As tears rolled down my face at the playing of an old familiar song, one that, not but 3 years ago, I myself was using to lead my DTS peers into worship- a song that I sang with such passion and conviction, now could only be sung by tears. Tears which revealed the distance between that girl and the woman I am today.
"I'll follow You into the homes of the broken. I'll follow You into the world. Meet the needs of the poor and the needy God. I'll follow You into the world."
Once so convinced of what it meant to follow Him, so sure of where the homes of the broken existed, and so definite of what was required to meet the needs of the poor and needy... Now all such things have been placed on the chopping block and in my hands I find such tools as fit for examining, studying, and probing rather than for fixing.
In essence, I'm re-learning what it means to follow God because He is no longer requiring of me the things I once demanded of myself. For me, following God meant being a missionary and being a missionary meant being a martyr in some distant exotic land in some glamorous and sacrificial fashion. But now I'm learning that following Him looks much like simply being myself, being myself in the truest form- being the me He dreamed.
Now to be honest, I don't know what that is going to look like; all the plans I once had, don't really stand next to the lessons I've since learned and the experiences I've since had since I first sang that song. And to be honest, I don't really know what it means, exactly, for me to meet the needs of the poor and the needy because I don't yet know the need that I was made to answer. I used to resent my teachers who told me to find one need/issue that really bothered me because they all bothered me and, truthfully, I didn't want to do the intimate searching it required to find the answer; I didn't want to focus, I wanted to go.
I'm not who I was and sometimes that is a hard fact to accept. I cried because I'm not where I thought I'd be, doing what I thought I'd do; the comparison of which attempts to leave my present in a gloomy and dull shadow. It is hard to ignore what the church demands of us, what the world asks from us and what our leaders tell us. It's hard to be okay with being a little lost and undone in a culture that expects us to have it all figured out. But I think it's hardest to ignore what we demand of ourselves, what we ask from ourselves, what we tell ourselves and to allow ourselves to be a little lost and a little undone. Yet, in the midst of all that, we can still say, "I'll follow You into the homes of the broken. I'll follow You into the world. I'll meet the needs of the poor and the needy God. I'll follow You into the world." Regardless of whether we have it all sorted or not.
If there's anything I've learned from gardening it's that you farm the soil and not the plant. That if you have good healthy soil that you will naturally have a healthy plant. Every healthy plant has something to give, some have more than others that is required, but if their soil isn't looked after then they have nothing to offer. And so I'll slow down, letting the Lord continue to tend to my soil, because I think I gave more than was required, more than was good for me, and that left me in need of the care from a wise and seasoned Gardener. I will follow Him wherever He leads, I know that He knows that, and I'll give whatever I can but it will be done out of a far different place than it was being done before.
Stephanie Past would have sacrificed it all. 'You need fruit? -Here take my fruit. You need leaves? -Here take my leaves. You need branches? -Here take my branches. You need a trunk? -Here take my trunk....' I would have given it all until I had nothing left to give, rending me fit to go to my heavenly home. But I'm in this for the long haul because I've discovered a Gardener and a Father Who is invested in me for the long haul.
And so I will follow Him even into the homes of the healed, even into the homes of rest. I will follow Him round the corner. I will learn to receive when He tells me it's my turn and I will remain vulnerable and moveable for the days and moments He says give. I will follow Him even further inwards that I may know and understand who He is and who has made me to be that I may be that woman He dreamed and love Him back in a display that is not required or demanded but that is most natural, true and lovely.
May we rest in the grace to be okay with okay for the times we need okay to get to lovely. And in that find that lovely was in the journey just as much as it was in the finishing.