As our culture of Christian-y leaders, icons, and unapproachable gurus of influence continue to graduate disciples who are more interested in platform building than bending their knees, we’ve inadvertently, and ironically buried a generation of young hopefuls in a canyon of “well done my good and famous servant” darkness. The good news, however, is that it only takes a flicker of light to conquer a canyon of darkness.
I was recently blessed with one the most encouraging emails I’ve ever received. And it came from one of the wisest, kindest, and youngest people I’ve had the privilege of being connected with on this seven year journey of living by faith, and writing about the results. Jordan S. is a seventeen year old high school student, who has been on quite a journey of her own. As a result, this bright young light has been used by God to not only illuminate a few of my darkest days, but to remind my wife and me that our walk still matters.
Take a moment to walk with her today as she courageously shares a bit of her journey here, and you’ll be deeply encouraged to continue your own, and filled with hope about what God is up to in the generation to come. Let us return the favor by cheering her on with feedback, as she offers us all…a much better view of God. 1 Cor. 3:18
Surrender “Seeking God not just above all, but instead of all things”
When Kevin asked me to write about my faith, I realized I am very inadequate for this task. I can’t even get myself to consistently read the Bible. I will talk about God’s love as long as you let me, but I am constantly allowing fear and pride to keep me from showing His love.
For these reasons and many more, I didn’t feel like I had anything to share except for maybe a few nice words plated with a thick layer of hypocrisy. What if I really am honest and it doesn’t help anyone? What if I don’t write what God wants? What if, like when I have shared my heart before, people stare at me blankly with the kind of pity that reminds me of how one would look at an injured puppy? I hope that doesn’t happen, and I pray that my words will glorify God and encourage you.
Despite the fact that I have attended Christian schools all of my life, my salvation story is nothing like that of the traditional youth group altar-call. When I was fourteen, I surrendered myself to God late one night while I sat, weeping in the floor in the bathroom of my house. This surrender didn’t come easily either. It was the result of a broken person who had spent months wrestling with God, and like Jacob, I am still trying to recover from my dislocated hip, metaphorically speaking.
Before this transformation, I lived with the comfortable and warped view of God as a genie. I thought I could keep Him locked away in my little lamp, rub it when I needed something, and have Him grant my wishes. This view of mine was completely shattered when I was thirteen. After countless prayers that God would heal my mom of her mysterious sickness, she passed away. I discovered that my faith was nothing but a foundation of sand, and my house collapsed quite easily when the rain and winds came.
Grief is a weird thing. It feels a lot like suspense, like you are just sitting around and waiting for something to happen. You can’t start anything new. You can’t settle down. You have this constant restless feeling and an overabundance of time to think and feel. For me, this manifested itself in my trying to understand God. I couldn’t wrap my head around what had happened. God was supposed to be good. He was supposed to take care of those who loved Him and listen to our prayers. Why didn’t He take care of my mom? Why hadn’t He answered my prayers?
This lack of understanding soon turned to anger. It turned into restless nights of screaming at God, telling Him that He didn’t know what He was doing, and asking Him where He was. For months I was depressed, hurt, and angry. Everyone around me attempted to help by telling me about how I needed to turn to God, and that only made me even more angry. Not only was God ignoring me, but He was the One who had cut me open. Why would I want Him to help stitch me up?
This awful cycle came to a head one night when my inner turmoil became too much to bear. I was just sitting on a staircase in my house because I didn’t know where to go. I began to pray, but this time it was different. It wasn’t accusatory. I wasn’t angry. I just told God that I needed Him. I told Him that I had been hearing rumors that He provided rest for the weary and that His burden was light, but all I could feel was exhaustion and heaviness.
It was then when I finally understood what Christians mean by “God’s still, small voice.” God spoke to me gently and told me that He had always been there. His heart was aching because mine was. He said He had always been ready to take my heavy load, but I had to be willing to give it to Him. I understood what He meant and began to cry. I hurriedly locked myself in a bathroom so my family could not see my tears.
In the floor of that bathroom God explained His process to me. Following God doesn’t mean saying a prayer and receiving a magic lamp that will solve your problems. It means daily surrender and trust. God wants us to surrender our dreams, desires, and ideas of what we want our life to look like to Him, and trust that what He has in store for us is so much better, even if the process is painful. That’s exactly what I did that night, and it was the best decision I have ever made.
However, just because it is a good decision, doesn’t mean it is an easy one. Following God is a never-ending process of obedience, which honestly, I have never been good at. I’ve always marveled at the courageous, faithful people in the Bible. I’ve always desired a faith like David’s or Abraham’s. I’ve wondered how anyone could possess a belief so strong in God that they would boldly fight giants; that they would be willing to sacrifice their own son, knowing that God’s plan is always best.
Even though I desired it, this kind of blind devotion was always something that I shrugged off. I thought that it was impossible to fully rely on God in a world that teaches you to rely on yourself. That’s why I feel so blessed to have been able to read “The Extravagant Fool.” Kevin’s story has given me an example of a real life person who does more than just talk about the heroes of the Bible; he emulates them. He listens to God’s voice and faithfully obeys. He has built his ark with no sign of rain, and that is something that has inspired and challenged me more than I can put into words.
This inspiration could not have come at a better point in my life. Right now, when I am trying to sort through colleges and careers, is when I will make the choices that affect the rest of my life. From Kevin’s story I have learned that I don’t have to have it figured out, that instead of pressuring myself to take action, I just need to listen and obey. I’ve learned that I won’t find God’s purpose for me unless I seek Him “not only above all things, but instead of all things.”
This means that I have to let go of areas of my life that God doesn’t approve of. I have to take responsibility for my careless sinning and selfish ambitions, even though it makes me uncomfortable. Growing up and taking responsibility for my life and actions is really scary, but I have learned that all success really requires is that I keep a loose grip on my plans and my ears trained to hear God.
When you follow God, your story is only sad if you stop before it is complete. Yes, throughout life we are challenged and hurt. We have moments of feeling worthless, unloved, and inadequate, but because of God that is all temporary. What is eternal is laughter, joy, redemption and triumph. Our stories will never be somber tales of tragedy, but triumphant ones of God’s unrequited love and faithfulness. All that’s required for this happily ever after is a wise God and a willing fool.
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