The earliest memories I have of You go back to around Kindergarten. I remember sitting atop that huge tire on the playground with one of the other girls from my class. I remember her asking, “Do you believe in God.” I paused and then with a certainty that could only come from You, I said “yes.” (I also then fell backwards off the tire and had to be carried in…)
I also remember as a child hearing a gentle whisper on more than one occasion: “There is more to life than this.” At that point in my life, I hadn’t gone to church and knew next to nothing about You. But even at that time, You were wooing my heart and creating within me a discontent with the average, with normal.
Fast forward a decade and I am in the middle of the tumultuous middle school years. I now believe not only that You exist but that I want to spend my life serving You. Not long after, I learn that You speak to people. Even someone like me could learn to hear Your voice. And so, at every major junction in my life, I tried to ask You what You wanted me to do, where You wanted me to go, which option You wanted me to select.
Again, fast forward a decade and You find me nearly obsessed with Your will. I had spent the last ten years trying to go where You told me and do what You asked me to do. But instead of feeling more contentment and intimacy with You, I was nearly driven crazy by a deep fear that I had somehow missed it–that I was displeasing You. Did You want me to go to Egypt? Not Texas, Lord. Really? How could I leave my children? Didn’t You call me here in the first place? Nearly 14 years of following You and the same fear still haunted me: am I gonna die and find out I wasted my life and displeased You?
In the weeks before moving to IHOP, I felt like I was hanging on by thread. I began to question everything about You. I doubted Your goodness and was convinced that You had somehow abandoned Your most faithful servant (go ahead and laugh). But I came anyway, exerting the last of my energies to crawl into this place.
I was extremely skeptical about this place, a little unnerved with their foreign sounding theology and all this talk of feeling “the heat of Your gaze.” But as I searched Your Word for Truth, I had to admit that Your word backed most of what they were saying. So after a month, I began to get pretty comfortable. Sure, things were hard at times, but I was learning a lot and everything felt pretty controlled–just the way I like.
And then class came and a theology of years came crumbling down around me. He told us that he didn’t believe that God cared where we went, necessarily as long as the two choices weren’t sin. He put it this way: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength–and do whatever you want.” What?? Do.whatever.i.wanted? I had come to IHOP because YOU wanted me to. I had gone to the reservation because YOU wanted me to. I was obsessed with doing what YOU wanted me to do. What was this talk of desire? Did he really just say You don’t care whom I marry as long as I am first loving You with everything?
He went on and on, laughing about those who try to overspirtitualize Psalm 37: 4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” He insisted that You don’t really care what we do (again, as long as we love You with everything). He said that it was all about the relationship with You.
His words were bouncing off the walls of my head, “Do you want to go to this country more than that country? Do it. Do you not want to go here? Don’t. If God wants You to go to a specific place, He will tell You with a big neon sign. It will be clear. People are always saying, ‘the Lord told me to do this, or come here, or do that. Frankly, God doesn’t talk that much. He values silence.” What? Then what in blazes am I doing here? Why had I left my children? For the last decade I had cared very, very, very much about where You wanted me to go and what You wanted me to do. How dare this man suggest You didn’t have a preference!
I felt physically sick. I asked my leader for permission to skip church. I literally ran back to my apartment. I turned off all the lights, dragged me sleeping back to the closet and pulled the door tight. As I had done so many times before, I curled up in a ball and waited for the tears to flow. But this time was different. I couldn’t cry. It felt wrong…fake somehow. A part of me knew that any tears I shed would just be an attempt to manipulate You to do something miraculous like come down in Holy FIre. So instead, I just told You I was sad and confused. I asked myself if hiding in the closet in the darkness was really the best way to fight despair. I knew it wasn’t. So I pulled the curtains wide open, came out of the closet and sat down on my bed with Bible and highlighter. I read through Song of Solomon and Proverbs. I tried to talk to You about Your Word. And that was it. No big revelation came, no clarity jarred my soul awake. But I left my room for dinner no longer wrestling with despair, a part of me wondering how I could in light of Your goodness.
At dinner, I asked some of the people I was eating with about their though
ts on class. It open up an rather intense conversation that involve a half a dozen people and an equal amount of opinions. After a half an hour of listening to people spar, I was dazed and confused.
I was trying to respectfully listen to someone talk about God’s opinion on whom we marry when with striking clarity, this idea came into my head: I want to be like missionaries such as David Brainerd, Nick Saint, Jim Elliot,
etc. because I believe it is what they DID that made them pleasing in God’s sight, not their heart.”v It was as if I had been struck
by a bolt of lightning. God already told me what He wants me to do the rest of my life: love Him with everything and love His people. Period. He only cares about what I do in so much as it relates to my heart.
And the walls of Jericho came down.
I realized in that moment that I had idolized what these individuals had done because I thought that their works were so impressive and sacrificial. These works must have counted more than having a standard job. I never genuinely believed, until that moment. that a housewife who loved You with all her heart, soul, mind and strength really maximized her life in the same way as a missionary. Then I was reminded of Paul’s words to the church in Corinth: “If I give everything I have to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love–it profits me nothing.” Nothing. Not even a little bit. Wow. How had I not seen this. Is this not what You say to the church in Ephesus. “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance….but I have this against you–you have lost your first love.”