I haven’t gotten the chance yet to talk about my time in France so far, so I will be doing that in a post within the next few days. I actually wanted to talk about a subject first that has been on my mind a lot recently.
Before flying down to Florida, probably the biggest thing that I was still going back and forth with a bit can be summed up by these two words: “What if?”
These are the words that basically define fear. They spin around in your head into dozens of possibilities and situations that imply…
You do not have control.
You are not prepared.
You may not be happy in the future.
And on and on….
Mine were admittedly not exactly what I would classify as debilitating concerns or ones that can take over your life, like “What if the economy collapses?”. I was very excited about what was to come, and just a little nervous. I am going to share with you, though, a few of the what if’s that went through my mind in the months preceding my departure overseas.
What if I get there and find that my teammates and I do not mesh well?
What if my very limited knowledge of the french language renders me completely useless?
What if I get sick, or something happens and I do not know what to do? And on that note, what if my stomach issues start getting out of control again?
What if I am so emotional from being separated from Grace (who I had been the nanny for up until this point) that I am not an effective team leader because I am such a wreck? And then everyone thinks I am a freak because not only can I not express myself in french, but I can’t even keep my emotions in check? I am going to set an even worse rep for Americans than we have already.
Okay, enough of that now. I exaggerated just a tad. But, for the most part, one or more of these thoughts would occasionally pass through my mind as I was going through the process of fundraising, saying goodbye to my friends (who have basically turned into family) in Chapel Hill, and moving to Charlotte. Having lived there for five years, that was another “what if”…a What if I am supposed to stay here after all?
Once again in Florida these thoughts would occasionally occur to me while externally I was busy trying to meet everyone, remember their names, and get as much as I could out of the seminars and discussions.
Side note- I just glanced down at my playlist, and realized the album title of my current song is “Nothing Left to Fear”. It’s getting me pumped.
Anyway, I believe it was the day before we were flying out that I watched a sermon on my computer from Elevation Church called “Running From Your Life”, from the Room 101 series. I highly recommend watching it sometime, as Steven Furtick does a fantastic job of explaining everything. I admit it’s kind of funny that I watched a sermon on my break between what were, essentially, sermons, at orientation.
So basically the funny story goes like this: the messages from Elevation are typically somewhere around 50 minutes long. (They go by shockingly fast.) I was able to get about halfway through this particular one before I knew I had to leave for the next session. I hadn’t been taking notes really, but honestly was thinking of restarting the whole thing all over again later because I was getting so much out of it. At this point my thoughts were something along the lines of “Man! I don’t want to stop listening to this! Oh well, I need to try and focus on this new, upcoming message instead.”
This is where God’s timing gets pretty interesting. You recall how above I said that the what if’s were my primary concern when entering in on this trip, and I had been continuing to think about them? And now that I didn’t really want to have this first sermon interrupted?
Well, essentially, it wasn’t.
I entered into the chapel only to hear a message from a pastor named Mitchel Lee, who, in terms of his age and so forth, is similar to Pastor Furtick. They both have a lot of energy, do not use many notes, are young and expressive, and guide churches in their own walks with Christ.
Well, on this particular morning they both also had pretty much the exact same sermon in common. And later when I told Mitchel this story with a laugh, he was pretty blown away and wanted to hear the Elevation version as well.
They both were based around Daniel 3:16-18, talked about the What Ifs and fears, how God has shown us unconditional reserve, and how the two words to conquer these thoughts are “Even If”.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
This verse right here pretty much sums up the definition of faith, if “what if” defines fear: God has the ability and the desire to save, but even if He doesn’t, because our interpretations of what would rescue us are not always the best ways in God’s eyes, we will worship Him regardless of the benefits it brings us.
Often people go back and forth between objective and subjective praise and faith. We view God in different lights depending on whether good or bad things happen to use. We offer praise in certain circumstances or situations, and do not in others. A wish of ours turns into an expectation, which then with time turns into a demand. And then, to continue the pattern of using two words, this is where the “If Only” comes into play.
“God if only you would give me a husband/wife, then I would have the support I need to _______.”
“God if only you would let me get into this school, then I would be able to do great things for your ministry.”
And so forth. Essentially, our contingency plans, conditions and desires cover up our lack of security, and our need for constant reassurance and love that only God Himself can provide. But we don’t want to take risks. We don’t want to give up the control. I am generalizing here, I realize, but as a group, humans don’t want to just flat out say “God, I am not enough, and I need you. I can’t meet all of my needs based on my own efforts no matter what I try, it seems, and I want to rely on you.”
The question to ask yourself is “Even If”.
Even if I never get promoted, am I willing to stay in this rather mundane job because it allows me to do something for the glory of God?
Even if I never get married, will I still follow God with my whole heart?
Even if I never have children, will I fulfill God’s instructions by pouring out my love and affection to others who desperately need it?
And so forth. Hearing this same message back to back within about a ten minute time frame, it was really emphasized to me how much I needed it. I need to play through my what if’s in order to conquer them.
For example, just to pick one from the spring:
What if our team doesn’t get along, and this causes friction or unpleasantness for the summer?
Well, then I guess we will just try and find each other’s strengths, delegate responsibilities, and try and agree that we are all working towards a common goal. We wouldn’t have to be best friends, but would always try to show each other courtesy and respect. God does not call us to like everyone, but we are called to love everyone. And at the end of it all, it is only for two months, and then we can go our separate ways, hopefully having made accomplishments as a group.
(Not trying to say that my team doesn’t get along right now :). Just using it as an example.)
I realize that this was a very minor fear, and most things are not quite so short-term or simple. The same concept applies no matter what the situation, because fear is simply the absence of putting your trust in God to handle things.
Even if _____ happens, I will worship God.
Even if I go through _______, God is with me, and while I may not be immediately delivered from it, He will get me through it.
This means having the strength to say that no good or bad experiences will make God any less glorious, any less good, or any less loving.
It means having the trust and faith that God will use you exactly how He wants when you open your heart, ask Him to come in, and make the changes He wants to see in the world happen through you!