I’m insignificant but significantly LOVED

I’ve had a couple good conversations with friends recently about how at this point in our lives (several years post-grad) there’s a disappointment that inevitably hits when we realize we aren’t in our glamorous dream job or leading these world-changing ministries like we thought we would be by this age. We decided that that’s okay. (especially considering how wide-eyed and mystified we were in our college years!) 😉 Sometimes life throws a few curve balls and you have to roll with it. What’s important is having the understanding that our significance should never come from our vocation or ministry position to begin with, no matter what that may be.

The rise of self-promotion via social networking has made it quite tempting to post with the purpose of making ourselves appear to be doing something more worthwhile with our life than everyone else is. It’s like we feel the need to announce to the world, “Look! I am doing something significant!” God, let that never be my motivation. When in reality we are all different parts of the body of Christ with many different functions. (Romans 12:3-5) No one is more important than the other.

(The humble experience of having to move back to the U.S. from Honduras for an extended time has been such a great teacher. I really am learning a lot of valuable lessons in this weird transition-like season my life seems to be in.)

God has been dealing with me quite a bit recently through reading a book called Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning.

I’m in tears reading what sounds like the pages of my very own diary or really maybe responses to what I’ve written:

Humble men and women do not have a low opinion of themselves; they have no opinion of themselves, because they so rarely think about themselves. The heart of humility lies in undivided attention to God, a fascination with his beauty revealed in creation, a contemplative presence to each person who speaks to us, and a “de-selfing” of our plans, projects, ambitions, and soul. Humility is manifested in an indifference to intellectual, emotional, and physical well-being and a carefree disregard of the image we present. No longer concerned with appearing to be good, we can move freely in the mystery of who we really are, aware of the sovereignty of God and of our absolute insufficiency and yet moved by a spirit of radical self-acceptance without self-concern.

Humble people are without pretense, free from any sense of spiritual superiority, and liberated from the need to be associated with persons of importance. The awareness of their spiritual emptiness does not disconcert them. Neither overly sensitive to criticism nor inflated by praise, they recognize their brokenness, acknowledge their gifts, and refuse to take themselves seriously.

THAT is a person so caught up in the Father’s gaze that petty annoyances in life mean nothing. Even for a self-diagnosed Highly Sensitive Person, personal insults or subtle questions of character or blatant disinterest or underhanded “innocent” jokes from people with ulterior motives really begin to pale in comparison with the weightiness of the great mission that Abba is inviting us to. That kind of person doesn’t have time to worry about why “she didn’t message back” or why “they never ask about the ministry” or “why he didn’t donate to the cause.”

Because when the enemy uses these tactics against Lovers of Christ to derail them from their focus, instead of feeling defeat, that person so preoccupied with the glory of Jesus says, “Your will be done. Your kingdom come. All glory to Your name. I am at Your disposal.” Not the other way around. God doesn’t exist to ease our egos. We exist to bring Him glory.

And I don’t have time to maintain these regrets (or hold these grudges or stay offended) when I think about the way He loves us…

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Manel Antonio beach, Costa Rica 2010, photo cred: Charlie B.

Our culture kind of teaches us to talk ourselves up. We apply for scholarships and we have to list our achievements and involvement. We interview for a job and we have to expound on our strengths and why we’re perfect for the position.

Recently, I’ve been learning to rest in my insignificance yet accept myself in the radical and nonsensical love that Christ has for me. I am insignificant and all my attempts at being good are insignificant. The only thing worth talking about in my life is Christ in me. (Galatians 6:14) I hear him say, “you are enough.”

__________ In application to my life __________

I graduated from college with an average amount of student loans. Overwhelming and discouraging at the time and seemingly insurmountable. A definite road block to my calling, I felt. I know that it is only by the grace of God that in the last year and 8 months that I have been back in the states, I have paid two-thirds of my total school loan debt!! IN ONE YEAR I WILL BE COMPLETELY DEBT-FREE!! My sole reason for moving back to the states has been to take care of my debt. This has not been a fun process. (if it weren’t for the help of my parents and grandparents along the way, it would have been an even longer and more discouraging process – so big THANKS to them!)

I say it hasn’t been a fun process not just because of the typical cutting back and “sacrifices” of every day life but because I had a timeline and an idea in my head of how things should work and life just was not going to allow it. There have been delays on life decisions and next steps and I have had to fight back tears some days when I was frustrated with God and didn’t understand His plan – especially when it seemed like everyone else in the world was moving on with their life plans and I felt stuck. This is where I have started to put into practice the concept of TRUST. God, I trust You and your timing.

Even when I was having pity parties or hissy fits because I can be dramatic and life just wasn’t fair! – God was faithful. Not only am I making progress and moving toward my goal of getting back to the mission field in Honduras but I have come to see much of my current work in the states as my ministry. (And I do so enjoy all the part-time and contract jobs I am working these days! For privacy reasons, there is a lot that I won’t post on my public blog but I’d love to chat with you about it in person if you know me.)

