Meeting People at Their Well…

I’m relatively new to John Green. I think I knew of him for a while, but never actually listened to any of his vlogs or read any of his books. But when I moved in with my current roommate, I was practically forced to watch Green’s “Crash Course History” videos, which are pretty phenomenal and in no way do I regret watching any of them.

One video that I recently watched was Green’s commencement speech to the graduating class of 2013 at Butler University. If you have twenty minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching it. It is well worth the time. What I love about this particular speech, though, was how he described the college graduate life – or as he said, “the hero’s journey.”

“We are taught the hero’s journey is a journey from weakness to strength. [From having no money to having a lot of it, etc….] The real hero’s journey is a journey from strength to weakness.[…] You are about to be a rookie.”

The idea here is that the college graduates he was addressing are about to go from being the most informed at one of the best colleges in the country to being a nobody (to paraphrase his words) – someone who gets coffee for other people “if you’re lucky.” And even though he was talking to the 2013 Butler graduates, I couldn’t help but listen as a two-year graduate from Oregon. Much of what he said throughout that speech is still true to this day despite being out of school for two full years. But where he turns next, the advice that he bestowed upon the Butler grads, was where I listened as a follower of Christ.

“The gift and challenge of your … education is to see others as they see themselves.”

This morning at Emmaus Life we read from John 4:11-18, which is in the middle of the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. I’ve written about this story before, but it is worth re-visiting. As Scott told us, it wasn’t common for someone to be drawing water from the well in the middle of the day. Because of the heat, people typically drew their water either in the morning or at night when it was cooler. So it was particularly strange that she was there at midday.

As Jesus converses with her, talking about living water and becoming a spring of water that wells up to eternal life, we come to find out this woman had been with five husbands and was then seeing someone who was not her husband. The text isn’t explicit; we don’t know exactly why she had all these men in her life, but we do know that she had them in her life. And it isn’t going too far to suggest that perhaps her “well” that constantly made her thirsty was relationships; perhaps she thought that if she just found the right husband, she’d be okay. She’d be happy. As it turned out, though, her pursuit of the right husband led her into a life of avoiding public ridicule – hence why she arrived to the well when she thought no one else was there.

How do we find out about this, though? How do we come to know that she had had five husbands? Jesus tells it to her. Because he saw her as she saw herself, Jesus was enabled to tell her what she needed to hear – that the well she kept drawing from was never going to satisfy. But she was also enabled to listen to what he had to say.

Of course there are several lessons within this passage of Scripture (e.g. What well are you drinking from?), but what has stood out to me today was how Jesus shared Himself with others; how there was no contract to sign, no belief statement to make, no ritual or sacrament to conduct, no strings attached. All she had to do was ask for the water which Jesus freely and richly supplies.

“Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water,” 4:15

Scott pointed this out; that Jesus doesn’t require this woman to prove her faith in Him like we might in our modern day with baptism, communion, belief statement, tithe offering or whatever. He gives it out freely. “Isn’t it interesting that Jesus is more liberal with salvation than we are?” as Scott asked.

Why is that? Why is it that Jesus, who we say we’re following, often ends up being more freely loving of others than we are? Why do we demand that people come to our church to be saved rather than us going out to them? Jesus met this woman on her level, in her weakness, where she sought escape from the realities of this world. And that’s where He turned her around. If He hadn’t done that, then it’s quite possible that none of the people with whom she shared the gospel would have ever heard of Jesus. Instead of being the strong man and seeing people from the outside, He took the weak approach and saw them how they saw themselves.

“The weakness of God is stronger than men,” – 1 Corinthians 1:25

As John Green described the hero’s journey, Jesus exemplifies as the Christian’s journey; that we’re supposed to empathize more than everyone else, to utilize our revelation in Christ to see others as they see themselves, and to make that journey from strength to weakness. In so doing, as Paul says, we become strong in the Lord.

John Green describes this whole process of becoming weaker as the college graduate’s journey (through a metaphorical use of “the hero,” of course). But Jesus shows us that if we wish to follow Him, this is the sort of thing we must do. We must cast aside our poster boards and signs telling others they’re going to hell and instead pick up our cross – willfully carrying that which makes us weak in the eyes of society – and share the living water, the abundant life of Jesus.

Maybe we’re not the judgmental type of follower. Maybe instead, we’re the ones continuing to come back to our particular well, despite never being satisfied by it. In that case, perhaps it’s time to step back, look around, and engage the people there with you – just like Jesus.

