream… and how if I’m being honest, lately I do feel like I am living the dream. This is still true, but I found that I had a lot more to say when I began to talk about the realness of waiting and what the process of a dream looks like before it comes to fruition. Right now it may feel like the seed is coming to fruition, but I’m excited for several years down the road when I will probably realize that this was just another step. It’s easy to see that someone got a great job and that they’re moving to a super cool place and that they get to live their dream, but it doesn’t show the hours on end of prayer, the agonizing waiting and wondering how all of these pieces would come together, the times that I was rejected when I thought that I was going after what God would have for me. It doesn’t show the stupidity that I felt for turning down decent job opportunities (even though I didn’t have another one lined up) and it doesn’t show the years of waiting and working for free simply because I couldn’t do everything God had called me to at the moment, but I knew I could do SOMETHING towards what He had called me to. I’m still terrified at times to live in the dark cities of our country, but this morning,
1 Peter reminded me that it is much better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. Great leaders don’t ask us to do anything that they aren’t willing to do themselves… and what an example Jesus was of this very thing.
I am praying that this would challenge you guys to press on, and to really think about what it means to endure in faith even when it feels that there couldn’t possibly be purpose. At the end of next month, I am moving my life across the country to San Francisco to work in ministry with The Salvation Army. I am incredibly humbled at the Lord’s attention to preparation and detail, and I am equally as excited, as the Lord has seemingly spent the last few years preparing me for every aspect of this position. I am so sad to leave my loved ones, and I’m still scared of the unknown, but thank God that His assurance is greater than my fears. I would love your prayers as I step into full time ministry and nonprofit work, and I hope that this will encourage you in your next step in the journey.”