In Mark chapter 6, a situation is described in verses 45-56. The scene that starts in verse 45 shows a couple of guys getting into a boat to head to another town across a lake. Nothing about the day seemed out of order, and so they sailed. However, night came and darkness brought a storm. Suddenly, the waves got larger, the wind got stronger, thunder louder, and lightening brighter. The men were clinging on tight and straining against the oars doing everything they could to keep the boat under control. They just knew they were about to lose it all, it all seemed impossible. They were caught in the middle of the storm. But across the lake, a man was watching. At the time He knew was appropriate, He went out to them. He didn’t take a boat, He walked out to them. The waves were still large, the wind still strong, and the thunder still loud. The only thing that changed was the man who was standing on water in front of the boat. Immediately He spoke to them and said, “Take heart!, It is I. Do not be afraid.” He then climbed into the boat with them, and the storm was calm.
This man who walked on water, in the middle of the chaos of the storm, was Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God..the only One who has any authority to say, “Do not be afraid.” As soon as the men recognized Him, He climbed into the boat with them and everything was calm – the chaos went away. Jesus was there the whole time, watching until the right time, and then, He came to them to save them. This man had plans for them..to use them to spread His Gospel all over the world. Life would not be easy for them; there would be many more times these men would be caught in the middle of a storm but He controls all of creation and He had a different plan in mind than the storm overtaking them. And so, He waited for them to recognize Him, and then, he got into the boat with them and creation calmed.
I think of this story in my own life in the past month. The last month has been full of increasing chaos. A month ago I went to Mississippi full of expectations and hopes for a great weekend with SEC football and friends. However, in the back of my mind, i rememebered that every time I go home, a layer of my heart that I once thought was sealed and closed gets exposed a little and I walk away with some hurt. This weekend was no different. Coupled with those “normal” feelings, this last time for me was my first home football game back at my beloved stadium. I love this place, many many good memories there but also many memories of my years spent there where I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of things the hard way. I relived a lot of things that day and a lot of buried memories were resurfaced. Needless to say, I came back to Dallas that weekend not only with a loss of a very hopeful football game, but with a lot of hurt, shame, guilt and feelings of unworthiness for everything that occurred in the first 21 years of my life. In that next week, as I tried to jump right into work and prepare a “sermon” for my middle schoolers, I was consumed by these feelings. The waves and wind of the storm were picking up in my life. I was doubting my Savior, completely forgetting grace, struggling with truths that I once accepted, letting lies overtake my thoughts and actions and cling on, tighting to my “oars” that were steering me in my life – my friends. I was doing everything I could to keep my “boat” under control but everything I tried to do was nothing compared to the storm around me and it was doing nothing more but making the storm harder.
Since that weekend, I have given 2 “sermons” on my God, 2 “sermons” that I have had to labor through and struggle because I myself was not completely recognizing my God. When I went into ministry, I promised myself that I would never give a talk about something I do not believe for myself and for the first time, I have had to work to live up to that standard. I was struggling, pulling anything I could to try to balance the waves but they seemed to only get bigger. I would try new things, try normal things more, try anything I could to either forget about the storm, or try to balance it. I tried myself to calm the storm but it only got bigger. Nothing I was doing was working, in fact, I myself was destroying all my oars and all my hopes of staying afloat. I was about to lose it all, give up and be consumed by the storm.
But a friend stepped in. This friend didn’t walk on water, but she pointed me to the one that was. The One that told me to let go of my oars. The only one would could calm my storm. And ever since I recognized Him, the storm has calmed. Not completely, but it is getting there. I can’t believe that I let the storm go on this long and didn’t recognize Him myself but am very thankful for a friend that pointed Him out to me. Thankful that I still have friends that care that much; and thankful that that friend speaks truth to me even when it hurts, despite the hurt I have brought in her life.
The storm has brought much hurt, the waves were not forgiving. This storm has brought hurt in my heart and feelings from lies from my childhood that I thought I worked through years ago. The storm brought hurt from mistakes I made that still effect my life today. The storm brought destruction in relationships that I do not want to lose. But, the storm has brought a recognition of my Savior and a redemption of grace that He gives. So, as the waves calm and the wind dies down. As the thunder quiets and the lightening goes dim, I cling, not to my oars, but to my Savior who is now in the boat with me and riding out the remainder of the storm alongside me. May I always have an increased awareness of Him beside me and His timing in His moving.
