“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” —1 Peter 3:14-15
I’d been smiling.
I walked towards my dorm in the afternoon, after leaving Creating Character. The world inside my head was absolutely falling apart, and I was confused, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to think, and yet amidst the insanity of what was going on in my life, amidst the seemingly daunting impossibilities of campus ministry, homework, church ministry, home, and the future, God stayed solid in the center of it all. Christ was still risen, and life was still mine, a gift, freedom given to me. I felt stuck, and yet I knew God was greater and that He had a plan for it all.
And I was smiling.
I walked up to the security booth with that smile on my face, and the security guard, named Eli, who’s talked to me before and who I’ve thanked countless times for keeping us safe in the dorms and for swiping me through, Eli asked me why I was always so smiley.
“Well it’s a beautiful day,” I said, smiling even wider.
“No, no,” he said. “Everyone else is walking around all tense and worried about homework and finals and stuff, but then there’s you, walking around like you don’t have a worry in the world. You’re never stressed.”
I tilted my head to the side, knowing very well my own humanity and how stressed I do become, how many times God has had to use others and His word especially to sift through my stubborn fears, how much I have to lean on Him to get through mid-terms, finals, homework, so on. And yet I couldn’t recall a recent time when someone had asked me how I was and I’d lied and said I was fine when I was actually overwhelmed. That didn’t quite make sense to me, or it hasn’t for a while now. Usually when someone asks how I am, I’ll tell them, whether I’m upset, or afraid, or uncertain, or absolutely ecstatic, and it’s only when I’m being a pain in the butt that I decide it doesn’t matter how I am and saying “Oh, I’m good” is enough, when it could lead to a deeper conversation. Also, because I’ve learned recently that my face is directly connected to my brain, everyone can tell when something is wrong with me.
So I thought for a moment and wondered why I was so smiley (I don’t normally go around thinking, “Yes, I am now going to smile” *cue smile*). And then I remembered 1 Peter 3:14-15, not the verse exactly, nor the address of the verse, and that made me realize I needed to know it, among other things.
“Christ,” I said.
“Oh,” he said with a smile. “So, God?” I tilted my head again, and after a moment I nodded. We continued.
“Well, why? What do you mean?”
I’d said “Christ” instead of just saying (not just saying) God because I’ve learned that Christ and what He did and all that He is and was and will always be is what makes Christianity. He’s the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Christ is different, truly unique when compared to the rest of the world’s religions. I can say “God” and pretty much everyone in the room will agree with me, even though it’s usually not because they know I’m talking about the actual God of the Bible, the God that created the world, the God that judges and loves and kills and raises up all within His perfect character. Most everyone will agree that there’s a god, or a higher power, or something or other. But mention Jesus Christ?
“Well,” I said. “He died for me, died for my sins past, present, and future. He gave His life for mine, so now my life is His, and all that I do—homework included—is for Him and for His glory, and, honestly, however I do here at Pratt, it doesn’t change my standing with Him.”
Eli asked me why I should then excel if it doesn’t change my standing with God. I replied that because Christ died for me, I’m able to freely, without the chains of having to be good enough, excel and do my best, not just in school, but in life. And we went on. Eventually we said farewell, and he thanked me.
It’s become a routine, it seems, that whenever I come up to the security booth and he’s there, we talk about God, about life, about things. Today, I walked up, seeing that he was there, and I realized I’d never asked what exactly his beliefs were. Did he believe in Christ? I’d talked about Christ almost every time I talked to him, and he never seemed offended nor did he correct me. He talked as if he knew God, and yet I’d never heard him mention Jesus.
So I walked up and stopped and said hello. He commented on how smiley I was again. And I asked him what his story was, where God came into his life. He asked me what I meant. I explained how people sometimes approached me in the way he had before.
“Oh, I’m not a Christian. I’m Jewish.”
I was surprised, and my first reaction was “Oh, I mentioned Christ.” I realize now how important the name of Christ is. And I continued to ask him questions, and he continued to talk, and I asked questions, and he asked questions, and I talked. And then it ended.
“We’ll do this again,” he said with a smile.Yes, I thought, we will.
It seems like God is transforming every transition, every visit, every meal, every conversation into something circling around Him, and I don’t know how He’s doing it. This morning I’d asked Him, while spending time with Him, while reading through His word and soaking it in, to change me, to change my heart on different things that I’d come up against that He no doubt brought to my attention whether I’d asked Him to or not. This is always dangerous territory for two reasons: the first reason is that Satan can’t stand growing Christians, and he’s out for their blood to begin with, especially since he’s already got the rest of the world wrapped around his finger. The second reason is that God answers prayer, and when you ask for a change that’s in line with His will, for a change that brings you closer to Him and more in line with His plan for your life, then He’s going to make it happen, and it’s going to cost you.
My age and the amount, if you will, of my experience has been something that’s been nagging me a lot lately. “I’m too young to say this,” “It’s not my place to say that or challenge this.” Jacob, last night, brought me to a message spoken by Lila Trotman, the wife of Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators Christian discipleship ministry organization, and, among many other convicting, challenging, thought-provoking, and powerful things, she brought the listeners to the first chapter of Jeremiah.
“Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.’ But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” (v. 6-8)
And then Paul, speaking to Timothy, came into my head.
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” ( 1 Timothy 4:12)
Granted, the circumstances are different. Jeremiah was a divinely appointed prophet to bring God’s word to the nation of Israel. Timothy was Paul’s liaison, sent to exemplify, communicate, and challenge the members of different churches in Paul’s instructions for living and loving and studying and growing as disciples. And I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ, commanded to make disciples of all nations and teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded me…so does it matter that I’m so young? Just a thought.
Among so many other things, I’m beginning to see that the fact that I don’t like change is the very thing God seems to be wanting to break me out of.
Me: “I really can’t do change. I’m just not good at it. I can’t live a life where things are constantly changing.”
God: “Oh really? Let me fix that.”
He started freshman year of college, and since then, since my first year at Pratt, first year at BaYouCa, the transitions have been easier. The changes in life are becoming less of an obstacle or a jarring experience and more of a welcomed opportunity to grow…I’m actually excited to be met with things that I can’t handle, even though it might be hard to move through at first. And so I’m here, again, realizing that, yeah, a lot of things are changing, and the future God has for me will be nothing that I’d ever imagined it would be. And I find myself praying that, regardless of what I want, or what happens, or what has to happen, that He’d prepare me for whatever future He has in mind, whatever works He’s ordained, whatever plan He has laid out. And I can’t wait to see what happens.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” —Jude 24-25