I’ve been around Christian communities for most of my life, and I’ve heard a lot of talk about going. Going forward, going on to new things, going to the nations…(all good things, don’t get me wrong!)…
Going is what I wish I was doing, almost all the time actually. I wish I was the one moving to a new place and taking on a new challenge. I wish I was moving to a different country. I wish I was going a lot of places and doing a lot of different things.
But right now, I have been very clearly asked to stay.
And for any of you who may have felt a similar feeling: the desire to go, but the need to stay, I’m writing to us. Well actually I’m writing to myself mostly, but maybe you’ll connect with something I’m working through too.
There is a lot of advice out there for waiting/staying: Be present. Be actively waiting. Pray Harder. Just go anyway. The list goes on, and I’m going to throw my own thoughts out there to add to that list…
Let me start by telling you and me that 1. the most important voice to be listening to is the Lord’s. Not your pastor, your parent, your best friend, not the missionary who spoke at your church last Sunday, that Instagram, your favorite motivational speaker, or the people on the street corner holding the signs. Yes, seeking wise counsel is so important and we should be doing that consistently. But the most important voice is the Lord’s.
That being said, if you don’t know what the Lord might be speaking to you, 2. learn to recognize his voice and how he speaks to you. It might not be in the same way that he speaks to other people. But just like I can recognize the voices of my best friends before I even see them because I have spent so much time with them, you will begin to recognize the voice of the Lord the more you make room to hear Him speak.
I recently had an experience where the Lord very clearly asked me to stay when I really wanted to go. The opportunity was a good thing and something I really wanted. I spent a couple days “praying intentionally”, but really saying “Hey God, I want this. I want to be in this type of ministry, remember? I want this God, okay? Remember?” Then one morning I told the Lord I would spend the whole day just listening for any kind of help with making a decision. By the end of the day, I knew I was being asked to stay. I knew it deeply, and I cried. I cried (because I’m a cry-er and that’s just what I do, but also) because I really wanted to go. And I knew that the Lord knew how much I wanted to go, but he was still asking me to stay.
And that is the reality sometimes.
So while I’m here, I’ve had to 3. Find ways to stay engaged in what I’m passionate about even if nobody is asking. Where I’m at now, I sometimes feel like I’m in a bubble that has me separated from a lot of the things I’m passionate about, conversations that I want to be a part of, and issues I want to fight for. I’ve had to decide to intentionally push back on this within myself. I choose to read constantly. Books on the church, books on racism, books on systemic injustice, books on reconciliation, theology, education, development… I reach out to my college mentors, adults who know me well, so I can talk things through and stay grounded. I meet people I love for coffee in the middle of the day so I don’t go crazy sitting in the office. I write as much as I can, even if my thoughts are incomplete and unsorted.
If you find yourself in a place where you are having a hard time staying, but know that staying is what you’ve been called to do, don’t give up on the things you are passionate about. Find ways to be a part of the conversation. Stay engaged. Educate yourself. Because as confident as I am that the Lord can ask us to stay somewhere we don’t necessarily want to be, I’m confident that he is going to continue to lead us to the places where our passions will be used in fullness.
And while we’re here in the places we might not necessarily want to be, we should take the opportunity to 4. Face the areas in our lives and within ourselves that we need to face. I am currently reading a book by one of my college mentors, (you should read it) and one page specifically has been sitting in my mind. Josh talks about being obedient to the Lord, and how obedience is being conscious and aware of what God is up to and what he is producing in us right now. “Maybe you’re in a wonderful season. God is forming in you now what he wants to use later through you. Maybe you are in the most uncomfortable season of your life. God is also forming in you now what he wants to use later through you. Be intentional about not wasting it, or you might have to come back around to it again later.”
There are a lot of things that I would love to run away from where I’m at right now. A lot of things that have been coming up in myself, and many things in areas of my life that I wish were different without any more effort from me.
I don’t want to just run away from these things and have to come back to face them again at a later time. I want to face them head-on, and process what the Lord is doing in me now. How he is forming my heart right where I am.
I also want to be careful in how I posture myself as I talk to the Lord. It’s very easy for me to slip into the “I-did-this-for-you-God,-so-now-what-are-you-going-to-do-for-me” mind(or heart)set.
Maybe there is a better opportunity in front of me that I could have missed if I would have taken the last one. But the truth is, there could be no reason other than that the Lord wants to me to stay where I am because he wants me to be there.
And I want to be equally okay with both.