As I ride out the rest of the storm, I pray, hard. I pray He will steer my boat from now on, I pray He will control where my life goes. I pray He will combat the lies that are constantly flowing through my head. I pray He will give me wisdom and discernment to discover which thoughts are truth and which are lies. I pray He will preserve the friendships that I potentially destroyed. I pray He will bring my heart to a joyful state. I pray He will remain beside me. And I pray that my Savior has plans for me, to use me to spread His Gospel all over the world. Life will not be easy; there will be many more times I will be caught in the middle of a storm but He controls all of creation and I pray that next time, I will recognize Him beside me, before the storm overtakes me.
Change…its all about to change…
In just a few short days, I leave for camp. Then I come back to Dallas for 4 days and leave again, this time for who knows how long. Maybe a month, maybe 6 weeks, I am not sure. The lives of all my friends are moving and going as well. Florida for camp, Hong Kong, North Carolina YL camp, Colorado YL camp, summer school (here in Dallas, but lasts all day). I feel like everything changes tonight.
While I am gone, everyone else’s lives change as well..situations change, life changes, friendships change and I am scared. Scared that when I come back nothing will be the same. Scared that friendships will have changed and what are now close good friendships will be no longer in 6 weeks. 6 weeks…and during those 6 weeks everyone will be busy with their own lives. I am easily forgotten and replaced; I have low expectations. There is a war within my heart right now. A war of wanting to try to hang on to friendships, build them strong to hopefully ensure that they will still be there when I come back. But also a war telling me to pull away to ensure that I do not get hurt when I come back and they are not the same. I want to protect my heart but I don’t want to be alone because I protected it so much.
Yes, I will change this summer, it happens every summer. I hope this summer will be different from all others. I hope I will have time to retreat with the Lord, spend more time with Him than I have any other summer and come back to Dallas with a new passion for the Lord that I have never had before. I hope my heart is healed this summer from the pain a boy caused in my heart just recently. I hope I have made a little more progress on some of the things I have been trying to fight through in my heart for years. I hope this summer is a summer of growth for me. But there are things here in Dallas that I do not want to change. That I like in my life right now, and I am scared to go away and come back, scared they won’t be here anymore.
Outside of my personal life, the other part of my life is work. My boss quit a few weeks ago but it still isn’t quite real yet. We are in transition out of school year into summer mode and the fact that he isn’t here and me and another guy are leading the area all by our selves hasn’t really taken hold in my mind yet. It will next year, when school starts back and he isn’t here. When its me and JP making all the decisions and leading the area. And the hole that Matt left? Will it be filled? Will my precious 8th graders have a staff person over them, and the other high schoolers, next year in high school Young Life? I will be there, but will I have help? Will it be successful ministry? Changes at work that will for sure happen in the next 6 weeks while I am gone. These changes can be really good..or really stressful. It is hard for me to walk away from my area that I feel like I need to stay in be here for.
So, starting tomorrow, change starts. I have a meeting at 8 am with my regional director and a potential staff person to fill Matt’s role. Good change for my area could start in the morning. But in my personal life part of my life (the remaining 1/4 of my life), things have already started to change. One friend left this past Friday for Floriday. For me and another friend , camp starts in 6 days so the next 6 days will be crazy busy days of getting ready for camp. For another friend, she starts summer school tomorrow so for the next 5 days, she will completely be involved with the study of Soteriology. Needless to say, my social life will not really exist this week it seems. And then I leave…
So I am scared..scared of leaving, scared of changing, scared of being hurt, scared of my low expectations…
Somewhere around 1987 I was old enough to venture out on my own and have some fun. As a child, I had the perfect idealistic childhood. I have great memories of riding my bike all around the small town we lived in, knowing everyone in town, even being able to “charge” my ice cream at a resturant to my dad with no questions at all. I loved that part, I felt so grown up. My dad was a farmer back in that day and I would go to work with him, riding the tractor, playing in the cotton trailer, hide n seek in the corn rows…I loved the small town; both of my sets of grandparents lived maybe 2 miles away, all my friends lived on my block, we played tons of sports together, had great summers, had tons of fun and our only rule was to be home by the time the streetlights came on. Small town life was wonderful in 1987ish.
At a very very childlike faith, I asked Jesus into my heart at the age of 6. At that time, I wasn’t really sure what was going on except I knew I was a sinner and needed a Savior to clean my heart. I do not remember that exact moment, but I do remember times after that. I remember sitting with my friend Monica and talking about how I wanted to go tell all the world about Jesus. Even though I had never gone much farther than the banks of the Gulf of Mexico in Destin Florida at that point in my life, I knew there was a world out there that desperately needed to know the story that I heard at such a young age and I wanted to be the person that went and told them.