Meet people like Jesus did: At their well.

God bless.

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Don’t Just Do It; Achieve It…

I was a little bugged by last week. I worked 64-ish hours between my two part-time jobs, which is about 25 hours more than normal. In a couple weeks, those paychecks are going to be fairly nice, so why was I bugged? At the end of it all, I earned a few extra dollars.

That’s it.

Just a few extra bucks that I can spend on groceries, gas, and whatever else I may need.

It’s a problem because it makes me feel that my purpose in this world is to earn money and spend it on things that will eventually fade away. Neither the money nor the things I buy with it will last. As I’ve written before, it’s stuff that I’ve been entrusted with and ought to be extra careful in how well or not well I manage. But that’s not to say my life’s meaning is wrapped up with my bank account and possessions.

College was an inspiring time because I felt like I was working toward a cause, toward something beyond money, jobs, careers, cars, houses, etc. In college I felt as though I was meant to achieve something. And yet now my life revolves around punching in and out at one job and then going to the next while sometimes reading and blogging in between. No doubt, I believe there is purpose and meaning in what I’m doing at both my jobs, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the U.S. dollar – or really any form of currency.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” – Proverbs 22:1

During my junior year of college I had my sights set on law school. No, seriously. I bought books on the LSAT, writing law school admissions letters, and basics on logic. With as much as I like to argue, it seemed like the perfect fit. But more than that, it seemed as the something I was meant to accomplish. And then I got my scores back from the LSAT…

What I didn’t realize then – and what took me a long time afterward to discover – is that achieving something isn’t tied into a job title, a degree, or a stellar job. As Scripture points out all over, achieving something means developing a certain sort of character. And as this Proverb points out, it’s a character that is noticeable to others. It isn’t self-proclaimed; it’s talked about even when you aren’t there.

What then am I to do with my ridiculous amount of student loan debt and two part-time jobs? Keep going. I still have ambitions beyond landing any sort of job or attaining any sort of title – ambitions that lead me back to school at some point. But it’s like my friend said at work this morning (Monday morning), you don’t have to be in school to be doing something with your life. You can start now – before college, during college, after college, or even without ever going to college. Degrees, titles, salaries don’t equate to reputations.

My thinking at the end of last week was a little misguided. I was so focused on the 64 hours I had worked and the monetary value of them that I failed to see what I really have. No matter if you’re a doctor, a plumber, a professor, a janitor, a lawyer, a pizza cook, an author, or a lowly retail clerk, you have a platform to achieve something. It’s not the job you’re working, either; it’s you.

We’re the molding clay of Christ intended to reflect His character, His love, His kingdom. Allowing Him to do so by working out His commandments (i.e. sacrificing our “selves”) we’re enabling His character to become our character. And if we’re doing it right, we won’t care anyone notices or not. We’ll be glad we achieved the something He wanted us to.

God bless.

Work With What Ya Got…

Toward the tail end of last summer, I worried quite a bit about finding a job and making a living. At the time, I only had one job as a pizza cook and since it was summertime, I was only working roughly 10-15 hours a week at minimum wage. It worked out to about $360 a month, which is nowhere near enough to pay the typical rent in Eugene. Thankfully, though, I was living with a friend… for free.

Since then I’ve acquired a second job and have been able to work both for a total of somewhere between 30 and 40 hours a week. It’s enough to get by, for sure. What has kind of been bugging me lately, though, is the fact that I didn’t need a college degree to get these jobs. I was hired for work experience and not degree knowledge. It’s kind of a drag when you consider the ridiculous amount of student loan debt I now have. It almost makes you wonder if going to college was a benefit at all.

Keyword: almost.

If I had not gone to college, I would still be in Lincoln City working the two jobs I had back in high school and not really striving for anything more. I probably wouldn’t be writing and I know for a fact I wouldn’t have as many books as I do. But I also wouldn’t have gone on the journey with God that I did. Going to college caused me to think for myself and take responsibility for things like rent and phone bills and electricity bills and food. But on the spiritual side of things, faith was no longer a surface level image I carried from Sunday morning to Sunday morning. It’s real. It’s tangible. It’s my own.

When I think about the reason I came to college, I used to think it was to get a better job – and that’s still partially true. But now that I’ve been out of college for eight months, I realize it was because God called me on a journey. And that journey has led me here: An English grad who’s in love with reading and writing. I wasn’t this way before; back in high school I was the golfer. After every day of school, I’d go to a driving range and hit several buckets of balls. Afterward I would head over to the putting greens to spend another 2 or 3 hours working on my putting stroke. And yet I haven’t touched my clubs since last July.

What am I going to do about the $40 million of student loan debt, though? (No, it’s not $40 million, but it sure does feel like it.) That’s a very good question – one that’s been on my mind for the past couple of weeks. Yeah, going to college and experiencing God’s work outside of my old comfort zones is great and all, but I’ve got a really high tab to pay and two part time jobs won’t cut it. And yet, it’s my experience in journeying with God that has taught me the most important thing: He’s going to take care of me.

I get this inspiration from Proverbs 12:11, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” I emphasize the words “works his land” because I think something quite simple is revealed here – something that teaches us about how God works. You see, this Proverb doesn’t say, “Whoever works land that he attains”; it’s talking about land that one already has. I think this means, then, that God wants us to work with what we’ve got and He’ll take care of the rest.

I’m no farmer, but I imagine the work farmers do is extremely difficult. And I think God wants us to be aware of the hard work we have to put into cultivating what we already have. I think He wants us to throw aside all the distractions of our day, all the fantasies of being rich and famous, and put our hands to the plow to cultivate what we’ve already been given. Or, as we golfers like to say, “Play it as it lies.” It’s our way of saying you have to work with what you’ve got; you may never have the ideal playing conditions.

What does this mean for me, my college degree, and my two part-time jobs? It means I keep showing up to work, working hard, and writing whenever I can. It means continually exercising every skill I’ve ever attained on the off chance that I’ll need it for whatever lies ahead. In golf, it doesn’t mean anything to have a great putting game if you never reach the green. Likewise, I can’t just exercise my writing skills and throw away my cooking skills or my customer service skills or my skills with retail items. I have to improve them all. I have to work my entire land.

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:12-13

God bless.

Dutch Uncles: Why We Need Them & Why We Need to Be Them…

My first short story received a “D” in my Creative Writing class two and a half years ago.

My first argumentative essay in Writing 121 received an “F” my freshman year.

And yet here is my 227th blog post.

“Dutch Uncle” is a term referring to a person who tells it like it is. It’s someone who doesn’t beat around the bush or make your mistakes look not that bad. They tell you your flaws and why they’re considered “flaws,” but without overlooking your strengths.

When I received that “F,” I turned off my TV, opened my laptop, and got to work on a better paper. And when I received that “D,” I closed my door, tuned everyone and everything out until I was so enthralled with the story I was writing, so lost in a world I was creating, I didn’t even notice I had stayed up all night.

We might not like our Dutch Uncles, but we know we need them. Why? Because when someone tells you you’re doing great and treats you like you’re some gift to mankind, you never become inclined to make any changes. But when someone tells you your argument is circular or your story is “pathetically cliché,” you wake up to your own humanity.

I miss college for a number of reasons, but one in particular is that when you had an idea or something you wanted to argue, you were expected to handle and rebuttal the criticism. In my Dead Sea Scrolls class, Dr. Falk had told us a story of a famous scholar he had the privilege of meeting. This guy was at the top of the field and then one day, he found out he had terminal cancer. It was right before he was supposed to give a presentation at some huge conference.

As these conferences go, Dr. Falk informed us, each speaker would present their argument as clearly and as concisely as possible and then open the floor for critiques and discussion. Everyone in the room knew this man had received a grim diagnosis. I for one would have expected his peers to take it easy and praise him for whatever work he had done. But even though he had months to live, his peers gave him what they knew he deserved: Their full criticism. Every single hole in this man’s argument was ripped open until tears began to fall from his eyes. When asked why, he said they gave him their full respect when they were expected not to.

My point is this: People who tell us the truth are far more valuable than those who like to agree with every thing we ever say, write, or do. They move us forward because they reveal to us the areas in our life that need improvement. Sure, someone could commend us for 9 things and then criticize us for 1, but quite honestly, I would pay more attention to the person who shows I’m wrong for 9 different things. And why is that? Because a Dutch Uncle looks beyond someone’s pride and right into what they’ve done – what they’ve produced.

My writing was changed forever with those two terrible grades I received in college. In those situations, someone had sat me down and told me that what I created was not much better than garbage. Believe me, it stung – especially the creative writing professor. I left that conversation wondering if I should have even continued on with college. But I came out of that class not only with a decent grade, but with a greater focus, a greater attention to the details within my stories, and a greater desire to write a better story than the one I had written the day before.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, we need that somebody who calls us a hypocrite when we’re being hypocritical; arrogant when we’re being arrogant; and reckless when we’re being reckless. In the ten years I’ve lived this Christian life – or at least tried to – I can think of countless people who have praised me for one thing or another. And oftentimes, I needed the encouragement. I didn’t have much of that growing up. But I think I grew the most with Christ when a few people told me I wasn’t living like Him. Sadly enough, most of those people were non-Christians.

Calling someone out for their flaws or failures takes some guts. And ideally, it’s best if a constructive – not a “kiss ass” or a destructive – tone is used. But even if someone’s condescending in their criticism of you, you still learn from it. When an old manager of mine, in a condescending tone, told me I was the slowest pizza cook he had ever seen, I made sure I picked up the pace the next time I was in the kitchen. I eventually left because I could not put up with the manager for the long haul. But I’ve never been lackadaisical on the job again.

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently,” – Galatians 6:1

I think we Christians oftentimes focus too much on “gently” that we don’t end up restoring each other. Paul didn’t want sin to be minimized; it’s pretty clear throughout each of his letters he absolutely despised sin. This is exactly why he didn’t coddle anyone. So when it comes to a popular YouTube video that has misleading sentiments or a famous pastor has an abusive personality, do not be afraid to be a Dutch Uncle. And if you need some practice, the person in the mirror is a good place to start.

God bless.

P.S. Just to be clear, Dr. Falk wasn’t the one with a terminal illness; it was someone he knew. Don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. Dr. Falk is doing very well living in the UK right now.

“Livin’ the Dream”? A Memo to Myself…

What I’m about to say might sound contradictory: Life outside of school is boring.

I’ve been an Oregon grad for merely seven months and I’m already itching to get back into reading, writing, and class discussions. Comment threads on YouTube videos or Facebook posts simply do not cut it. So many people with nothing better to do than write mean things to each other without ever having met. It’s really annoying.

But seriously, with my constant routine of wake up, go to work, come home, and go to sleep, I’m starting to feel like a mindless drone. I know I’m not a mindless drone, though; “I think, therefore I am,” as that famous guy once said a long time ago (5 points if you know who that was). But with nothing more than a job and a few household responsibilities to consume my day, I’m getting rather bored.

I felt ambitious in college. Sure, I work hard at both my jobs because I feel ambitious about making a living, but that’s the extent of it: making a living. Eight months ago, I felt ambitious about changing things like peoples’ lives or societal influences. Yeah, I know they’re big things to tackle, but it seems like I had the energy and will power to at least take it on. Nowadays I feel good about myself if I put the dish soap in the right slot.

In all honesty, though, I have been reading and writing. But this morning I browsed through previous entries in my journal and noticed a more vibrant voice and a lot more words. It means only one thing: I read and wrote a lot more back in college because I was extremely ambitious and knew those things I was reading or writing were going to help. And yet here I am sitting in my sweats and drinking a little Gentleman Jack mixed with Arizona raspberry iced tea.

“Livin’ the dream.” That’s the phrase I often hear back from other college graduates who are doing exactly what I’m doing: working a couple part time jobs to pay rent and buy food until something bigger comes along. Of course, I know for a fact everyone who’s answered that has done so sarcastically. At least I hope so. I know I wouldn’t want to be stuck working a part time job after graduating college; kind of the opposite of what I had in mind when I first went to school.

I guess what I’m really pointing out right here is the fact that dreams and ambitions and aspirations aren’t just going to fall into your lap. And they certainly aren’t going to be achieved by constantly having the inspiration; that’s only temporal. But what, then, can sustain one’s dream(s) through the phase of routine and ritual? Discipline’s a good word and so is commitment, but there’s something else much simpler and yet much more profound.

Do it.

Stop making excuses. Stop saying there’s not enough time in your schedule. Stop saying you need inspiration. Write out what your dream is and do it.

This past week I did something I hadn’t done in a long time: I ran. For four days straight (would have been five if I hadn’t worked a double on Friday) I went for a run around the neighborhood. What was interesting about it all was how easy it actually was. I remember that as I put on my running shorts and laced up my shoes, my mind would go crazy thinking about how miserable I was about to feel. And yet, as soon as I got outside, I leaned forward and took off jogging.

I did it.

No excuses. No delays. No “but I’m going to have an asthma attack”s. I put my head down and started running. If there is ever a memo I’d like to leave myself for this upcoming week and for the rest of my life it’s this: Know your dream and go do it. You are the only one stopping yourself.

My Senior Message…

When you’ve been in one place for a long time, you tend to have flashbacks every now and then. Most of mine in the past couple of days have been from freshman year – a time when I didn’t have the slightest worry in the world and had nothing figured out. I miss those days. No, I still don’t have much figured out for my life and I’m not really worrying too much about my future (key words: “too much”), but what I miss from those days is the constant presence of other people in my life.

There are still quite a few people in my life these days, but we’re mostly all busy and have our own schedules. Back in those days our schedules were wide open and often intertwined. Whether it was a dorm-hall hangout, CCF soccer pick-up game, or a trip to the movies with a few from both crowds, there was always something to do and people to hang out with. Of all my five years of college, I’m going to miss hanging out the most.

Ever since last Thursday night, I’ve been thinking of what I’d like to tell the people who are still in college. Back in the eighth grade we left our “wills” to various people in the grades behind us, which entailed dumb things like “To So-and-So I leave my locker and all my dirty gym socks,” or “To So-and-So I leave my unparalleled swagger.” But this isn’t what I had in mind here (although, if I had to leave something, I’d leave Brian Teague my enthusiasm for proper grammar – you need it buddy ;)).

No, what’s been on my mind since last week is a message. It’s been difficult to put to words and has several aspects to it, but one that I want to give to all those coming back to U of O, NCU, or LCC next year. It’s simple, easy to remember, and aligns perfectly with the words of Jesus: Invest in each other.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

What has gotten me through the difficult emotions in life, what has deepened my walk with the Lord, and what has propelled me to the point I’m at now has been not only the presence of other people, but the intentional love these people have shown and shared with me. Had Cross Training’s men’s group not discussed Blue Like Jazz in a relatable way, I may not have become so passionate about writing. Had my roommates in The Revolution not been so interested in my story, I might never have felt inclined to share it. And if the generations before me had not been so honest with me, I might never have been so honest with them – or even with myself.

In my doubting days, I wondered why a good God would let bad things happen to good people. I wondered where He was and what He was doing when thousands upon thousands were dying around the world. But then a couple friends would call me up just to see how I was doing, a pastor would text me about coffee the next day, and a roommate would walk in my room asking how things with God were going. As I sought a definite answer to the world’s pain, God was working on my own healing through the people around me. No, they weren’t perfect – none of us are – but that’s just it; they were so relentless in sharing this selfless love with me that I could see something within them propelling them forward when everything else seemed to be falling behind.

“Ekklesia” (ek-clay-see-uh) does not mean a church building or sanctuary; it means a gathering, an assembly, a congregation of people. Originally it was used to describe political gatherings or assemblies watching the great orators of ancient Greek culture. But the earliest Christians began to use it to describe their own meetings; gatherings of a Kingdom much greater than the world’s. In some cases risking their lives, they met up to pray with each other, learn about the Lord from each other, and share a meal with each other. They saw each other’s smiles and felt each other’s tears. Living out Christ’s commandment to love, they invested in each other.

And this is what I wish the groups behind me will do. No amount of private devotionals will bring you as close to God as the prayers and presence of others around you. You can’t operate as a full body if you’re just a hand or foot; you need the other parts attached to you if you want to function well. You need others to keep you sane.

There’s another aspect, though, to being an “Ekklesia.” A little over a year ago I described the church as a fleet of ships at sea – each ship representing the smaller congregations. The people on these ships, the crews, are needed in order to make the ship move forward. But yet they aren’t traveling in any random direction; there’s a purpose within each crew, an objective to carry out. Invest in each other, yes, but do something with each other.

Get outside, go places, meet new people, talk about life, talk about faith, talk about Jesus. My five years of college, despite my procrastination, have seen a lot of productivity. And yet, there was so much time wasted in front of the TV, on Facebook, and just lounging around being bored.

A parable in Matthew’s Gospel contains a tidbit of detail that I’ve always found indirectly convicting; “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too,’” 20:6-7. When I first considered that word “idle,” I felt as though Jesus was asking me that question: “Why are you wasting your life on Facebook, Twitter, watching TV, or just lounging around? There is work to be done!”

As the saying goes, you’re only young once. These college years of your life could be some of the most exciting and most memorable. Life was given to us not for the purpose of suffering and then dying; it was given to us to enjoy. Such joy, though, comes from the Lord, which is amplified in Christ-committed communities, which are sharpened and strengthened when focused on a goal – when seeking to work in Christ’s vineyard. Then and only then “work” loses its dread and instead grows intertwined with joy.

