As of late, it’s rare for me to write two posts in a month, let alone in a single week. But as of yesterday, I’ve been working at the Mission for exactly a year, so I thought it might be fun (maybe not the right word, but the one I’m going to stick with) to look back at how I got where I am now.
Last year, I was a campus missionary in training, trying to figure out what in the world I was supposed to do with my life. I knew that I wanted to be in a place where I could love people and tell them about Jesus, but I wasn’t sure which people I was supposed to love. The obvious answer, of course, is “everyone”, but that seemed too broad…
So I prayed for a more focused answer. Then I talked to my parents, my friends, my roommates, the girls in my Bible study, co-workers, other campus pastors, random people I met on campus, etc. And then, I prayed some more.
After a few agonizing months of indecision, I realized that it didn’t really matter where I landed. As long as I was following the Lord and earnestly seeking His will for my life, I was probably going to end up in a good place. Once I realized that, things became way less stressful.
Around that same time, one of my best friends told me that there was a job opening at a Mission in my hometown. I laughed at her, because I knew there was NO WAY I was moving back. I was headed for bigger and better things.
But those bigger and better things kept falling by the wayside, as I was quietly reminded that it wasn’t about what I wanted at all. The adventures that I wanted to take were, in a strange way, safer and more comfortable than going back home.
Because for me, heading home meant that I would have to fight against people’s perceptions. I would have to prove to those who knew me that my years away had changed me, that Jesus really had done a good work in me, and that was something that I didn’t feel up to doing. I wanted to go somewhere new where I could reinvent myself, where I wouldn’t have to deal with silent judgement and the constant questioning about whether or not I was really any different.
I was reminded, though, of 1 Timothy 1:15-17.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
I was shown mercy so that people would see the change in me. My life is meant to be an example, as are the lives of everyone who is following Jesus. I was forgiven and changed so that people would look at me and realize that He really does work miracles. I’m not saying that I’m done being changed, because really, I’m reminded daily (sometimes even hourly!) of how far I have yet to go, of how many things in me still need to be refined.
And so, I came back. I started spending time with people who’ve found themselves in a tough spot. And I began to realize just how much Jesus wanted me back here, wanted me to see for myself how much I have changed, wanted me to see how much being here would change me even further.
Because I’ve realized how much I am able to love these people unconditionally. Even when things are crazy and the shelter is completely full like it has been lately, and so I feel like I can’t give everyone the time and energy they deserve from me, I love them. Even when they ask me about something that I just spent 20 minutes explaining, or they get gum all over the sidewalks that I then have to scrape, or they for some reason find it impossible to follow even the simplest of rules, I love them. That is definitely not something I would have been able to say a year ago.
And so, as I head into Year 2 (of many, hopefully), I’m excited for the things that God is going to keep teaching me, and I’m really excited about getting to keep hanging out with and loving on the people here.