Preface: I planned to write about the fact that God is sufficient for you (because the phrase is true and I think about it all the time) and that you don’t need earth shattering experiences like going on grand vacations or doing grand things. I was going to say that heaven is better and that there’s nothing you can do on earth that won’t be trumped in magnitude of pleasure and experience in heaven. But when I sat here and wrote that’s not exactly what came out – which is weird because this has been brewing in my mind for weeks – so full disclosure: The structure is…not.
There are many things I haven’t done, many life experiences I haven’t had, might never have. So I can’t tell you what you’re not missing in every case. I don’t know what it’s like to love in marriage. That’s a biggie. To be a mother. So in all fairness I’ll leave those things alone as my experience in the field is zilch.
But I do know what it’s like to leave home. Multiple times. How it feels to fly across the world and spend a year of my life floundering to serve a people I could barely understand. Goodness gracious, that feeling when you first land… I know what it’s like to struggle through grad school. To leave a couple student loan statements unopened. Because deferment and avoidance. I know the yearning to leave and the pull to stay. Which place? Home or the far away place? Both. I know the in-between times – when you are wondering what ON EARTH AM I DOING…with my life? I’ve lived that waitress life. And it’s a life, we’ll tell you.
I’ve thrown proceeds from a vehicle sale to a trek across Europe. Just because I wanted to – and because my best friend was crazy enough to go with me. While I’m on the highs – yes, during that time of floundering I also came to love those people I had to make real effort to understand. I drifted Saturdays at a time in a hammock – because schedules don’t matter there. I did stand in awe in the Coliseum, tasted Swiss snow, walked Louis’ garden, pulled on the heart strings at the top of the Eiffel.
Well, what then?
I count it all as loss.
Do you know the first thing I thought when I came back from the tour of Europe? I am what I am. That was nice, beautiful even. That tour guide was fantastic. Yet if I had never done it, so what?
When I got back from the Marshalls and no one understood and people kept telling me how brave I was? You have no idea. Why did I go? Well, it didn’t take long for me to discover that I had every intention of being a hero and having an “experience.” That word makes me a little sick now. Hero? I struggled to teach phonics. Who knew that there was a reason why people go to school to teach elementary kids? They were wonderful. And I failed them daily. They tested my patience and my skill, and I came up short more than I triumphed. I did it, yeah. I didn’t come home early. I lived without electricity, yeah. I lived in a strange kind of isolation from anyone who could understand me deeply (i.e. culture is crazy huge in that aspect). And guess what???? Every single one of you could have done the same. You could have done the same.
That’s what I thought. When I moved to Dallas to learn how to tell the truth with numbers? (y’all, they lie.) When I got there: uhhh. [sitting on the carpeted apartment floor. No TV on.] God, what am I doing? I mean WHAT AM I DOING? This is going to be so much debt. I don’t know anybody. Quitting is…appealing. And I haven’t started yet.
Months in: uhhhh. [still on the floor] Lord, why all the “No’s” from You recently?! I am not #winning.
A year in: Swim, and read. And pray while swimming and reading.
***And this little revelation that the swimming and the reading and the praying were higher than the geographical coordinates. (Foreshadowing, folks!)
-and hopefully you see that the swimming is a metaphor—
When I’m leaving – uhhhh [on Melissa’s couch] I want to leave and I really, really, really don’t want to leave. This feeling is impossible. And what is geography??????????
???? God, what is IT?
I have two grand points I’m trying to make.
- You are not missing out on anything because you aren’t having a certain experience in a certain place. (feel free to ask the Lord about this, but I feel pretty strongly about it).
- You are missing out on everything if it’s not for God.
- Unpacking this and giving it justice is impossible, but I will try.
After all that wonderful goop (all the “experiences”), my fuzziest feelings have been here:
- The first time I hurt so badly that movies no longer worked to escape and I had to resort to prayer, extended prayer, on the floor. Learning how precious extended prayer is. Praying not before bed or before meals but…because meeting God in that place was the best activity I could think of.
