I think a great many young people today enter their adult life confused, frustrated, and aimless. Confused, because their minds are bursting with such eager hopes and dreams that pull their heart in dozens of… More
Every person in our lives entered it for a reason. Each person is either meant as a blessin’ or a lesson and life can be so much better for everyone concerned if we accept them as such. Each is valuable as an example of how to live or how not to live, and I’ve noticed I tend to learn from bad examples faster because flaws are always easier to spot than strengths. Quite a few girls have passed through my Bible college dorm and they all have fallen into one or both of these categories for me. Some I started out disliking but ended up befriending. Some I started out liking but upon finding out their true character I distanced myself from them.
These girls have taught me that when your only concern is winning your own game, regardless of others’ welfare, you lose things that are far more valuable–a good name, friendships, opportunities, trust, and time wasted without impacting anybody for God. It is natural to think of oneself first; but that is not the way Jesus wants us to think. The Bible says the first shall be last and the last first: the humblest servant will be the greatest chief. Sometimes losing a board game is worth maintaining a relationship. Getting a lower grade on an assignment is not the end of the world if you know your time was spent on ministry, and studying had to take second place. It’s ok to fail. It’s ok to try without having a clue how to do it when you start. Refusing to do anything at which you cannot win is a crippling habit and is definitely not how God intended us to spend our lives.
They have taught me that flexibility is the key to a full and rich life–flexibility to God’s will, to friends’ needs, to ministry, to family, to whimsy. It’s ok to be impulsive sometimes and just sail off the grid on a spontaneous adventure. It’s ok to end up at a completely different destination than you started for and realize it was the right place all along. It’s ok for your to-do list to be lost in the shuffle of a day’s events and to be just as productive in ways you didn’t plan but God did. Never would I have ever imagined myself approving of such unpredictability, since I have always been an infamous stick-in-the-mud. But college friends help to free in me that tiny spark of whimsy I never knew I possessed. And it’s so much more fun to laugh till your lungs burn at misadventures that you would have once wept over.
They have taught me that choosing to be emotionally short-fused and unstable when others fall short of your expectations, makes you miserable and damages your friendships. Thick skin is the best kind of condition to develop. But it is also helpful to form realistic expectations of others and ourselves. Do we assume the worst about others’ intentions but expect them to assume the best about ours? Giving people the benefit of the doubt and finding something positive in disappointments, keeps one’s stress level and relationships on an even keel.
They have taught me to be more organized. It gets things done efficiently, reducing stress, and the fuller your schedule is the more crucial a neat system becomes. I’m a rather haphazard person, so lack of organization is a serious flaw that cripples me constantly. Between school, work, church, dorm life, and personal belongings, life is a whirlwind and I misplace things regularly. Reports don’t get done till the night before they are due, quizzes must be crammed for, assignments are forgotten, and notes are hopelessly lost between this box or that drawer. To be orderly with a place for everything takes time. But I am learning that it saves time ultimately. As the Bible says, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
They have taught me that no matter how hard it is to open up to one’s authorities, such vulnerability is essential. My life is like a box and I can’t see beyond its limits of experience–but if I ask counsel of people who have lived longer than I and succeeded where I have not yet attempted, they give me perspective from their own boxes and make me wiser if I accept their view. No girl wants to bare her soul with all its youthful vanities to a mature and seasoned adult, to sense them silently pinpointing all the things you’re doing wrong. But the Bible says a wise person will seek counsel. Though we fear losing our authorities’ good opinion if we let them glimpse our weaknesses, we actually gain their respect by doing so; it shows we want to move past our stumbling-blocks and are humble enough to realize we can’t do it alone.
The Lord has a great deal more to teach me, and He is using the people around me to do so. As I get to know them better, I am sobered by the thought that I am to them what they are to me…either a blessing or a lesson.
I trimmed my hair this week. It had gotten so long since its last trim that the ends had become horridly thin and rat-tailed and weird looking. I knew I needed to lose those few inches so my hair could be healthy again, even though it felt strangely short and blunt afterwards. And it made me think about how life can feel that way.
