One of the scariest things I’ve done in my life is to go deep into the ocean. You know what I mean; when the waves crash over your head and your feet can’t touch the bottom. You have no idea what is above or below you. And for a second there, you feel alone, powerless, and insignificant. I am literally at the will/mercy of the next wave that crashes over me.
Some of you may read that and shake your head in fear and concern. But for me, this isn’t a life-threatening fear or anything. It is thrilling, and it gets my heart pumping really fast. Adrenaline, you know? But I do this often. In fact, I just went out that far yesterday. And not only do I enjoy going out this far, but I enjoy body surfing back in. Being in the Pacific Ocean, Mission Beach specifically, provides some beautifully tall waves to body surf through. Yet again, it is terrifying. In a split second, you can ride a wave perfectly and in the next, you will be eating a face full of sand and sea water. Again, you are at the mercy of the wave.
Sometimes, these waves are gentle and peaceful, letting you ride all the way, enjoying this wave gently toss you at the shore. Other times, these waves will flip you over, dragging you wrapped in sharp seaweed towards your impending doom on the sharp shell-infested beach, just for you to be dragged back into the depths.
Thrilling, I believe, is just one way to describe this. Terrifying is another adequate word. Putting ourselves in the hand of something else is scary. Especially because we have expectations. I don’t expect to drown. I expect to surf on every good wave. I don’t expect to wash out. I don’t expect the pain. I expect the joy. I expect it to be an easy ride.
Suddenly, it doesn’t feel like I’m talking about the waves. It feels like I’m talking about my life. It feels like I’m talking about right now. Here, in the cafe, on this campus, in this city. Right now. Not what has been, not what will be. But right now.
Right now is a scary moment. Because in this one moment, so much could happen. I could miss-type the next word. Thank God for spell-check. Right now, my stool could break, my laptop could crash. Right now, I could die. Right now is an uncomfortable moment. Geez.
But right now is important.
I’ve been learning about living a spirit led life. How to follow the Holy Spirit. And it is so hard. Why? Because, I don’t know what the Spirit is going to lead me to do. I don’t know if the spirit is going to call me to pray, or yell out the gospel from the trolley car. I don’t know if I will be encouraged or cast aside. And that is terrifying to me.
It’s so sad to me, to my soul. I have more trust in a wave than I do the Holy Spirit. In the moment of right now, I don’t trust the spirit to meet my expectations. But I trust a wave to carry me on safely to shore. I trust my heart to beat. I trust my lungs to fill with air. But not the Spirit of God.
Have you ever written something so true, that you almost can’t keep writing? Yep. That was it. I trust the things around me, more that the one who saved me. In the moment I’m writing this, my heart is breaking. Putting this to paper is making it even harder to accept.
But it is true.
Two weeks ago, I arrived in San Diego for a second summer. I was supposed to be a Team Leader, but unfortunately, I was not faithful over the trust given to me. So, God has blessed me with a position without a title. A position that changes as needed. A position that makes me rely on the Holy Spirit. I am here in San Diego to serve well. Not that I don’t mind serving! I love to serve. But, I love to serve when I know how I will serve. I love having clear goals and purposes. So, in leading up to the summer, I couldn’t help but ask how I would serve alongside in Generation Send. And to my frustration, no one had an answer. In fact, I arrived in San Diego without a purpose. So, I texted my boss to let him know I arrived, secretly hoping that he had an agenda for me for the summer. Instead, I got this:
“Serve well.” That was it. Nothing more, nothing less. And as I read this, I wouldn’t help but feel frustrated. I had come all this way to serve well? What did that mean? What did that look like? I had no idea. I just wanted someone to tell me what to do. Seems simple, right? I was praying for a sense of direction. I could feel the Devil whispering in my mind that without a purpose, I did not need to be there. That I was lost, and should just leave. But, I stayed, and continued praying.
A few days later my answer came.
While sitting outside a coffee shop in North Park with the leaders, a security guard walked by and we exchanged a simple hello and dived into a simple conversation. While we were talking, he said, “Hey man, I don’t seek. I just discover.” I thought that that was an interesting phrase, but I didn’t know what to do with it. So, I tried to ignore it. But, through jokes and serious conversation, this kept phrase kept coming up.
Not to seek, but to discover.
Soon, I was sketching this phrase out. It wouldn’t leave my mind or my heart. It had taken on a spiritual quality to it, a desire. It had, in a way, become it’s own prayer.
Help me not to seek answers, but to discover your will.
And as time went on, the more burdensome this prayer became. I desperately want(ed) to discover God’s will in this very moment. I stopped asking about the future, and started praying about the conversation happening right in front of me. I wanted to discover what was happening in every moment. I wanted the Spirit to show me what He saw. And it has changed everything.
Take yesterday. Before getting pummeled by the waves, I walked on the shoreline, ankles in the crisp water. All of a sudden, a lady calls out to me, and asks the question, “Hey does the water get warmer away from shore?” I smiled and said no, and before I knew it, was in full conversation with her. She began to share her life, and her husband’s past involvement in the church. Yet, she was not a Christian. I began to pray, asking the Spirit to guide me through this conversation with a woman who’s name I had not even gotten. We slowly walked deeper in the water as she explained that her husband was looking for a “better” church, but she didn’t believe in that. I began to feel the Spirit encourage me to share with her that maybe she and her husband were supposed to be at this church that wasn’t good enough. And that no church would ever be “good enough.” But that God, in His grace, would.
Again, I still didn’t have her name.
Taking some time to explain that I was out here, through the North American Mission Board to build relationships with people, much like herself, and invite them into community, she laughed, saying, “Oh so you are just here on vacation to make friends.” To which I responded, “No, I’m here to love people.” I could feel the Spirit inside of me shaking me, exciting me as she said, “Why would you want to do that?”
Before I knew it, the gospel was pouring off of my lips, my convictions of love and the Gospel was taking flight out of my heart and into words. The Spirit was calling for the gospel to be shared, and so I did, or rather God did through me.
And she stood there in the cold, crisp Pacific Ocean, with seaweed whipping against her calves, surrounded by people, staring at a stranger she had never seen before and said, “I’d love to be loved like that.” The Spirit moved me to pray for her, this lady who I did not know. Not only to pray for her, but to embrace her as I did.
And there on Mission Beach, she accepted Christ as her Savior, and lover of her life. Finally, I asked her name, to which she replied, “Anne, with an ‘e’.”
Names have power.
Anne is a hebrew name meaning “Favour or grace. Prayer. God has favoured me.”
Readers, I’m crying even as I write this. Her name means God has favored me and prayer. Her name was what God was reminding me of. To pray and discover His will, in this moment.
So now I look into the right now. 1813 words later than expected, recognizing that my expectations are not what matters, nor should they limit my faith or my trust in the Spirit. But I should expect the Spirit to move. I should expect the Spirit to change. I should expect my heart to be shattered along the shores of God’s grace. I should expect to drown in His sovereignty. I should expect his mercy to wrap around me. I should expect God’s will to remain. I should expect my desires to be His. I should expect God to use me beyond my imagination.
I should expect for my Spirit to use me, a justified, sancified, and glorified being because of what God has done for me, not because of how badly I have been faithful over it.
So right now, I sit. And I pray, that God continue to let me discover. And for me to be ok with that. I don’t know what I am doing here. I don’t know what God has planned for me tomorrow. I know I am here to serve well, however the Spirit leads. And I know, that whatever God has planned, it will be beautiful.
And I am honored to discover it. Because I know that whatever I find will not drown me, but lift me above the waves.
I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.
Peace and blessings towards all of you.