Monday, March 10

in the spotlight and the shadows

This week is missions conference at our church. Dr. Anderson from Baptist Mid Missions is the main speaker for the week and there are three great families here to share their ministries with us. The flags of all the countries where our missionaries serve hang in the auditorium. It's an exciting week.

Missions conference always gets me thinking. When I was a girl, my parents shared with me their burden that the gospel be spread throughout the world, and made it very clear that if I felt that God wanted me to be a missionary, they would be supportive and happy to see me serve in that way. I was grateful for this, as I had heard stories from missionaries about how their families were not so supportive.

College came, and Northland has a great missions and ministry emphasis. As I went through school, I guess I kind of expected to be a single world traveling missionary, or some other full time vocational Christian worker. I was thrilled by this - excitedly awaiting God's direction and guidance to my perfect fit in ministry. I remember a series of events caused me to have a chat with dad about "full time ministry" and what that entailed. Shortly after, the lightning bolt of understanding struck me and I was all conflicted.

I wrestled with the idea that maybe God did NOT want me in "full time vocational ministry" and I admit this was a great source of panic. It completely upset all that I had been planning and every single one of my own expectations. When I realized what I was panicked about, I felt rather foolish.

You see, even though I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, I somehow had adopted the idea that my serving God full time was dependent on where my provisions came from - who wrote the check. I'd somehow arrived at the conclusion that if my checks came from a church, a Christian school, or a mission board, I was a full time vocational minister. And if, I reasoned, I was in full time vocational ministry, everyone would know that I had made great sacrifices and that I was the most surrendered I could possibly be.

And selfishly, I wanted a front row seat in God's work overseas. I wanted to watch as new believers were baptized in a river, risking rejection by their families. I wanted to see growth of a brand new baby church, to watch in person instead of via flashing images on the screen with missionary narration. I wanted to get my hands dirty. And I wanted to tell stories that would get other people excited about serving God, too. I wanted God to use me to make an impact on the world.

I did not want to entertain any ideas that maybe God had something else for me. Of course, it's easy to brush those thoughts aside - "would Satan want me in missions?" I would ask myself, as if that would settle the whole thing.

I'll tell you what Satan DID want - he wanted me to keep my heart from being truly surrendered to do whatever God wanted. And Satan still wants that. When I struggle with discontent in my family's ministry, when I get frustrated at all I am "not doing," and when I wish we weren't doing as much, when I ignore God's leading to reach out to the neighbors, when I ask God "why?" and when I push for my own way. God wants my whole heart, my whole mind, and my whole self to be surrendered to Him. He wants me to serve Him one hundred percent.

And so I am learning to be ready, willing to do whatever He leads us to do. I am learning what it is to follow. And to keep following. And I will keep learning to daily surrender, and keep rejoicing at God's work in the world - in the spotlight, and in the shadows. He doesn't need me, after all, to accomplish Great Things. He is GOD.


Carrie said...

we just finished up Missions conf here SUnday. It was really good. I too had my life planned out to go to Africa and live in a hut, it was harder for me to surrender to stay here in the states but a necessary surrendering of all for me!

Reads said...

Thanks for being open about what God is doing in your heart. It is interesting how we make plans, yet God has a far better plans. Praise the Lord He never gives up on us! I often wonder why God ever chose to use man in His plans; He could do a far better job without us. If I could only remember that when things don't go our way.

Rosemary and Dale said...

In you and Michael's work with the junior high kids at church, you might be in the 'spotlight' more that you think. I know that the young couple who were the youth leaders at our church during our junior high years had a big influence on our lives. I am sure that your mom, my sister and I each have stronger relationships with our husbands AND our God partly because of their leadership and example. (Thank you God for Jack and Barb Helms!) Believe or not, those kids ARE listening and ARE watching you ... keep up the good work!

Karis said...

Your post was a blessing to me. Thanks for sharing your heart. I was thrilled to hear your excitement about missions but most of all your excitement to do what God has chosen for you.

Stephens said...

Praise God for a wonderful missions conference and His working in our hearts. As I was reading along in your post just now, I was feeling sad that you couldn't be there tonight because of sickness. Then, as I read the last couple of paragraphs, I just laughed and thought, "Wow! You just basically put in a nutshell what Dr. Anderson preached tonight from Romans 12:1-2." And you posted this on Monday. . . .Very neat! Love ya friend.

Church Family said...

This is Amanda....your post really spoke to me. Thanks for sharing. Sometimes I struggle with the opposite...not really wanting to be in the spotlight. But I know whatever I do and wherever I go He should receive the most glory. It's not about me and it is a privilege to serve Him. Thanks for sharing your heart!