Sometimes we hang onto something too long, irrationally resisting change or challenge to our cherished dreams and plans. We don’t notice what others do…that those things are becoming outdated obsessions, that the world has moved on without us, that God is leading us in another direction while we obliviously keep treading water. Maybe it’s a relationship we still hope will happen even though our friends and authorities try to tell us it’s not God’s will. Perhaps it’s a career that we have always planned to pursue instead of asking God what He wants. Or a habit we rationalize and make excuses for when the Lord urges us to leave it behind.
Abraham went through a similar situation. In Genesis 21, his family was embroiled in a battle of conflicting interests between his wife Sarah’s son Isaac and his servant Hagar’s son Ishmael. Sarah had persuaded Abraham to marry her servant Hagar so they could have a son to carry on the family name and inherit the promises, even though God had already promised them a son of their own. Through their lack of trust in God’s will, they ended up with a half-son Ishmael, and later their biological son, Isaac, leaving them in a mess when selecting an heir. Sarah demanded that Ishmael and his mother be sent away so Isaac would be able to grow up as the only son of Abraham, as God had intended. Although this decision saddened Abraham, the Lord agreed with Sarah’s edict and reminded him that the promise was to the true heir, Isaac. Ishmael was not forsaken by God—he grew up to be a great man in his own right—but he was not the child of promise. And the time had come to give him up.
God has a perfect will for every one of us. Whether we discover and follow that will or not depends on how much we trust Him and obey His every word. Do we tell God what we want and then go after it, or do we wait on the Lord’s voice and timing to reveal the next step He has ordered for us?
Some may call this ridiculously pragmatic, but the way I see life is this: if it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t God’s will. I don’t mean for things that I should have done, like winning souls or studying for a test or such. I mean things that I had no control over. If a guy I am interested in falls for my best friend, then I reckon he isn’t God’s will for me. If I audition for my college tour group and am not chosen, that means it wasn’t God’s will for me. If a handful of friends go somewhere fun and don’t invite me, the most reasonable emotional approach would be to assume I didn’t need to be there and the Lord had something else for me to do that day.
It’s so easy to fall into a spirit of bitterness or self-pity or envy over things we can’t control. And though choosing to maintain an attitude of surrender to what the Lord gives or does not give isn’t exactly easy, it is simple. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” We can trust the One who made us to know what He is doing!
When we experience disappointments, why don’t we try to see them not as setbacks but as accelerations over obstacles that might have stood in the way of God’s perfect will. Trimming my hair seems to be a setback–why would I cut something that I want to be long? But trimming off the old ends makes room for thicker, stronger hair. And letting God trim our lives of unwise attachments or imperfect dreams makes room for the fulfilment of a master plan much bigger and better than ours could ever be!
1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Master Alchemist, transform
All within me to Thy will—
To my wayward spirit’s storm
Utter now Thy ‘Peace, be still.’
I am foolish, I am weak,
In my need Your strength I seek. Continue reading “You Choose Me”
Psalm 86:4 “Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.”
This gives me a picture of a little child reaching up to someone she trusts, either with some grievance to make better or some joy to share. We aren’t usually as smart as that child— Continue reading “Like a Little Child”
Because thou hast the power and own’st the grace
To look through and behind this mask of me
(Against which years have beat thus blanchingly
With their rains), and behold my soul’s true face,
The dim and weary witness of life’s race,—
Because thou hast the faith and love to see,
Through that same soul’s distracting lethargy,
The patient angel waiting for a place
In the new Heavens,–because nor sin nor woe,
Nor God’s infliction, nor death’s neighbourhood,
Nor all which others viewing, turn to go,
Nor all which makes me tired of all, self-viewed,–
Nothing repels thee,…Dearest, teach me so
To pour out gratitude, as thou dost, good! Continue reading “He Loves Me Like That”
What makes you see the globe a ball
To bounce, the sky not half as tall,
Each cloud a game, each smile a joy,
And every living thing a toy? Continue reading “What Makes You”
It amazes me how much of a difference a song makes. It can be the determining factor between a pall of gloom and an updraft of hope; between an awkward silence and a Continue reading “Your Song Makes a Difference”
Galatians 6:1-3 “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” Continue reading “A Lesson in Grace”
Here are some scattered thoughts I gathered from my missions trip.
(Our group visited three countries on our trip, but the majority of us only visited two–Cambodia and Laos.) Continue reading “Things I Have Seen”