Hello! My name is Taylor Johnson, and I am one of the 2017 deputees. In less than 12 hours, I will be at the airport with my team to spend the next 8-weeks of my summer in Montenegro. Throughout the entire deputation process I’ve been continuously asked: “How are you preparing for this?” “Aren’t you scared?” “What if it’s not everything that you’re expecting?” and that’s why I’m writing this blog post, to address these questions, and to specifically focus on how I have been preparing for deputation.
Truthfully, I love when people ask me the questions I stated above, because not even a year ago, I thought exactly the same way they did. I felt this constant need to have control and order, and I needed to always know what was going to happen and when. Well, I have discovered this need for control and order comes from not fully trusting God in all aspects of my life. Making the decision to go on Deputation, was also me making the decision to give all trust to God in all aspects of my life.
So, how have I been preparing for this trip? By trusting in God every step of the way. By trusting in God, I see that as me having complete faith in God. My favorite verse in the Bible is Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (NIV). Deputation is giving me the opportunity to finally live out the truth of this verse. I may not have all the answers to everything as I get ready to board this plane in a short, twelve hours, but I have faith that God has me going on this trip for a reason. I may not know what the reason is yet, but I feel Him calling me to this, and hearing Him calling me to serve this summer is all I need to know this is the right choice for me.
So, am I scared? No, because I have faith that God has a plan in store for me greater than anything I could ever imagine. Am I scared my expectations aren’t going to be met? No, because I don’t have any expectations. The only thing I expect to do is go and serve the Lord for the next 8-weeks, other than that, I am leaving the adventure and experience to God. The only way to truly prepare for this trip is to understand that you don’t have control. God has the control. When I understood this, a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders, and I have been able to grow in relationship with God and to hear His voice more clearly. As I finish typing this post, and add last-minute items to my suitcase I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. I am finally walking by faith, and it is such a beautiful thing, indeed.
If you haven’t been to the Inn yet this year, you have been missing some great talks.
A few weeks ago I had a student come to me seeking some advice. They had just gotten a job they have wanted for a while, but they were unsure if they should take it. The main reason they were conflicted was that taking the job meant they would be unable to fulfill their Student Leadership commitment for the year.
Needless to say, I was super impressed with this student because they were actually taking their SL commitment seriously! Props. As we continued to talk, though, I realized that this student was also struggling with the decision because they felt it carried significant spiritual consequences. Essentially, they told me that they were torn because, in their words, staying here and continuing on with SL would be completely oriented around God, while taking the job would not be. Somehow, they had come to believe that God was more present in one of the choices than the other. Somehow, the choice between what seemed to be two great opportunities had become a choice between pleasing God or not.
I share this story because I think it highlights a tendency in our generation to constantly see things in life as right or wrong, good or bad, black or white. Even in our spiritual life, we see things as either part of God’s plan or not. Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes there are clear, easy distinctions and I think God would prefer we chose the smart thing when we know what it is. But what about stories like this one? What about when the choice isn’t between “good” and “bad”, but between “good” and “good”? I think we have a hard time making decisions between two good things because somewhere along the way we have been told that even when the choice is between “good” and “good”, there is still a “preferred good” and a “lesser good.” And that rating system is based on the size of the sacrifice required and the impact made.
What I loved about Janie’s message from week two was her point that God’s love and promises have nothing to do with how amazing we are, but everything to do with how amazing he is. God’s love for us does not hinge on how much we sacrifice for him. For this student, staying here and continuing on with the commitment they made would definitely have been the more self-sacrificial thing to do. And maybe the people around them would have praised their devotion, but it wouldn’t have earned them any extra “God points.”
The truth is, God will be just as present with them in their new job as he will if they stay here. The same is true for all of us. But I think in order to trust that reality we have to test it. My hope is that this student will take the job and keep their eyes open. I’m betting they will see God all over the place.
Chris Sherman, UMin Missions Coordinator
I read the first 12 chapters of Joshua yesterday. It gave me an idea.
The book of Joshua picks up right after the death of Moses. The Israelites are finally ready to enter into the promised land, and their new leader is a guy named Joshua. In the first chapter of the book, God is speaking to Joshua about what is going to happen. God tells Joshua that they will enter into the land, that no one will be able to stand in their way, and that God will be with them. The only condition is that the Israelites need to be courageous and keep the law that was given to them through Moses. If they do so, God tells them they will be successful wherever they go. In verse 9 God finishes this dialogue with “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Italics mine.)
A command to be strong and courageous. A command not to fear or be dismayed. That almost sounds harder than some of the other commands we hear in the Old Testament. Fear is an emotional reaction to something that is often outside of our control. The last time I was afraid of something I don’t remember stopping and asking myself: Do I want to be afraid? I was simply afraid. On the other hand, the command to not murder comes down to a conscious choice: Should I kill that person or not? (No.) Come on God! How am I supposed to not be afraid of something?!
The more I thought about it, though, I realized that God answers that question directly in verse 9. How are you to avoid fear? Because you will know that God is with you wherever you go.
Now here is the idea I had: What if we lived our lives without letting fear govern our decisions? Or, maybe more simply, what if we tried to live just one day without letting fear guide our decisions? What would our life look like then?
Just to clarify, I am not asking what if we just went crazy for a day and drove 100 mph backward with no seatbelt on. No, that is not the type of fearless living I am considering. By all means, continue to be intelligent adults. The type of fearless life I am talking about is the one where we trust that God loves us and there isn’t anything we can do to ruin that, where we understand that everyone around us is broken and that our sins and faults are no worse than anyone else’s, where we are willing to be honest with ourselves and each other about where we are struggling and need help, and where we aren’t afraid of what people are going to think of us. What if we lived a whole day like that? Do you feel the hope building inside of you at the thought of that freedom? Me too.
So let’s do it. This Monday, March 5, I am declaring a Day Without Fear. Challenge yourself to trust God in every aspect of your life. Talk to that person you’ve been meaning to. Tell someone that thing you’ve been meaning to say. Give that donation you’ve been meaning to give. Tell that person you love how special they are to you. Express you love for God in that way you’ve been afraid to. Go to that event you’ve been avoiding.
Ultimately, trust God and trust yourself. If you find yourself holding something back for fear of judgment, step into that fear and ask God to meet you there. The Israelites conquered kingdoms when they were fearless. Imagine what we could do.
Written by Chris Sherman