I loved to read even then. I would read anything that I could get my hands on. I loved to read, to learn, to imagine this world. I loved to draw my imaginations and write stories about other people’s lives. I feel as if I lived in a dream world a lot of the time…all of my life I knew there was more to life, more to this world than I knew and I wanted to know it, experience it, tell others about it. More, I always wanted more.
Church at this time was nothing more than something you did on Sunday mornings. In my mind, Church was a place you dressed up for, looked nice, put on the face of “Everything in my life is great”, and went every Sunday morning from 9:30 -12. If the preacher preached longer than 12:00, people got mad. That was church, the place you went and really I didn’t see “church” anywhere else. I didn’t see much joy in “church.” The older I grew, the more boring it got, boring and judgemental. I saw the other poeple my age who were in church on Sundays but who were drunk the night before but then I heard that if you drank you went to Hell. I didn’t know what to think about church. It was something I knew I needed to go to, but something that was not interesting and I didn’t trust the people that were in the building with me. They all seemed fake. More..I knew there had to be more to the church thing..I believed the things I read in Scripture that said that Jesus is more than a place you went on Sunday morning..I knew there was more..i just didn’t know where to find it.
As I grew into my middle school years, life wasn’t as fun anymore and the small town didn’t have its same appeal that it once did. I never really completely fit in. I had friends at school, played every sport and had friends there, but most of my nights and weekends were spent alone, the older I got. Living in a small town didn’t give you the different groups to choose between, we only had 1 group at my small private school – the party group. I wasn’t allowed to hang out at the places they went and so, I was left alone a lot of the time. In middle school, everyone is trying to figure out who they are but where I grew up, there was only 1 “type” of person you could be – rich, snobby, party type girl. Maybe even a hunter or something like that. I was not that. I loved reading, music and art, sports and the outdoors. I loved to travel and adventure. I loved learning and trying new things and meeting new people. I didn’t know who I was but I knew that no one else was like me and I knew I didn’t fit in where I was. At this point of my life, I wanted to get out of small town, but for different reasons that I did as a child. I wanted to get out to a bigger places where I could find friends, people that accepted me for who I was.
As the years passed, this feeling intensified. Then in 2000, it was time for college. I wanted to go far. I applied to Duke and to the University of Tennessee but was not allowed to go out of state for school. So I picked Mississippi State University; the biggest university in Mississippi, 2.5 hours away from home, my dad’s alma matar, and also one of the best schools to go to for architecture and engineering (my interests at that time). I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in life, my life wasn’t really focused on Jesus at that point in my life, but I knew I wanted to do something big. I wanted to excel in whatever I did. I wanted to be a Frank Lloyd Wright or Miles Van der Rohe, something to that effect. I wanted to absorb as much knowledge as I could so my first year, I took as many classes as I could. I took cal 1 and 2 in the same semester, computer programming language classes, Intro to Logic, crazy classes. I don’t know why, but I just wanted to learn, wanted to study, wanted to know. Jack of all trades in a way. Little did I know that God was slowly shaping me during this time. He was laying people in my path to point me back to Him – friends on the 5th floor of Rice Hall at MSU, RUF, Student Association and other friends in my classes. I remember talking with my friend Josh Blades, just dreaming with him. He wanted to be president of the United States (which I can still totally see him doing) and I just dreamed of being an architect in a big high rise building on like the 100th floor in NYC, looking down over the city. My sophmore year, I switched my major to graphic design and my dream just changed to a big time designer in NYC but that year, God brought my cousin to MSU. My cousin is 6 months younger than me but was a grade behind me in school. She and her twin sister were some of my best friends in high school. They lived in a town about an hour away but accepted me into their friends during those years. They don’t know how much they did for me those years. My cousin was a lot like me and we decided that we wanted to go work at a ranch in Montana or something that summer. Well, Kanakuk came to campus that year for an event called After Dark. Neither of us had ever heard of Kanakuk but we decided it sounded like fun and we would apply to work at that camp for the summer. Little did I know what God had in store for me at Kanakuk…
I went to Kanakuk the summers of 2001-2004 and God slowly shaped and changed my heart during those years. I came to Kanakuk as a very insecure baby Christian and was instantly welcomed by Will Cunningham, the camp director. I worked at KKountry, the little kids Kanakuk kamp. My first summer at Kanakuk, I met some amazing friends, was discipled for the first time in my life, learned about teaching others about Christ, and saw people on fire for Christ, a complete first in my life. I had never seen anyone excited about Christ, and willing to give their life for Him. That first summer in Branson Missouri, God started tugging on my heart and placing a burden there for kids. Every summer I went to Kanakuk, God grew that burden. The summer of 2004, I knew without a doubt I wanted to go into ministry and work with kids, teaching them about Christ, but I didn’t know what that looked like other than working at Kanakuk. So that was my dream, to work at Kanakuk. I went back to college in 2004-2005 with plans to graduate and go to the Kanakuk Institute, a seminary like program for a year that Kanakuk runs. I had never seen a church that did ministry like I envisioned (middle school focused) and all I knew was Kanakuk and KLife. I had been volunteering with Young Life during the school year but I didn’t know you could work with them. I applied for the Kanakuk Institute, but didn’t get in. There was no reason, it just wasn’t where God wanted me. So that year of school, I graduated very confused. I knew the burden God had placed on my heart, but I didn’t know how to fill it. I needed more, I wanted more than what I was seeing there in Mississippi, I just didn’t know where to go. I had only seen it in Missouri on the kampground of Kanakuk.
