We both had things to say as we sat in that corner booth of Waffle House, and I found divine questions dancing behind my tongue, eager for ears to listen.
How do I know what to keep praying boldly for and persevering in? How do I know what to remain faithful to if I can’t see where God wants to do the greatest work? I asked her.
Isaiah didn’t see a single convert as he did God’s will, but did that make him any less faithful? She asked me.
. . . . . .
I don’t know many things. I hardly know anything, I should say.
I know what I desire, what I wish God would do. But I don’t know for sure if those desires are His. I don’t know for sure if big results will be reaped from my big dreams.
All I know is I keep praying and hoping. I keep thinking that holding onto these dreams says something. Look, God. I’m not giving up. I want to be faithful with this.
Will you bless me if I remain faithful? Will you let these things come to pass if I don’t cease believing and praying?
I thought maybe she would bring me divine answers in that Waffle House, but I instead walked away with a question.
Isaiah didn’t see a single convert as he did God’s will, but did that make him any less faithful?
Any less faithful than the pastors of the largest church congregations in the world, she was referring to. Any less faithful than the person with the longest list of people brought to faith by their ministry.
No, Isaiah was not any less faithful. He was obedient and bold in prayer without seeing the numbers. He knew the numbers weren’t what mattered. He knew what he had to do, whether there were visible results or no results at all.
Can I say the same thing about myself?
. . . . . .
God is calling me to be faithful.
What am I going to do with that? With just this one piece of information, this one glimpse of His plan for my life?
I’m going to be faithful. I’m going to be faithful with where I’m at and with what I have.
My life isn’t meant to be a numbers-based journey comprised of me hopping around from one success to another, looking for the greatest product of my efforts.
I’m called to a faith-based journey comprised of me trusting in God’s sovereignty and grace over each decision I make and every step I take.
It doesn’t matter how many fights we have, how many obstacles and temptations we face, how many late nights of tearful miscommunications we have — I will remain faithful to the man I believe God has brought into my life, the man I have promised to love daily and intentionally.
It doesn’t matter how many kids raise their hands during the prayer of salvation, how many attendees we have at our church events, how many things I could complain about or find fault in — I will remain faithful to this ministry with middle schoolers that God has given me a passion for.
It doesn’t matter how few people read my writing or how many followers this blog has — I will remain faithful to the burdens God has placed on my heart and the gift He has given me to share them.
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been ignored by people, how many communities I’ve been hurt by — I will remain faithful to the pursuit of others, striving to show them the same love that Christ has for me.
It doesn’t matter how many things have not yet been healed, how many prayers have not yet been answered — I will remain faithful in prayer, faithful to God and trusting in His faithfulness to me.
How long will I remain faithful to these things? Until God shows me a different way.
This is the long, arduous walk of faithfulness that is bound to take me through thorns and thistles. And this is the long, arduous walk of faithfulness that God has revealed Himself in as I find His hand ever reaching for mine in the dark.
Make me into an Isaiah, I pray. Let me be faithful, too.
You are, my child, He says. Persevere and walk on.
I don’t think I could leave Clarkston right now even if I tried.
It’s not because this place is better than home. It’s not because I enjoy my roommates’ company more than my family, boyfriend, and hometown friends. It’s not even because the food is better here (which it is).
I don’t think I could leave Clarkston because it feels like God has me here. Not in a forceful, “thou-shalt-forever-remain-stuck-under-my-command” kind of way, but in a loving, powerful “hey-you-know-that-I-have-you-here-for-a-reason” kind of way.
While reading Psalm 139 this afternoon, I was drawn to verse 5:
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Guys, God has hemmed me in. And it’s one of the most relieving feelings to know that in this moment I’m in the right place. I can’t speak for tomorrow or the day after that, but I can certainly speak for today.
His hand is upon me here. I can tell because I’ve been struggling against it. Some might take that as a sign that it is NOT God’s will for me to remain in Clarkston, but I know myself well enough to realize that the times I’ve fought the hardest against where I am are the times I’ve belonged the most in those places.
I think back to how badly I wanted to run away before starting my freshman year of college. I imagined hopping on a plane and spending the rest of my life sipping Arabian coffee with my new Henna-adorned Muslim friends in a land far away from suburbia.
And then I recall how much it hurt to be turned down from my dream internship a year later, the internship that would’ve taken me away from the most painful and eye-opening experience I have had in my almost-twenty years of living. The last thing I wanted was to spend a summer in my friend-forsaken town, but I did and it changed me.
And most overwhelming of all is the constant nostalgia-like longing for the future, to the days where I am no longer just an “I”, but a “we”– someone’s wife and mother. Never do I feel more of a calling on my life than when I think of the baby-nursing, diaper-changing, marriage-protecting days I believe are coming.
Time and time again, I have felt stuck, just longing, DYING, to leave my home and the life I’m currently living. God, please just let me fast-forward to a different time, a different place. I’d give anything.
But looking back, I can see now that God had purposefully hemmed me in. His hand had been upon me in the places I had felt forsaken. And though I wrestled against these many circumstances, I eventually found a way to surrender. Surrender doesn’t come easily to me, but freeing things in life rarely do.
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been wrestling against being in Clarkston. For reasons I’m not even sure I understand fully, I often think of leaving. I picture myself spending these summer days at home, sipping coffee and writing meaningful blog posts as I rest against my pillow-filled chaise, my dog resting against me. That’s where I belong, I think.
But God thinks otherwise.
