It was one year ago of this month when I was deciding where to go in response to God’s call on my life. Strangely enough, the biggest barrier I had to overcome was not lack of support nor finances. It was nothing of physical nature, but of surrender. Specifically, to learn how to surrender my own definition of God’s calling on my life and to instead ask what He wanted my calling to look like. For a long time, I held unto my glorious picture of how and where I envisioned myself serving. Below is an excerpt from my application, testifying the calling I had for myself:
I feel called to serve in a Spanish-speaking country. Spanish has been a language that I have invested years of study; it’s what my college degree is in! Speaking Spanish brings me immense joy, and I attribute this passion for Spanish to my Lord who has been developing this language in me for a reason, so clearly I want to use it. Even more specifically, I feel called to serve students and would love to partner with a university outreach organization. From experience, I know that college years are some of the most transformative and growing years. It is a very vital and crucial time period in which decisions that are made are most likely to impact the direction of the rest of their lives. It is my desire to reach out to students…
My heart was set on working with college students in a Spanish speaking nation. I oozed passion for these areas and confidently felt that’s how God had gifted me and where He was steering me. I’m sure I prayed about it, asking the Lord to direct my steps, but at the beginning, I still held unto my own plan. Further along in my application however, I wrote:
I will go anywhere, and I will do anything– I’m simply applying in response to His call on my life and whole-heartedly want to be used by Him!!!
So, as the process continued, God began to close doors; it was the only way to get my attention since I was sure my own ideas were God’s ideas. Remember that the little sentence I wrote about being willing to go anywhere and do anything? Well, it was going to be tested.
The closed doors quickly started to resemble God’s hand changing my route. Little by little, I began to wake up to the realization that perhaps I had mapped out my own journey and had forgotten to invite the driver along for the ride. C’mon though, really? Why would He not use me where he had given me specific giftings??
Hesitant, but at the same time noting the absence of peace I was currently experiencing, I paused my planning. I asked God- okay, then, what’s YOUR plan? And much to my soul’s bewilderment and awe, He unfolded a giant map of His heart before me.
Through books I was reading, challenging and conflicting conversations, classes, chapel speakers, searching His Word, and even while writing my senior thesis paper, His love for ALL nations rang loud. Like a clanging bell, God declared to me His love for the oppressed. It was impossible to ignore. He convicted my small self of my small mind and the small box I had put Him in. How could I know the God who created every nation without knowing every nation? How could I claim obedience to His calling if I don’t go where His name has not yet been heard? If I’m not working to love not only by bringing spiritual wholeness, but physical and economic wholeness as well?
My mind was blown. I almost missed out on the best. His best.
Here I was, with my cute little plan, all wrapped up nicely with a bow on top, hugged close to my chest. I couldn’t see beyond it. I couldn’t imagine what I would do, who I would be if I set it down. What was wrong in doing what I assumed God had equipped me to do? It was wrong because it was idolatry. Instead of believing and putting faith in the Giver of gifts, I ran off without Him and worshiped the gift, tagging limits onto the mystery still waiting to be opened- that for which He yearns for me to seek Him.
I can’t even describe how scared I was to drop everything I had worked towards, the foundation of what had motivated me to learn Spanish, the ministry I know I’m good at, the environment I thrive and find fulfillment in. Yet as soon as I did, my Father seamlessly took full control. Doors opened. New directions were mapped out- pointing me east instead of south.
Once I surrendered my defined idea of God’s will and ultimately declared His ways infinitely better than mine, He, in all His greatness unleashed the beginning of a journey I know I won’t regret. New passions are taking root in my life- ones I never would have pursued if I hadn’t extended my hands to be lead where they are now serving: in the Middle East, among refugees of all ages and nationalities. Boy am I glad I did.
I look back on where I was a year ago… What the Lord did in my life allowed me to surrender, and by surrendering He lead me deeper into Himself. By letting go, He picked me up. By releasing, He moved me forward.
If I want to remain in His perfect plan, to experience more of Him and His power, I need to continually practice surrender.
To rid myself of myself. (Gal 2:20)
To search my motives. Are my plans self-seeking, self-gratifying? Jesus came not to boast in himself but to do the will of the Father (John 5:30)
To search the Word; it is a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105)!
To find hope in the promise that God will continue the work He has started in me- regardless of where I am (Phil 1:6).
To know He is always with me (Heb 13:5) and that He is all I need (Phil 3:7-10, Col 2:10, Psalm 73:25).
And to Trust. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. But in ALL your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6).