In my last post about learning to serve others out of pure love instead of a legalistic drive or need to impress, I mentioned some questions from a panel discussion called “Stepping into God’s Game Plan” and today I’ll address the first one –
Choice Overload – with so many great opportunities to be involved, how does a woman choose where to invest herself?
My desire is to grow in celebrating what Christ has done for me. I hope that over time, I will find my heart increasingly captivated by the gospel – learning more of God’s amazing love for unworthy me – and that I would so long to show others that same grace. I want to be driven by nothing more than genuine love for others stemming from his gracious love to me, yet I admit, I struggle to set my mind on grace. I know it will be a lifelong journey. Before I think about any “steps” that may be involved in deciding where to invest, I need to remember the big picture and ask myself: Am I growing in gospel-celebration? If not, what’s the point of my ministry investments??
I believe generally that if I’m consumed with the love of Christ, I won’t have to worry so much about finding opportunities to extend that love to others. Everyone I encounter needs his grace as much as I do, and if I could stay aware of that truth, my entire existence would become a living, breathing ministry of grace, with opportunities abounding. But it’s not lost on me that there are still tough choices to make sometimes!
With all of that in mind, I can reflect on past experiences – particularly where I’ve gone wrong – and glean a few “lessons learned the hard way” insights for these decision-making processes. Here are a few of mine:
Over-analyzing is my enemy. As I reflect on past serving experiences, there’s a common theme among the ones I’ve more confidently believed God led me to: in a sense, they were mostly decided for me. They usually came about not because I was looking so hard for them but because my heart was close to HIM and he just put these opportunities right in front of me. I couldn’t run from them if I wanted to – they were just right there! My more regrettable choices in serving usually had a rockier road getting there. The decision-making process was wrought with confusion, chaos, stress, and a general lack of peace and confidence in God’s voice. I was reliant on my own analytical abilities at the expense of staying in close communion with God. I do believe we are to use our brains in evaluating our choices; pros and cons lists are not evil! It’s just my personal experience that I can easily depend on that too much, get consumed with it, and not pray nearly enough. It is in those times that I miss out on a special time of The Lord personally leading me by way of the persistent prayer and fellowship that relationship with him offers. There’s an intimacy there that I long for, a relationship I crave as the context for knowing his will, but I tend to miss it when so overly-focused on the details of my planning. Overall, I think we have to stop waiting for only “lightbulb, writing on the wall” moments and see where He is already at work around us.
1.) I may have to engage with the suffering around me to an extent that is uncomfortable.
Part of seeing Him at work around me means that I’m going to have to learn not to look away from all of the needs around me. That gets really difficult for this girl. It’s hard to carry the emotional burdens that result from living with eyes wide open. Mostly I’d prefer to live closed off, surrounded only by the things that keep me feeling more comfortable and safe, the things more familiar to my own way of living. I’ve found, however, that a willingness to look at the hurt around me just a little bit longer, not turning away at first glance but taking it in for a while, provides a slight edge in determining what God is personally calling me to.
There are questions to regularly consider – Do I move on as quickly as possible when confronted with the needs of the hurting, oppressed, or poor? Am I even being confronted with such needs, or have I organized my life in such a way that I don’t even come into contact with the suffering I do not wish to see? What barriers may exist? How can they be deconstructed?
2.) I must be willing to do the different thing.
It’s not about following trends or doing what’s popular. In fact, he could be calling me to the most unpopular thing, and I have some hard questions to ask myself: Am I willing to go alone? Will I appropriate God’s power for the difficult days of living differently from those close to me? For some, the questions may take another nature altogether: Am I finding my identity in being different? Am I doing the different thing for the sake of my own imager rather than God’s glory and because he’s given me this thing to do?
Thankfully, we can count on his faithfulness to walk us into our callings. His presence really will provide strength enough for those paths less-traveled. When struggling with this, I have found that a renewed focus on what Jesus has done for my soul – not just what he’s done for the world at large, but for me personally – drives me to embrace the uniqueness of the role he has for me. I’ve had to learn that it’s a gift when I’m in a group of people all serving together in the same way, and it’s a gift when we are serving in different ways. Either way, he is good and will give me what I need. There is blessing in both.
What are some of your lessons learned? I’d love to know what you would add!
Join me for the next part of this series where we’ll address the following question: