“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.”
For our missionary training, we have a period of time called 40 Days in the Desert and I have been in the desert for about 30 days now. This time has been rich and difficult. It has been trying, but also it has truly been a growth experience for all of us.
When I first began the time, I had two extremes in mind: this is either going to be much easier than they are making it sound or very difficult. I think it has turned out to be somewhere in the middle, and I have learned lessons that I was not anticipating.
It has been rich living in community and it has also been very frustrating at the same time. You learn more about people than you want to know. You learn what each other’s limits are, and you learn to defend each other through those times. I think my love for my teammates has grown exponentially through the tears and laughter, and this is only just the beginning of two more years of struggle and joy. I am learning how to serve, and that service is not really service until it hurts. So when it starts to hurt is when I have learned to start rejoicing, and I continue to push through.
It is humbling to realize that in order to be part of the Kingdom of God, I must surrender all my rights, even the ones I like and want to keep. Submission is a difficult lesson to learn as North Americans, as we have fought and struggled to develop independence for so many years. Then we move to South America, and we are once again children. However, the Bible says that everyone is under authority. If we cannot submit to the authority of our earthly leaders, how will we be able to submit to the authority of God? Paul talks a lot in Romans about obeying our leaders, for they have been placed there by God. As long as what they are telling me follows God’s principles, I am learning to submit. My time is no longer my own. My plans are no longer my own. My tasks are no longer my own. So every day I am learning to humble myself and give it my all.
Probably the biggest lesson of all that I am learning throughout the whole of 40 Days is the idea of being a workman approved by God. It has been a great time of reflection as we are learning about leadership. We have been evaluating our past (failures and successes), personality (the good, the bad, and the ugly), our skills, and God’s will for each of our lives as well as our group as a whole. God has been showing me so much about His plans for me for the future, which are all good and great, but they have been given to me with a caution: my success depends on me as well. There is something interesting that I had believed for a long time: that if God has called me to it, He will complete it in me. However, I forgot to evaluate my part in it as well.
What God asks of us is more than simple obedience in decisions. He also asks us to give everything we have: our heart, mind, soul, and strength. In the church we focus on the first and third, the heart and soul. However, I had not taken seriously my responsibility to develop my mind and my strength. I was not an avid reader nor was I pushing myself to grow in this area. I also was very undisciplined in my goal meeting. I have always been great at setting goals, but when it came to following through and completing them to the best of my ability, I would settle for finishing them and sometimes I wouldn’t finish them at all because I had come up with new and better goals. God has been working on me to push through and give each task my all. He has taught me that it is going to hurt. That is a sign of being stretched. So I get up in the morning, give the day to God, and work until I fall into bed completely exhausted at night. Every moment of every day is God’s, and I see now more than ever the ways that I have wasted valuable time in the past.
I have also learned to protect the health of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is one extreme that says: work and work and work…and die. Then there is the other extreme that never does any work because the person is resting constantly. He or she only works when it is comfortable to do so. Every person needs a close friend that they can confide their heart in. Every person needs a worship time where they are not in charge and they can simply regenerate. I have finally discovered what it means to worship personally and not just corporately. I have learned to keep my mind active with a variety of different things. I am also learning that sleep is in fact necessary and my motto of, “I will sleep when I die” meant that I would in fact have a premature death. In order to give my work my all, I must also give my body proper rest. I also need to give my body proper exercise. With our shower schedule being all out of wack, it has been hard to give exercise the time we should, but it has given me a greater appreciation and desire to take care of my body. And, I am learning, that fasting is actually good for the health when done correctly.
What it means to be a workman approved by God is that I give my all to both work and rest, and that I learn in even greater measure what it means to draw close to God. I didn’t realize this until God brought it to my attention, but I filter what God can do in and through me by precedent. If God hasn’t talked to anyone a certain way in the past, then why could He talk to me in that way? If God hasn’t done what He wants to do through me through someone in the past, then how can He do it through me? I had been praying for years to have the type of relationship with Him like Abraham, Moses, or Elijah. The other night as I was walking in the garden praying that same prayer, I heard Him say clearly to my heart, “But you are not Abraham, Moses, or Elijah. You are Chelsea, and I want to speak to you like I speak to Chelsea. Stop comparing yourself to other people, even in your desires. Desire the unique relationship that I want to have with you.” WOW. As our team often reminds each other, “HUMILITY!”
He has also focused on the plans and dreams that He has for my life, both in these next two years and beyond. In the times when I say to Him, “But, God in the past I have failed at….”, He reminds me, “I am the God of the past, the PRESENT, and the FUTURE. I not only redeem what was once broken, but I also am CREATOR, and I am constantly creating. You are a new creation. The old is gone, and the new has come. Would you dare to believe that I can do anything I want in and through your life? Would you dare to leave who you used to be behind for the new you that I am creating you to be?”
How deep and rich is God? Sometimes to even write a blog about all the things He is telling me is super overwhelming. There is no way that I can make it sound good. It is rushed and incomplete. I have only touched on maybe 1% of all that I am learning right now. What does it mean to probe the depths of God? How does that change who we are? I am so thankful that time in His presence changes us. I am thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit that does what we cannot.
I could write all the time and not cover it all. So I will let my life tell the story. I hope that the work that He is doing in me sings beautifully of what His grace can do. As much as I think He has already done, it is only a drop in the bucket of what He wants to do. So I will live this day giving my all, and I will do the same tomorrow. He is writing His story in my life, and only because of Him is it a story worth reading.