I had the perfect plan. After I graduated high school I was going to go overseas to be a missionary. Nothing in me wanted to go to college. Why would I waste my time with that when I could be doing such “greater” things? And like every other Christian 18 year old girl, my plan was either to adopt a crazy amount of kids or run an orphanage in Africa (nothing is wrong with those things by the way). But God had better plans for me. You see, He knows me better than I know me. Not only that, but He has a greater plan: to make me more like Jesus.
The first blow to my awesome plan came when my parents basically told me that I had to go to college. I wasn’t going overseas. I am so thankful for how the Lord used them (but not at the time). So then I decided on Truett-McConnell. And I had this mental picture of a thousand college kids so on fire for Christ living in perfect community and worshiping Jesus all the time. Instead I found just a small baptist school in White County, with a group of college kids just struggling to follow God. Lord, this is not what I signed up for.
I stewed in jealousy, keeping up with my old friends from high school, convinced they were doing bigger, better things. I got pretty angry at God. My life was not the romanticized dream I had envisioned for myself.
And then God began to empty me.
I remember going up to the cross (we have a cross at the top of our hill on campus) every night my freshman year. I would tell God about everything that happened that day, all my loneliness, frustration and anger was laid out. I remember being so satisfied and thankful for who He was. But He wasn’t done. There was still (and is still) a lot of pruning and humbling to do. Like careful gardener, He began to pluck up the weeds of pride that had grown in my heart.
An opportunity came up to tutor some kids and share the gospel in the community of Cleveland. I became a part of a new tutoring ministry started by Truett’s psychology department. I loved this work. I loved teaching the Bible to these kids and loving on them, especially since some of them came from rough backgrounds. As time went on I became a leader in this ministry, and then eventually the director of it. But I still held tightly to my dreams of being a missionary. As far as I was concerned, this position was only temporary. I still in my heart of hearts believed that this work in America was somehow lesser than the work to be done overseas. I still believed that for God to be glorified I had to pay the “highest price”.
I am so humbled to confess these things now, because I see how utterly ridiculous I was. I thought God was more pleased with me for the things that I did, and I would often forget to treasure the gospel or the love of Christ.
I began to feel God pulling me toward the Young Scholars Tutoring ministry. He began to open doors and move the program ahead in incredible ways. But this was NOT my plan! I ran from it. Like Jonah, I suppressed God’s call. But just as God cared about Jonah’s heart and wanted to teach Jonah a lesson, so He did with me. I slowly began to understand through my study of Galatians that God wants my heart. He doesn’t want the work that my hands do unless my heart loves Him. He could do the work Himself. He doesn’t need me, but He chooses to use me because He is teaching my heart to be wholly His. He is pruning and refining, showing me that the most glorifying thing is a heart completely in love with God.
Through doing work that is hard, rigorous, and unrecognized, slowly my motivations were purified. I began to just fall in love with the character of God and stand in awe of the gospel. God had to empty me in order to fill me up with dreams that were so much better than any I had conjured up. I thought it was a godly husband and a wonderful career as a missionary overseas that led to happiness. I am so glad that God shattered that dream to show me something so much better: Himself.
Our fondest dreams for this life, the ones we naturally believe are essential to our happiness, must be fully abandoned if we are to know God well. Shattered dreams are necessary for spiritual growth.
One day it dawned on me: I love being the director of this tutoring ministry. Seriously! Serving this past year has been such a beautiful overflow of the joy that I have in Christ. I love this ministry because of my love for God. God does NOT love me as a result of me leading this ministry. And I thought:
Why not continue?
As I felt my old dream crumble beneath me I felt a new beautiful one rise up. My dreams of being married and having some one to make these big life-decisions with me died. My dreams of being an overseas missionary (at least for now) died. And reader, I can tell you, it was such a relief. My mind and heart were finally at rest when I actually started believing that neither one of those things could bring me the joy or happiness I desire. Only Jesus.
You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
In His presence I find fullness of joy, and at His right hand, where Jesus sits, there are pleasures forevermore. I learned that it is the empty vessel that is the most useful. We must fully enjoy the Maker to fully enjoy any of the things He has made.
In the world’s eyes the ministry that I have or the things that I do may seem insignificant. But our Father looks at our heart. He peers past the show of good deeds and the masks we put on and asks, “Blake, do you love Me?” And everyday, whether joyful or sorrowful, my dream is to respond to Him with a whole hearted “yes”.
Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with ever fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.