Paul’s Christian life was spent in prisons and under house arrest. As the Scriptures say, he was beaten and bruised regularly, but he always had someone with him investing in him and was always investing in others. And he was always focused on the prize at the finish line.

Write songs, sing songs, dance, write stories, share stories, live stories, and love each other through it all. Life is more than degrees, jobs, and careers. Life is Jesus. And Jesus is within you.

God bless.

School’s Out, Like Forever…

It’s over. I never have to sit through class – boring or exciting – again. And while I’d like to feel an overwhelming sense of joy and happiness, I don’t know what I feel right now. I’m glad to be done with required reading and busy-work assignments, but yet I’m a little nervous about what happens now. Plenty of people have reassured me that I’ll be fine and that I shouldn’t worry about those things and I believe them. But yet, I find that I’m a little hesitant to rush into the fog.

Many of my friends have a lot of stuff planned out for the next year. A few are getting married, others traveling around the world, and still others are simply moving around the state for their new jobs. What am I doing? I don’t know. You got any good ideas?

I have the tentative plan to hopefully move up to Portland at the end of this summer, but I don’t know what for. I have a few friends up there and I think there are probably more job opportunities – even if they are more competitive. But I have no compulsion to go up there. I have no deeper sense of purpose pulling me towards the PDX. Quite frankly, I don’t have much of a compulsion anywhere, really.

This is the heart of the nervous feeling; that for the first time in my life I have no set plan for a solid chunk of my future. When I graduated high school, U of O was on my schedule for the next four or five years. Why did I come here? To get a degree because everyone knows that once you get a degree, girls will date you and paychecks will rain on your lap. But now that I’m done with school and have absolutely no plans for my future (and of course no girlfriend or pile of paychecks), I’m a little lost.

Figuring out life last year or two years ago wasn’t so bad; I knew I had time to figure things out, so I didn’t sweat it as much. I enjoyed daydreaming about possibly being a professor and amazing all my students with ecstatic and inspiring lectures. Then it was becoming an author like Donald Miller and writing witty, comical, and yet deeply-moving stuff (and only getting paid about a dollar for it). Earlier this year it was entering into a seminary to become a pastor who passionately preached from his former pain and experience. And then this time last year, I imagined myself as a lawyer baffling the courtroom with my persuasive words. But now that it’s over – that the grace period for figuring out my future has passed – I’m terribly nervous.

As I’ve been saying throughout the past couple of months, I think God wants me to sweat this out a little bit. And as I said earlier, I believe what my friends and family tell me – that things will work themselves out and I’ll be fine. But the realization of it all has been setting in over the past couple of days and it’s by no means comfortable. Waves are swelling high over the sides of my ship and my emotions are getting tossed around by uncertainty. I’m finding it difficult not to cry out to Jesus to calm the storm; I know He’ll only ask me where my faith is. This is why I find it no mere coincidence that Psalm 31 happened to be the next chapter on my nightly reading.

For the past month, I’ve been reading a chapter of Proverbs in the morning and a Psalm every night. Last night, as this nervousness really began to stir up my anxieties, I read through the words of David and felt as though nearly every verse spoke exactly from how I’ve been feeling. My heart soaked up the entire Psalm, but what really struck home was verse 24. It’s so simple and straight-forward, but yet exactly what I needed.

“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!

That’s exactly the stage I’m in right now: waiting. I’m waiting to see what bread-crumb trail God is about to lead me down. I’m waiting to see what those bread crumbs look like. And I’m waiting to see what purpose God has for me. It won’t be black and white; God won’t email me about what it is. And like my Episcopalian friend, Peter once told me; I’ll have to live out the question rather than just ask it. But somewhere along the way – maybe not tomorrow or even this month – God will put something on my heart that will pull me towards a certain task, a certain people, a certain community, a certain city, state, or even country, and I’ll find out what I was supposed to do all along… because I’ll have already lived it.

Honestly, I think I’ve spent far too much time planning my own life based on the people I want to be with or the city I want to be in. I think I’ve done a lot of requesting in my prayers, but not much listening. He does not wait on me; I wait on Him. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man,” Proverbs 19:21 says, “but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” If Jesus to serve, then like good servants, we must wait for our Lord’s bidding. It might feel terrible, it might stir up all sorts of anxieties, but what it really does is test whether or not we’re actually listening for our Master’s voice – whether or not we hear Him when He calls.

“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand,” – Psalm 31:14-15a