That summer I moved to North Carolina because some friends asked me to go with them to work. It was a hard summer. I lived in a beautiful place, on a tiny island called Hatteras Island, part of the North Carolina Outerbanks. Me and God fought a lot that summer. I did not know what to do, I had no idea where to go, what to do, and I wanted more. I wanted to be big…I had dreams of being someone like Beth Moore, but for middle school girls. I felt like the door to Kanakuk was closed, and that was all I had ever known. I wanted more than I had ever had in my life, I wanted to learn more, fit in somewhere, teach others, help steer kids out of the chaos that I had to go through, teach them about the JOY of Christ that I had never known until I went to Kanakuk. But how did I find that? I was angry that God had left me here, completely lost and confused. I felt like He was no where to be found in my life and no matter how much I tried to find him, He was silent. After the summer, I had to move back to Mississippi with my parents but the dead feeling continued. Hurricane Katrina hit, life turned upside down, then fell into a boring normalcy..I had a job as a graphic designer, and I went to church, but really? is that life? I had no one my age that lived in the town, church wasn’t anything to get involved in; i went to a bible study but it was only people my mom’s age. MORE…I craved more..I desperately desired friends, to be known, joy in life, someone to talk to, to serve others, pour into others live’s especially kid’s lives, the excitement of life that I had briefly experienced in Missouri..MORE..but where was it? My family was perfectly content in their small town life. They loved it and would even get mad when I talked about not being happy. They said there was something wrong with me, that life in a small town Mississippi was good and they loved it, there was something wrong with me if I didn’t either. But I didn’t love it, I felt trapped..I wanted MORE than small town Mississippi.
And I ended up in Dallas. It wasn’t me, it was God that put me here through a random train of events. Dallas, not a city I had ever imagined I would go to. Nashville, Charlotte and NYC were my cities, not Dallas. But I got put here. And I found it! I found the more..I found friends, I found a church that was alive. God took me to Japan, to California, Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, and Austria. He led me to seminary where I fell in love with books and theology, languages that are no longer spoken, topics that only nerds discuss and all the more. I found and fell in love with Starbucks, not necessarily the coffee, even though I do love it, I love the atmosphere and people. I found other theology loving friends here that I love to sit down and talk about some random deep theology talk till 3am, just for fun. Right now, I sit beside my friend Tom and my friend Angel is working behind the desk; various other friends are scattered throughout the room. I met them and many more about 4 years ago when I started coming here. We have built friendships, discussed lives, and I have shared Christ with each one of them. I have not pressed it on any of them, they have just asked, we have talked and we have built a friendship. I saw my friend Robert pray for the first time in his life one night here, I see God working here, I love this city because of times like that moment at West Village Starbucks. Besides my non-believing Starbucks friends that I love with all my heart, God also lead me to a church that believes wholeheartedly in community. I found friends here, good, biblical, godly friends. For the first time I have gotten to know and love godly men and women that walk beside me in my hard times and good times. They hold me accountable, grow with me, point out sin in my life, encourage me and help me in this walk with Christ. Through this, I have learned what it means to not live this life alone. I can’t imagine living it without others like these friends I have here. He then led me to Young Life, the job that I never imagined but exactly what I was looking for. I work with just middle schoolers in North Dallas and it is the joy of my life. More..I am here…..Yes, I still want more, but I feel like where I live now, it is open to me..I feel free to discover more..More..diving into Christ and finding more of Him, being willing to go wherever in this world where I can tell millions more about Him. I desire to tell the millions about Him, write a book that millions read, speak to millions, something. I do desire to be used in a big way for Him. This world is my playground and I want to go wherever He leads me to be used in whatever way He wants me to.
