Disciple Now weekends have always been a special time in my life. Looking back over the past couple of years, it has been through these weekends that I have forged so many friendships and relationships in the life of my church. It has been through these weekends that I have invested in the lives of students and have been tremendously blessed by their testimonies. It has been through these weekends that I have seen God move in their lives in response to their obedience to Him. But this weekend — this D-Now, Unified ’14 — I experienced God in a new and awesome way.
Now for some background info: For the past three months, I have been walking through a season of hurt, heartache, and broken plans. The year-long relationship that I had been in dissolved and I held all of my broken plans in the palm of my hand. I had planned on being engaged within the next 6 months and married in a year. What I felt at the time was so bad about it all was that everyone else seemed to think the same thing! So when it ended, I’m not even gonna lie – I felt incredibly stupid. I was so sure of the fact that this was the person I was going to marry; it had to have been right because everyone else was sure of it, too. I can’t tell you how many times my students, friends at church, or even random strangers asked when I was going to be a “Mrs.” Can you imagine their shock when I explained, “Weeeelllllll, it’s kinda, sorta over?”
I do not say any of this for pity. Let me say this again: I DO NOT DESIRE YOUR PITY. This is my story, and I’m about to tell you how God has used it for GOOD in my life! To really understand how mighty my God is, you need to understand that He takes broken things and restores them. He takes mourning and turns it into dancing. He takes account of every tear you cry, puts them all in a bottle, and promises that your hurt isn’t in vain. What a mighty God we serve!
During this time of dating, I had really struggled with the idea of serving. I knew that I needed to be serving in my church, but I just chose to stay so busy – busy with my new job, busy with my friends, busy with my boyfriend… And that was NOBODY’S fault but MINE. I made those decisions consciously. No one else was responsible for my decision to choose things with no eternal value over things that absolutely had eternal value. And not serving is a sin. Consciously, I knew that I got such a blessing from serving; but I believed the lie that it would just be to hard to “get back into that whole serving thing.”
Fastforward to January of this year. A good friend asked me to be a leader for D-Now at my church… And God got a hold of my heart. I knew that’s exactly where I needed to be. So I prayed. And I had a sweet time of repentance before the Lord Jesus. I prayed that God would move in the lives of the girls that I would be leading. I prayed that He would do a mighty work in them. I prayed that He would be lifted high. And then I prayed that He would change me, that I would walk away from Unified ’14 having really and truly experienced Him in all of His glory; I prayed that I would respond with a heart and a life of worship; and that I would walk away completely and totally changed. And let me tell you, God hears prayers and He is so faithful to answer them. Not only did He answer my prayers, but He did far more than I could have ever imagined.
Here are some of the things I learned at D-Now this weekend:
1. Being able to serve others is a blessing.
Serving others is such a sweet way to lift Jesus high. This weekend, the Lord allowed me to serve alongside one of my closest and sweetest friends as we ministered to our group of 8th grade girls. We were both blown away by their answers to questions in small group time! They were so plugged into the sermons over the weekend and they were so eager to live life for Jesus… at age 13! I am so humbled by their faith.
I think our most fun time serving them was when we did “Beauty Shop.”
First, we did Mint Julep Masks. That was… fun.
Then, we did nails. With glitter!
And then, of course, it was time for hair!
Abrianna and I were blown away, once again, by our girls when they served whole-heartedly and without complaint at our mission project! We helped organize/wash baby clothes and deep clean the Save-a-Life Pregnancy Center. The woman we helped kept thanking us for helping her clean everything out; she said she used to dread looking into a room that was overflowing with clothes that needed to be sorted and washed and dried and organized and hung up.
As you can see, we were all pretty obsessed with the amount of cuteness in the room! I mean, a little baby chick on the butt of a pair of baby pants?! C’mon, you know you want to “Awwwwwhhhhhh,” too!
All the girls who served at Save-a-Life!
Such a sweet time this weekend! As believers, we are called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ and walk in love. I think the season of life I walked through where I didn’t serve actively made my time this weekend all the sweeter. God wastes nothing, and I hope I never forget how big of a privelege it is to serve others for the glory of God and how much joy it brings in the life of a believer.