- Coffee with my best friend where we marvel over Jesus. Bible studies with other ladies where we marvel over Jesus. Trumps any high school or college activity I ever did.
- Asking God a question and seeing it answered immediately – in a person, or a song. This doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does –
- Talking with someone about what’s on their mind, deep in there. Any person, any place.
- Have I mentioned prayer?
- Pondering grace.
- Folks, pondering grace!
- Do you know where this leads?
- Telling all the people about grace
- Which leads to you asking God a question
Geography. I want you to stop thinking about geography. Well, don’t stop thinking about it, because it’s important. But stop thinking about it as the number one thing.
This preaching is for me, fyi. So forgive me as I talk to myself.
Love the Lord your God with your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. Where can you do that?
All the places.
In your hometown, across the world, across the country. Via face to face interaction, technology. (Folks I felt like I should type that, yet it’s personally unappealing. I’m learning to like it; see the value in it. Slowly).
If the Lord is your God,
*If He isn’t…..you are missing out on everything and why why? He loves you, dearly, He desires to be your God, Friend, Guide, Protector, Healer, Counselor, Savior, very present help in time of need!!! Oh it kills me to see you wait.*
you have one hope. One hope: eternity with Christ, His Father, the Holy Spirit who now lives in you. You have one land with all the activities and sightseeing and experiences: Heaven! Heaven itself is your playground. Your hope is not in finding satisfaction in the accomplishments and the experiences of this world. Your hope is not in being good enough because you’ve done enough. Your hope is not in being good enough because you’ve done something cool enough. Your job is to bask in grace and burst with the light of Jesus that’s within you. Everywhere you are. That’s geography, and that’s station.
I’m trying to break down this idol, get it off that “high priorities” list you have. Location and Title are not your gods. Achievement is not your god.
But oh how He can use them!!! Yes, let Him break them down for you, so that loving Him and serving Him and pleasing Him and doing His work will become too big to fit anything else on the pedestal. Then let Him lead you – clearly, wisely, to wherever! Yes, to wherever! This is not my plea to keep you home. This is also not my plea to tell you to leave. This is my plea for you to give it no thought in relation to the world, in relation to checking boxes off a list, in relation to personal fulfillment. But be ready to answer any call. For His dreams for you are big. He is a mighty God, and He will use you in a mighty way in the place that He shows you.
And it’s not a big secret. Ask! Ask Him. And listen. Waiting periods are not for wasting. They are for living. They are for living for His purposes, doing His work. And the waiting periods are useful. Goodness, they’re all waiting periods! This is not our home! We are citizens of another kingdom. Don’t fret about “arrival” to your “calling.” Your calling is to love Him, to love His people. Your calling is to follow His holy, precious Word. Your calling is to tell people about Him, to minister to His saints. Your calling is to follow where He leads, to the crazy and the seemingly mundane.
Your calling is not to worry about when He’ll call ya to a ‘where’ that’s not ‘here’.
Follow Him “here.”
It says, “A man plans his steps, but the Lord directs His paths.”
Do you believe that? Then the implications are life changing, view-shattering. If you are His, He will arrange your best geography and activity (your paths) as you walk day by day (step) as best you know how (plan).
One more time: Does your planning carry all the weight of your paths being straight?
No! No, no, no. Feel that freedom washing over, a weight lifted? Your fate is not in your hands. Your future is in His. Your present is in His.
All this to say that I don’t want you craving an experience. Crave God. And He will lead you to the right experiences, which is a million times more important than the world’s list of exciting ones.
Do everything for His glory, everything. Be clay. Moveable or stationary as He sees fit. Bold or meek. Get closer and closer to Him so you can hear His directions. And trust, wholeheartedly, that He’ll not waste a minute of your life if you give it all to Him.
P.S. I count it all as loss. What does that mean? Simply, it means that the most precious things in this world are nothing to me in comparison to the love of Christ. He is everything. What He has offered me is everything. Nothing compares. The great things. They are “as loss.”