I know this because He’s been opening my eyes to Him and to beautiful things while I’ve been here. I’ve been so busy wrestling for the past month that I’m sure I’ve missed some of what He’s been trying to show me. But I’m starting to see more clearly.
His presence asks me to remain present, so I will dutifully stay.
There is a beauty in being hemmed in. It feels like maybe the place I am in is covered in grace. Even I am covered in grace. And I don’t want to miss these beautiful, grace-filled moments anymore.
These are my thoughts for right now on why I am here. It’s still going to be difficult to make this place my home, but where God leads I have committed to go. And right here is where I’ve been led.
I’m hemmed in.
P.S. I know I’ve been so vague on what exactly is going on here in Clarkston. I promise I am working on sharing more testimonies and stories with you. I have plans on writing more informative pieces in the next couple of weeks so perhaps the pieces will fall into place for my curious readers on what is happening here. To tell you the truth, I’m still a little lost myself.
But here’s some information I can offer for now: people are falling more in love with Jesus in Clarkston– missionaries and refugees alike. There’s still a lot of work to be done among these unreached people groups, but we’re witnessing how small moments of faith can result in great opportunities.
Keep an eye out for blog posts to come.
The scary question always on the tip of our tongues: What is God’s will for my life?
Can I just say here and now that I have maybe asked this question more times than any other question I’ve ever had? And things are still just as hazy as before I ever thought to ask. It’s not that God isn’t revealing things to me. He is! But that’s another issue in and of itself: what do you do when there are so many answers thrown at you and they all somehow feel right? I mean, there’s got to be just ONE right answer! Or maybe not…
Here’s the truth I’m being hit with today:
We have been given all we need to follow God’s will for our lives.
“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God– that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ ” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)
What if the wisdom we’ve been seeking has already been given to us? And that wisdom is in the form of Jesus?
I snooped around on Blue Letter Bible (excellent website that I implore you to try out sometime) for the original Greek translation of this verse in 1 Corinthians. Let me break down for you what I found:
wisdom = [supreme] intelligence, knowledge, interpreting, giving of sound advice, discovering meaning, skill in management, proper intercourse with non-believers, skill in imparting Christian truth, practice of godly living
These are various definitions of the word “wisdom” as used in God’s Word, and it’s interesting how much of those definitions remind me of the search for God’s will for our lives. Are we not seeking out supreme or divine intelligence? Are we not hoping to interpret and discover meaning? Do we not want the skills necessary for the management of our lives?
Wisdom is a vital part of discovering God’s will, and according to this verse, we have already attained it. Jesus has “become the wisdom of God for us.”
If you read further in 1 Corinthians, we are even told that we have the wisdom of God because we have the Spirit of God and the mind of Christ.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
(1 Corinthians 2:10-16)
What does this mean for our lives? This means that the supreme or divine intelligence we’re seeking is already found. The ability to interpret and discover meaning has already been given to us. We have already been handed the skills necessary for the management of our lives.
We know God’s will for our lives. We just don’t know that we know.
The next word I looked up the Greek translation for was “righteousness” (referring back to 1 Corinthians 1:30).
righteousness = acceptable to God, may attain from God, integrity, virtue, purity, correctness, justice
There’s a correlation between Jesus being our wisdom and Jesus being our righteousness. It is because we are made righteous (through Jesus dying on the Cross) that we are worthy of him being our wisdom, that we are worthy of knowing God’s will for our lives.
Furthermore, the things the Spirit reveal to us, the things that we are beginning to walk in (perhaps even unknowingly), are acceptable to God. They are virtuous and correct. We are able to attain these insights into God’s calling and will for our lives because we are now righteous.
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
holiness/sanctification = purification, consecration (of heart and of life)
We are in a continual process of being purified and consecrated. That means we are constantly being made more sacred and holy. Through the doubting and the questioning and the seeking and the wandering, we are being purified. When we figure out where God wants us, we are standing on holy ground as sacred creations. When we DON’T know where God wants us, we are even still standing on holy ground as sacred creations.
Our heart and our lives are being pulled closer to God, which in turn makes us more holy and pure.
Even when you feel like you’re at a standstill and you don’t know which way God wants you to turn, your heart and your life are not at a standstill.
Is it audacious to say that maybe we are always in the right place?
redemption = releasing of need for payment, deliverance
We don’t have to pay God for anything. We don’t have to earn anything. We’ve been bought at a price and we are now free to worship, serve, live, and love.
I want you to hold onto that today as you continue the journey of finding your way.
You are FREE.
You are free from the expectation of having it all together and knowing exactly where your life is headed. You are free from the pressure of making all the right moves.
The right moves are in God’s hands.
Because of 1) Jesus being our wisdom, 2) Jesus making us righteous, 3) the ongoing sanctification occurring through Jesus’ work in us, and 4) the redemption we’ve been given by Jesus that enables us to walk in freedom… we don’t have to be afraid of not knowing.
And that truly means something.
How many people do you see aimlessly wandering, trying to figure out what to do or who they’re supposed to be?
We’re different. We don’t have to figure it all out and certainly not on our own. We already know who we are.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)
As the world stumbles, we can stand strong and CONFIDENT because we already have the answers (the wisdom) we need. The answer, by the way, is Jesus. Keep your eyes on him and you won’t lose your way. Keep your focus on God and He’ll make sure you get to where He wants you to be.
Repeat this after me: I am wise. I am righteous, I am being made holy, I am redeemed.
I am not lost.