2. My struggle is not my identity.
I have been praying for the past couple of months for a heart of forgiveness, one of the areas I’ve been struggling with. I have been praying that God would totally eradicate bitterness and anger in my heart and life, because I know that grieves the Holy Spirit. But looking back over my prayer journals, that was all I ever prayed about. “God help me forgive; God I don’t want to be angry; God let me walk in the Spirit.” And that’s fine and good and all, but prayer isn’t all about my needs; prayer is about worshiping the Lord. It’s about having a heart of thanksgiving for all He’s done for me. It’s about praising Him for His goodness in my life. It’s about interceding for the people He’s placed in my life that you know are struggling. It’s about asking Him to make me more like His Son, Jesus. And while it was okay for me to pray that I would have a heart of forgiveness, I wasn’t laying down my sins at the foot of the cross and leaving them there. I decided that I was going to pick them up. But the Lord showed me this weekend that I don’t have to do that. True repentance is saying, “God, I screwed up. I know my sin breaks Your heart. So, I’m laying it down and leaving it there. I’m trusting that You will help me walk in a new way.”
3. God is not concerned about my happiness; He’s concerned about my holiness.
Can I just say, “OUCH.” God did not send His Son Jesus to die on the cross so Jessica Percy would be happy. God, in His infinite wisdom and abounding love, sent His Son to die on that cross so Jessica Percy would be holy. He sent Jesus to the cross so you could be holy, too. Jason Cook, who led us in studying God’s Word this weekend, said that holiness is not about perfection, but rather holiness is about being set apart. Leviticus 11:44 says, “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” In the long run, happiness is rooted in selfishness, whereas holiness is rooted in Christ.
4. Being a man, according to God’s standards, is a big deal.
One of the most memorable things Jason said this weekend was, “A weak man is the fastest way to a broken marriage.” While the woman has an important role in submitting to her husband, the man has the crucial role of leading his family, of loving his wife like Christ loves the church. The responsibility is his to “sanctify” her, so she might be “clean,” “having no spot or blemish” in her. Fulfilling the role of a strong, biblical man is so incredibly hard… Maybe that’s why biblical men are few and far between in our culture. The Lord burdened my heart to pray for biblical men to be raised up.
5. God is all about waiting.
God promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations and that his people would inherit a land overflowing with milk and honey. Guess how many years the Israelites had to wait to cross over into that Promised Land? 400. FOUR HUNDRED YEARS. And even as they stand on the opposite side of the Jordan, with Canaan just across the water, God again asks them to wait, to consecrate themselves. Not only do they wait, the Israelites obey. Waiting isn’t all about staying in the place where God has you; it’s about having a good attitude and being obedient while waiting on direction from the Lord. I feel like my life has been one big waiting game, and let me tell you – waiting is hard. It’s hard because you don’t know what’s coming and you have to trust that God knows what He’s doing. Waiting is all about relinquishing control, and this has been hard for me to cope with ** cough, cough, Type-A personality, cough.** Another quote from Jason this weekend: “If it’s a year or ten years you have to wait, WHO CARES?! God is WITH you!” Those words were a balm to my soul. I really believe that not just “good” things come to those who wait, but the very BEST things come to those who wait on the LORD, no matter how long it takes. Immanuel (God with us) and Jehovah Jireh (God provides) carries us through every season of life. When we remember this, we find strength to keep going.
6. Jesus is enough!
And finally, I truly experienced the Lord through worship. I know that the Lord uses tough circumstances to bring us closer to Him, and if I hadn’t been walking through this season of life, I don’t know if I would depend on Him as much as I do. It’s a sobering thought, really. When I get my way and when things are going according to MY plan, I push the Lord to the backburner. I was so broken over how I keep certain parts of my life to myself – mostly the parts that deal with my future and getting married. I repented of giving God my second-best, but not all of me. And do you know what? He reminded me that His plans are for my ultimate best. And I can’t really explain what happened, but laying aside my struggles and focusing more on the Lord Jesus – who He is, His character, His goodness, His might, His love, His sovereignty – allowed me to really meet with Him. I met with Him through singing, reading His Word, and serving others. I was, and still am, blown away by His great love for me. And I know that Jesus is enough. He’s my portion, and He is all that I need. I’m praying to keep these truths with me as I continue journeying through life – bountiful seasons and burdensome seasons alike.