Although, I would advise a young person to really consider the financial burden of student loans before deciding on a college and how to pay for it, I must say that I LOVE my alma mater, Lee University. I would not be the person that I am today nor be heading down the path I’m on if it weren’t for my school and the experience I had, friends I met, and connections I made there. I am confident that it was part of God’s plan for my life.

All that to say, I don’t know the details of what the future holds for me* (and the man I am in love with so many miles away from me ❤ ) but as the cliche goes, “I know Who holds my future,” and I trust Him so very much!

*except that, God-willing, I will be back in Central America for good by sometime next year 😀

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The most important graduation speech I’ve ever heard

This is taken from a friend’s speech that he gave at our graduation this past May. I had no idea that he was going to be speaking much less that it would be about the service club that both of us had poured our time and hearts into over the past couple of years. I had felt pretty lethargic about graduating and leaving that little city until during his talk I heard him mention the children in Backyard Ministry. Let me just say the floodgate of tears broke at that moment as I sat in my cap and gown in the middle of hundreds of students about to receive diplomas for their years of scholastic achievement. To me, the ceremony was going to be nothing more than a formality, a nuisance really. I was unprepared for the rush of emotions that overcame me. There in the hot sun, in the midst of all the other primped and groomed university students, I was wiping away black, salty streaks from my face. But it didn’t matter, this was the most important graduation speech I had ever heard. Thank you for these words, Ryan Pickens.

“…But it has been outside the classroom that I have grown in ways that I could not have expected, not just in preparing me for medical school, but for my entire future. Lee University has a way of taking you out of the classroom and bringing you face to face with the real world. The summer after my sophomore year I joined… the Medical Missions trip to the western mountains of Guatemala for my cross-cultural experience. As a pre-med student, I was excited to finally get out of the classroom and have a small part in practicing medicine first hand. But what I learned during those two weeks was less about performing medical procedures and more about becoming a compassionate physician, having to break down cultural barriers, and building relationships in order to understand the needs of the people. I knew that what I was experiencing could never be taught in a classroom and I decided then and there that I had to return to Guatemala the following summer. Although I do not know for sure which path my medical career will take, I am certain that missions will always be a passion. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll fulfill my pact with Dr. Veenstra and return to Guatemala with Lee students as an experienced physician.

While the professors have been outstanding and Guatemala was very impactful in my pre-professional experience, the greatest opportunity I’ve had at Lee has been in a little neighborhood… about ten minutes away from campus. In the spring of my junior year, I went on a retreat with Backyard Ministries – a student-run organization that tutors and mentors the neighborhood kids. I wasn’t looking for commitment. I was just intrigued by what I had heard and honestly didn’t have anything else to do that weekend (which is pretty surprising, I know). Despite efforts to remain a bystander, I was unexpectedly assigned to be the tutor of a 2nd grade boy, named David. Little did I know that David would be one of the greatest teachers I’d ever have at Lee.

Since then I’ve spent several hours every week at Backyard, playing with and mentoring David and his friends, taking them for hikes to waterfalls, and even surprising them by showing up to their school cafeteria for lunch. It is the absolute highlight of my week and it has forced me to re-evaluate where my priorities lie. A few weeks ago, when it seemed like every one of my senior classes had a final project due at the exact same time, I decided that there was just no way I was going to be able to make it to Backyard that day. It couldn’t have been ten minutes after it started when I picked up the phone to hear at least half of the Backyard kids all yelling my name. Apparently they had borrowed a phone from another tutor just to call and ask why I wasn’t there yet.  Needless to say, I was on my way as soon as I hung up. It didn’t take much to remind me that I don’t have to get all the way through medical school to impact lives. They weren’t interested in my GPA, my major, or my professional goals – they only cared that I came and took part in their lives.

And that’s what I’ll take away from Lee – the passion to invest in the lives of others, not just those I meet professionally, but all of those around me. While I am still preparing to serve through medicine in the future, I have realized that I can never pass up opportunities to serve right now. My only regret is that I didn’t get to know David and all the other kids at Backyard four years ago.

God’s plan for preparing me for my future has been different, and better, than I expected. Without all of the opportunities at Lee – the professors, friends, mentors – I would not have experienced God’s unique way of preparing me. While I feel fully equipped academically for medical school, in the past few months I’ve realized that God may still have a little preparation in store. Although I’ve been accepted to medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I am currently planning on deferring until the following year to explore an opportunity to live and serve through medical missions with the people of Ecuador.

Lastly, I apologize for having read this speech.  I had planned to spend this morning practicing so it would flow more naturally and smoothly but David and the other kids from Backyard have been begging for several weeks for one last outing before we leave.  So I spent this morning playing at the park and drinking slushies.  I think it was a wise choice.”

🙂

backyard boys

Some of the precious Backyard students.

Kingdom

Building the Kingdom of God...

Status

My status update on this day last year in reference to Backyard. 🙂