Waiting upon God

4 Mar

Tired but happy. That’s how I would describe my mood today. Since going to Columbus last Thursday for the National Youth Ministry Conference, I have felt like myself again. Happy. Positive. Social. Energetic. Alive. I had been in a funk for so long that I actually forgot I was in a funk.

It’s good to be out.

But now I’m battling a cold. Boo. I like to think that because I take care of myself through eating healthy and exercising regularly, I’m somehow above getting sick. My sore throat and achy body remind me that I’m not.

The conference was great though. I felt very blessed by the opportunity to go. It was great getting to bond with my co-workers (and bosses!) outside of work. My roomie was Debb, the Exec VP of Ministry Advancement (a.k.a. my boss’ boss). She’s the head of our side of the ministry. She’s great–very business savvy and driven but also very down-to-earth, friendly, and open about her life. That’s one of the things that I really love about being a Christian–there’s this authenticity regardless of your status or rank that you just don’t find anywhere else–because we know that we are all sinners in need of a Savior.

So here’s a tiny recap of what we did at the conference (I’ll try not to bore you with details): Thursday, we flew into Columbus and set up the booth. Friday, the conference started. I had 2 shifts in the booth (meet and greet kind of thing) for a total of 4.5 hours (but I also worked on marketing copy when not in the booth). Saturday, we had two 2-hour track sessions. I helped set up our room and the tables with all of our handouts, centerpieces, decorations, etc. Sunday, same thing. Two 2-hour track sessions. Monday, Super Session (90-minute condensed version of the previous 4 sessions), booth teardown, and repalletizing. Flew back to Denver (and I got to have lunch with Rick Lawrence, the editor of Group Magazine!! How cool is that?!?! I feel like the nerdy kid who gets to meet all these cool, important people as I tag along with Greg Stier and Debb).

During the mornings and afternoons of the conference, the sessions took up pretty much all of my time so the only general sessions I was able to go to were the evening ones (that ran from 7:00-9:15). I got to see the band Braddigan (Brad Corrigan was the lead singer of Dispatch!) and Derek Webb in concert, as well as hear Doug Fields and Alex and Brett Harris speak. I also got a bunch of freebies, which is always fun. 🙂 I went to one late night session (from 9:30-11:30 so it got pretty late after a long day!), a documentary that Braddigan made about a concert they played for a garbage dump community in Nicaragua. It was very moving and sad. It made me realize that it is only by God’s grace and providence that I was born into a middle class family in the United States. I could’ve just as easily been born in a garbage dump in Nicaragua. It has renewed my conviction that I need to do something with my privilege, instead of just living for myself. More on that some other day. 🙂

For the time being, work is pretty busy, which is great. During one of our many chats, Debb told me something that has convicted me and clarified a lot of my career struggles. She said that if I concentrate on what she called my current “circle of influence” (the areas that I have influence and impact on now) and seek to do my current job with excellence, more opportunities will be given to me. I can’t concentrate only on what I want to be doing (while slacking on what’s right in front of me), because opportunities aren’t given to people who don’t prove themselves. I have to work myself into where I want to be. Jesus said Matthew 25:21, “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”  

That is convicting because I  have been guilty of half-hearted work at my current job. I haven’t sought to do the job with excellence. I have done the status quo. There has been a nagging thought in the back of my mind (no doubt from the Holy Spirit) that I am not glorifying the Lord with lukewarm efforts. I have tried to motivate myself to be more enthusiastic, to no avail. But something changed over the weekend: I realized that Debb believes in me and wants me to advance beyond where I am right now. It’s amazing what a difference that makes, to have someone championing you and wanting you to succeed and be the best you can be. It makes me want to be the best I can be. It makes me realize that I do have potential and I just need to apply it.

What Debb said is also clarifying because as she is older and wiser than me, and has gone through a lot of the struggles I’m going through right now, she can speak truth and wisdom into them. She reminded me that I am not in charge of where my life goes. I don’t need to (and can’t) direct it, plan it out, chart in a graph. God does that. I just have to be faithful with where I am right now. There is an Elisabeth Elliot quote that I used to reference constantly when Travis and I were dating:

I wait dear Lord. Thy ways are past finding out. Thy love too high. O hold me still beneath Thy shadow. It is enough that Thou lift up the light of Thy countenance. I wait – because I am commanded so to do. My mind is filled with wonderings. My soul asks “Why?” But then a quiet word, “Wait thou only upon God.” And so not even for the light to show a step ahead, but for Thee, dear Lord, I wait.

What an amazing woman of God! Her testimony provided immeasurable assurance to me in the midst of the greatest spiritual struggle I’ve had. And those words of wisdom still apply here, to what is, deep down, the same struggle in a different disguise. Then, I wanted to know if Travis and I would get married. Now, I want to know what God’s will and plan for my life is.

It’s easy for me to put a certain spin on my sin so that it doesn’t look like sin, per se, but more like just a character flaw. For example, with my body image, instead of outrightly saying, “God, I don’t like the body you’ve given me,” I put a spin on it and say “Well, I’m not content with my body because I’m not vigilant enough with diet and exercise.” Another example, Travis struggles with feeling jealous of other couples who have bought bigger, nicer houses than we did. Instead of outrightly saying, “God, the house You provided us isn’t good enough for me,” he spins it and says “Well, maybe we should have looked at foreclosures more. Maybe I made a poor real estate deal.” By putting the blame on ourselves, we can “get away with” being discontent in and with God (only in the sense that we don’t immediately recognize it as being discontent with God).

In the same way, I’ve put a spin on my struggle with life direction and career, etc. I’ve told myself, “Well, I’m the one who has to act. God can’t make my life be what He wants it to be if I’m being lazy and self-interested all the time.” Those excuses have been covering up my unbelief in God’s plan. Unbelief in His ability and willingness to guide my life. I pray for God to reveal His will for my life, all the while expecting for His will to look completely different than my life looks right now. Why? I haven’t consciously subverted God’s will. I’m not living in sin. Why would God’s will be different than my life right now? Whether I believe it or not, God is leading me.

I’ve also put this spin on my struggles with marriage. Instead of waiting upon God and turning to Him for help, I told myself, “Well, it’s my own sin that is causing these situations. How can I approach God for help with this when it’s all my fault in the first place?!?”

I realized over the weekend that I have been silently accusing God of not helping me–mostly in my marriage, but all areas of my life have been affected. I have been spinning my wheels, so to speak, in trying to better my marriage, my job, myself–for so long that I thought God and His Spirit had abandoned me to my own devices. If my marriage was going to improve or I was going to figure out my life, I was going to have to do it myself. Kay Warren wrote in her book, Dangerous Surrender, that Saddleback had been waiting for a church building of their own for 13 years. After many setbacks and hurdles, there was yet another. “Certainly we believed…in God’s timing…but eventually it got so old.” Certainly I believe in God’s power to sanctify and guide me…but being stuck and in the dark has gotten so old.

That’s where Elisabeth Elliot’s quote comes into play. I ask “Why?” and God says “Wait thou only upon God.” Don’t wait upon an answer, a breakthrough, a promotion, a better body, a better self–wait thou only upon God.

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