Entry given on Sunday, June 22, 2014. Last Sunday in Papua New Guinea.
A circle of friends passed around a microphone—one with an incredibly annoying chord if I remember right—cracking jokes whenever we could, and warming hearts with our big dreams and wide, innocent eyes. We were ready for this, the final send off. The world we knew so well sat on the edge of their seats, watching as their newly graduated friends and family filled the room with hope and confidence. Sure we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, but we made up for it with energy and hope. Some of us didn’t know what we were going to do after we board that plane that would whisk us away packed full with anticipation and adventure. Some of us didn’t have a clue. But some of us did. Some of us knew exactly what we were going to do, and how we were about to do it.
And somehow, both thankfully and unfortunately, I had tossed myself into the group of the latter. I thought I knew how everything was about to go down. I wanted to change the world, I said. I wanted to work with kids and I wanted to change the world. I was going to graduate from Messiah College with a degree in Communications and a study abroad trip to Africa tucked snugly under my belt.
Obviously none of this was a big deal, of course. Definitely not about ready to fall face first down the steel staircase of reality.
And I thought if anything were ever to happen, I was ready. I was confident, I thought. But confidence at home is very different than having confidence when you’re all by yourself in a place you’ve never been before.
By June 22, a whole 8 days after graduation, many of us had already left our homes, and began spinning around in the World of Next Steps. But for me, I was still there. At home, but the house was empty. At this point, the world was a blur of late nights, early mornings and goodbye hugs.
The notes you are about to read are taken from a message given on the last Sunday I was in Papua New Guinea (and notably, only a few days after I had to say goodbye to Michael and my heart was somewhere in his hometown two hours away). This sermon was titled “Certainties of Life” and never had a message had a name so fitting.
Man searches for purpose from the day he learns to think for himself. Babies do not walk until they see something worth chasing. Mom’s excited smile and open arms, that favorite toy on the couch, the cookie that’s only halfway into Brother’s mouth. Motivation drives us. Without it, our worlds would be small, boring and horribly unproductive. Education would be irrelevant, responsibility would never be taught because chores require effort and our relationships would be left unfulfilled and shallow. But because God has given us the gift of purpose, our worlds are wholly different.
Purpose gives us a reason to move forward, and reason to press on past the pain. God has placed this divine concept deep inside our souls, and as Christians, we are called to do everything with the intention of glorifying God. There is no other phrase that is easier said than done however, and it is in our daily decisions that affect the way in which we see God.
Working in tandem with glorifying God, we have been given other gifts that manifest themselves through different talents, hobbies and passions. It is not by coincidence then, that when we find our niche, we feel fulfilled in the work we are doing. God has created us with purpose in mind, and as we are His image bearers, we are filled with intention and purpose.
Moreover, God has called us to live the lives entirely contrary to the way in which we are expected to live in the world. The world says at the top, you will find happiness in financial success and center-fold praise. And it is only when you realize your world is made out of paper when the storm starts to hit and the wind starts to blow, and you fall a whole lot faster than you climb.
God, on the contrary, prepares us for the winds, and it is often through the process of coming to terms with our purpose, do we learn how to stand against it. When the wind howls then, you will quickly find that a firmly grounded rock foundation will hold much steadier than stacks of paper.
So the question is, if purpose is important, and God really wanted His people to have it so much, what does it mean to live with?
1. We live without fear of the scary stuff ahead of us.
Anticipation can make or break every new experience. We make the decision to trust as we continue forward into an event or life stage we know nothing about, or we make the decision to fight it. We try to control everything without every really knowing what the end result would have been, will be or should have been. God knows all of that. Take a step back, allow God to show you peace. and give God your scary stuff. Do no let your inability to control what only God can control be the reason you say God doesn't move.
Remember why you are here. Look to people you trust to challenge and comfort you in prayer and honest conversation. Scary stuff is going to happen. But God didn't make a one-man world on purpose. Find your people, and let God love you through them. And be ready to do the same for them when scariness overtakes so close to their home.
2. We live without fear of the scary stuff behind us.
Jordan Lee Dooley, the speaker and social media front-woman of SoulScripts, an international bible study, said it best:
"If we let ourselves be defined by our past,
we will be defeated in our present."
We live, and we learn. We fall, and we climb. It is a constant battle between our Christ-likeness and likeness of a very broken world. We live in bodies that are weak and fleeting. But we were created so that we may declare the beauty and grace of God to those who do not yet understand. Remember that if a broken piece of pottery can be made into a breathtaking masterpiece, if it is given to the right artist, your story can be the reason God chooses to move through you. Do not let your life in the past be the reason your future falls apart. Do not allow your story to be the reason you cannot be used by God right now. We are commanded, and God will move regardless, but we also have a choice.
3. We live without fear of the scary stuff inside us.
Shame will destroy you if you leave it there for long enough. You must feel it, you must address it, and you must then let it leave your poor and broken soul. Guilt is not necessarily a thing of Satan. It is in place much like the sensory system in your body, When you touch a hot pan without protection, you feel pain because without it, you would be unknowingly destroying yourself. But, do not let your heart become so full of it that you start not feeling anything. You not feeling anything is not a sign that you are doing something now acceptable. It is a sign that you have left your hand on the pan long enough to burn straight through. You may still be feeling something very real, but your body has all but shut down your ability to respond.
The list goes on, and I could go on for days about what it means to have purpose, but y'all got ish to do today, and I don't want to steal away anymore of your time. But reflect on some other reasons, and comment below.
But as you go on with your day, please remember that we live with God as our audience, we live with eternity as our reward, and with these people as our family. We are a purpose-driven race, and God has designed us because He sees us as worth it.
My life has dramatically changed since I first heard to this message, and yet, three years later, this applies in ways that are just as important. Know that you are loved, cared for and believed in.
No matter what you are going through, remember that. God's got you, and He loves you too much to ever let you go.