The dense humidity of a Florida summer evening hung over the camp as a canopy, enveloping everyone in it’s unforgiving heat. But when evening came and the heat relented a few degrees cooler, no one noticed their sweat ‘staches, their soaked shirts, or the mosquitos that danced around their faces, everyone was bound together in collective worship to Papa God. Here I was at fourteen, preparing for a two-month long mission trip to Peru. To get there required enduring two weeks of training in the swamp that composes Merritt Island, Florida. Up to this point I had pretty much wept the first three nights with no relief. I didn’t know the weight of heat combined with a heavy, homesick heart could cause such emotional turmoil. But this night under the big top tent was different. The worship was selfless, and the speaker would prove to be a pivotal moment in my life.
Marilyn Laszlo. This woman made her way up to the stage and started to speak of her story of missions in Papua New Guinea to a crowd of teenagers. Whoever speaks at evening rally has a full plate ahead of them. They must have the capacity to hold the attention of hundreds of teenagers who are tired, mosquito bitten, and sweating profusely under the swamp’s humidity. This woman carried this task effortlessly, all of us sat on the edge of our seats. After she spoke, I went to the front of the stage, practically elbowing my way from the flock of teens wanting to ask her more questions. Upon getting there I told her:
“I just want you to know that God used you and your testimony tonight to call me to full time ministry and missions.”
And here began the pursuit of what that would look like. Medical missions seemed logical. It only took me a year to recognize that I am miserable at math and that seems pretty key in medical missions. Or linguistics! Yes! I could work for Wycliffe, I could go to unreached places and translate the Bible in their language! Except I’m not very skilled at solitude and patient puzzling.
Then I changed my approach. I stopped asking God as to what I should do and started praying
“God, break my heart by what breaks yours.”
It’s funny how often I’m surprised when God actually answers prayers. As if I am startled that the Great Listener is not listening. I forget that even though God is the Creator of all the Universe He still creates space for a personal relationship with little ol’ me. The direction God gave me was a burden for those sexually exploited and victimized by human trafficking.
But with this burden came even more questions. Having a passion left me feeling with more feelings of inadequacies and confusion. What do I do? How do I do it? How do I fit?
I found myself wishing to change myself. Maybe if I was less extroverted my personality wouldn’t be so overwhelming. Maybe if I wasn’t so blonde and pale I could be a cultural chameleon and go anywhere to effectively serve. Maybe if I was better at photography I could do ministry through media.
Maybe, maybe, maybe, enough.
When we question how God created us and the purpose He created for us we challenge the very image of God. Who am I to value one aspect of His image over another? Who am I to tell Him: “How you made me is inadequate and lacking. You should have made me more like this”. The comparison game can only last so long before we realize we either accept God’s perfect plan and Creation or find it lacking. I personally am not comfortable challenging the Divine Creator with charges like that.
In my Foundations of Learning class this semester we are reading Gordon T. Smith’s work Courage and Calling: Embracing Your God-Given Potential. In discussing the elements in discovering one’s direction, Smith shares that
“[e]ach of us has something that we feel is the very reason for which we have been designed, created and redeemed. In the end we embrace this call, this purpose, because this, so help us God, is who we are. In the end there is something to which we say: ‘This I must do’”.
Whatever your “This I must do” is, it’s uniquely what you must do and is a reflection of an attribute of God. You don’t get to decide which calling is better, cooler, or more impressive. And in the words of William Wilberforce,
“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”
I encourage you to embrace whatever it is that makes you an incurable fanatic. It will be different than what makes me an incurable fanatic. But we are all called to find what is in our hard wire that makes us such a fanatic. And as much as I encourage you, reader, I encourage myself that we will pray for our hearts to “be broken by what breaks the heart of God.”