As I think of this more, I question..am I wrong to want more? As I write out my desires through the years, I see how I always wanted more and it seems completely ok to me. However, when I was home this past weekend, my family got mad at me several times because they say I think where I live is better than where they live. My first thought when my dad said that was, “Am I an elitest?” Am I wrong to love the place I live more than the place they live? Was it wrong for me to grow up there, be unsatisfied and always want more? An elitest – The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources. By that definition, I don’t at all think I belong in that group. In fact, I feel like I am the complete opposite. Mississippi – where racisim is high and people consider themselves better than others because of economic status or color, that is the exact opposite of what I want to be. I do pride myself in the fact that I have friends of every color, nationality, and type. I love where I live because of the freedom I have here, because of the dreams it has allowed me to find. And in my life, it is better than where I grew up. I do not want that life there, I was not happy there. I needed more.
Mississippi – a wonderful place to have a childhood and the perfect place for some people to live, work, and raise their families. But not me. I needed more of this world.
Life…when life is good, not many questions arise. Security, peace and comfort are easily felt. But when life gets a little difficult, maybe not necessarily bad, but when things are just different than expected, its hard to remember the security, peace and comfort that were once felt so easily. Books such as 2 Kings are filled of stories of ups and downs in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judea. Kingdoms who had kings who obeyed the Lord, and ones who disobeyed the Lord. Over and over the prevelant theme is that the Lord’s plan will sustain. There were kings who sought after the Lord with all their hearts, and there were kings who worshiped other gods, sacrificed children and practiced sorcery. The Lord’s plan was carried out in the midst of the turmoil of His land, His people. 1 Chronicles goes on to finish the story, on how even though God’s plan led His disobedient children into captivity, He is still following His unconditional covenant and has not left them.
So I think of my life today, if the grace and mercy of God is ever sustaining, and His plan is all encompassing, what is my life about? Do I live my life in such a way as I am always resting in the security, peace and comfort of His Gospel, or am I allowing outside things of this world to affect my security, peace and comfort?
Dr. Paul Tripp, a Counseling professor at Westminister Theological Seminary, has written a book called A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger Than You. While I have not had time to completely read this book, due to a stack of other books I am reading, along with studying for my greek final, I have noticed some questions that were raised in the book, which made me think deeper about my outlook on life, the things that I am allowing to shape my security, peace and comfort:
- Are you doing the concrete things in your life regularly because you are living for something bigger than your own personal definition of happiness?
- Do you live with a deep appreciation for the Lord Jesus Christ and the gift of grace that has fundamentally changed you and the course of your life? Do you work to keep your love and worship of him fresh and new? Do you live with a sense of humble privilege that not only have you been chosen to be a citizen of his kingdom, but his ambassador as well?
- Are you living that form-and-freedom jazz life that God has called you to? Are you committed to staying within the boundaries of what he has written, yet enjoying the freedom to improvise in the situations and relationships where he has placed you?
- Are you dissatisfied with the broken world that you live and work in every day? And do you work for its restoration to wholeness in any way you can?
- Have you allowed yourself to be so busy with work on earth that you do not have time to long for heaven? Or is everything you do done with one eye on the present and one eye on eternity? Are you able to deal with the pain and disappointment of today because you really have embraced the promise of a day when this world and everything in it will be made completely new?
- Do you hold loosely to your plans, your schedule, your agenda, your expectations? Are you always looking for way to be part of what God is doing wherever you are, no matter how mundane the moment is?
Its a humbling thought to remember that this life is not about me, there is a much bigger thing going on here rather than my own trivial wordly happiness. We were created for transcendence, to be a part of the bigger picture of the Gospel in this world.
Relationships, community; a constant struggle to live in in such a way that is really the true picture of what Christ commanded them to be, but oh so joyful when they do reach that point. But where does life take you when a relationship struggles, when the joy of the relationship is no longer there, but the peace, security and comfort of the friendship is now replaced with hurt and rejection? Remembering the bigger picture is the only way to overcome these feelings, even though the longing for the peace and comfort is still very apparent. Displaying the gospel through the struggles of life is the way to we can become a part of the bigger picture of this universe and keep our thoughts focused on what the important part of this life is: displaying the glory of Christ.