It happened the other day. It’s probably happened a handful of other times these last 15 years, but for the first time in as long as I can remember, it came over me overwhelmingly.
Sorrow for my story.
It happened because I was doing some research on ways to find a little part-time work for myself. I joke that all of the things I’m good at and love to do pay me zero dollars, so I needed to get a little creative in my efforts to try to do God’s job in providing for our family. How arrogant I can be sometimes, to think I’ve got better ideas about these things than He does. I came across this teaching opportunity that I’ve seen a few of my friends take advantage of, and I thought, hey! I could totally do this! In my excitement I perused their website and then I read the words that made my heart sink deeper than it’s been in a long time.
“Bachelor’s degree required.”
You see, I don’t have a bachelor’s degree, or any degree for that matter. And it’s not because I don’t want one, or never made plans to obtain one, but that God’s story for my life did not allow for me to complete such an achievement. A mere 5 months after graduating High School, I found myself in hysterics in a Nordstrom bathroom at the sight before me. Something was really wrong and I didn’t know what or why. Hours later my mom and I sat in a doctor’s office, and heard for the first time the words “ulcerative colitis”.
Words that would define my existence for the next 5 years.
In the years that followed, despite my best efforts, I was never able to complete school. A new semester would begin and I would do everything I could to show up, be a good student, and pretend like my body wasn’t failing me in all the ways, but alas it didn’t matter. Inevitably I would miss too many classes, turn in too-few assignments, and drop out of classes making it impossible for me to wrack up "years completed” in community college.
It wasn’t like I had Harvard hopes. Just community college ones.
I don’t feel bad about this part of my story, really ever. The reason is that because of it, I’ve been given the honor of knowing God in ways that many people never will. I’ve seen Him do the miraculous in giving me a body that not only functions, but allows me to fully live my life, minus one pretty vital organ. You see, 10 years ago, I underwent one of the scarier things in my life, and went into an operating room for 8 hours to have them remove my large intestine. Pretty crazy, right?
I look back at my 23 year old self and think about how brave she was. She was so dang brave. And not because she was anything extraordinary, but because she simply believed and trusted in her extraordinary God.
“If any one of you wants to follow Me, you will have to give yourself up to God’s plan, take up your cross, and follow Me.” -Mark 8:34
She gave herself up to God’s plan. She followed Jesus into an unknown and unplanned life, trusting that His promises were true and that He was faithful. Now here I sit, on the other side of that, wrestling with the lie that I’ve been dealt an unfair card because my life didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to. Rather, the way “everyone else’s” did.
That’s a slippery slope right there, friends.
When I look to my right and to my left, I see people who have completed the hard task of getting a degree in something, and because of it, they are in a position to receive blessing through their work. Because I’m 10 years removed from this miraculous and challenging time, I’m prone to lose sight of the real aim of my life, and look instead to the goals of others, believing the lie that those should be my goals, too.
But that’s not what Jesus says in Mark 8.
Because I don’t want to follow you, or you, or you. I want to follow Jesus. And He makes it pretty clear that if He is to be my Lord, then I need to get over my own ideas about what my life should (or could) look like, and relent to His plan—His way—not because He is a Lord who withholds, but one who gives in abundance. In an age where we follow people all the time, I believe there needs to be a major revival in our understanding of what it is to have a Lord. We need to look at what Jesus is not saying in this verse in Mark 8—He isn’t saying that we get all the benefits of salvation while getting to keep our lives as we think they should be. Give ourselves up to God’s plan. Take up our crosses. Follow HIM. We need to do as the disciples did and throw it all away to go where He is going and do what He is doing.
For me, one of the many things I needed to throw away (or set aside for a time) is a degree that (could) increase our financial comfort. Not my way, but your’s Lord. For you it might be something else entirely. Maybe you’ve got all the financial comfort you could need but you struggle to step out into the unknown—to give Jesus full control of your life. Can I let you in on a treasure that I discovered 10 years ago? He is more faithful than you could ever imagine. I would likely not be here today, had I not trusted His Spirit and walked into the unknown. And the world would be less for it because there would not be a Malachi Brian or a Hazel Emery Olive to do the work that God wants done for their generation and the ones to come. There would not be #fourfergs who are longing to be used for the sake of the Gospel, willing to go wherever He would call us to go.
My life has been nothing that I ever imagined. And if I think about that too much, fear becomes an unwanted companion. But with Jesus as my Lord, I keep my eyes on Him alone. I go where He goes and I do as He does. It is then and only then that my surroundings matter not because I’m safe within the sovereignty and protection of His good and perfect plan for me.
Will you give yourself up to God’s plan for your life? And not in ways that look pleasing and pretty on Instagram. Really, truly, give it all up for Christ? Maybe we can be the generation that revives what it is to have a Lord, and through us may the world see that the one True Lord is Jesus Christ.