I always remember LOVING the summer time. When you’re a kid in school, summer means fun because summer means no school! There was one summer in particular where I got to spend a significant amount of time at a beach house in South Carolina with my family. I swam every day, ate tons of fresh fruit, and picked seashells with my mom in the mornings. I WAS LIVING MY BEST LIFE! In my innocent eyes, there was nothing that could go wrong. We were going to live in this beach house forever.
The day finally came when we had to go back to our cramped little house in Tulsa. I didn’t really mind because I was still on my beach high. I hadn’t really thought about anything else. But reality hit when we got home. I was sharing a room with my little sister again! My skin was lobster red and had started peeling from sun burn. There were no more late nights with the fam because they had to go back to work. I hadn’t conceptualized that summer was over and I had stepped into a new season.
About a year ago, I heard a message by Robert Madu called “The Water & The Wilderness”. He talked about how our journey with the Lord will take us into the water where we’re refreshed and reminded of who we are, and then we’re prompted into the wilderness where there’s a lot of testing and learning to trust. We are in a constant state of flowing between these two extremities.
Often times, I think we become too comfortable in the water just like I became too comfortable at the beach. It’s nice to be reminded of being loved, called, and capable. But the rubber really hits the road when comforts are removed. We begin to wonder if God is still with us. If we ever heard Him in the first place. If we even want to do this whole thing. It’s at THIS point that we should press a little harder. I was never a fast runner but I always aspired to be in track. I actually aspired to be in every sport and was never good at anything except dance, but that’s a story for another time. Watching the runners during the Olympics was exhilarating for me! I would imagine the last strip of the race where the runner’s lungs were starting to burn from a lack of oxygen and their legs were starting to go numb. They have a decision to keep going when everything in them is screaming or to take a moment of comfort and lose the race. One of my friends once told me the best runners anticipate the last stretch of their race. They make room to feel uncomfortable.
As my time in London was coming to an end, I fought to stay! I had some really awesome job and internship opportunities, but the doors slammed closed. I should have expected this because I literally prayed “God, close every door that isn’t from You and open every door that only You can open”. But no, I was mad. I was actually fuming. I had worked SO hard over the past 4 years to put myself through a private college and line myself up for the best opportunities, and now nothing was working… I had arrived in my wilderness. What now? It wasn’t long before a friend of mine dragged me to a conference, and God spoke to me. He simply asked if I trusted Him with my heart. I envisioned my hearts deepest desires that I’m sometimes even too afraid to speak out loud. I understood that He could care for them better than I could so I handed them over to Him. A few days later I caught the last session of another conference (churches love summer conferences). God asked if I’d be willing to stay and work. I was almost offended He would even ask me that after I had just given Him my deepest desires. Like, why wouldn’t I be willing to obey?! But I fought it. I rejected acceptance letters. I had meetings. I had discouragements. I was also sure that I had heard His voice louder than my emotions, and the desire to be a part of building something that would last forever was stronger than ever. It was much bigger than me.
I’m now working two jobs and interning at my church where I’m helping plant a new campus. It’s so much more rewarding than I imagined. Don’t get me wrong, I’m working harder than I pictured myself. I probably put in 60+ hours a week with all that I’m doing and I usually just want to sleep on my days off. But one day I’ll see the fruit from saying yes in my wilderness. One day, it won’t matter if I lived in Tulsa, London, or LA and it won’t matter if I would have pursued those fancy jobs. All that will matter is what remains from my life, and I want it to be greater than myself.
I’d encourage you to chase after the same. It’s not easy to lay down qualifications and ego and live for a greater purpose, but it’s worth it. No matter where you find yourself in your life right now, you have the capacity to do something greater than yourself. Find that greater in you and own it!