But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
Here it goes.
Have you ever deliberately, intentionally, and self-righteously disobeyed God?
I’m not talking about a blip of gossip, a white lie, or a mistake you made when you were 14. I’m boldly, without reservation, referring to those times when you find enough audacity to stand up to God and shout
There is something I have been holding onto for nearly a year and a half now. If there is anything I’ve learned – especially in my twenties – it’s that we all have something. We put these shameful secrets deep in our hearts, we carry burdens we refuse to let go, and we wage fear in our mind as excuses for self-doubt. That’s right, we might try and paint a pretty picture on the outside, but let’s be real. We all got somethin’.
Like a sinner with a stone, it conceitedly led me back to work in Rwanda and it almost kept me there.
I don’t think God wasn’t leading me back to Rwanda; in fact, I think God wanted me serving that country. However, I had an inch and took a mile, so to speak. I omnisciently took control and established my own way of going back, for my own purposes, without being led there in God’s time.
Then, to the surprise of many, I came home.
I disguised my reasons like a magician hiding his own tricks; oh, my duty is done; I’ve given all the service I could and it just wasn’t for me anymore. I want to establish myself with my family; my brother is suffering and I need to help him and my parents….
These are all lies that turn into self-deception as a way to conceal something significantly deeper. Yes, I did need to come home after my work this summer in Kigali, but truth be told, it had a lot more to do with God’s wrath and disappointment in my refusal to follow His way.
God spoke to me today. I’m being serious. I spent hours in my room, on my knees, crying, feeling a sense of Jesus saying, listen! Follow this command and I will lead you. You will work here, live here, serve me.
But you must do this one thing.
I thought I could obey. I intended to obey. But a month went by, and I went in reverse and I told Jesus, “nah, I got this, I think I’m right.”
I can see Him shaking His head now.
My rejection of God’s will created a dark corner of shame in my heart. For turning away, yes, but also for the very iniquities that had plagued much of my soul. Few knew about what had happened, and outside of God himself, nobody knew the extent. Though God had created a perfectly wonderful path for me to follow my heart’s deepest dream, I knew I couldn’t go. Not because it wasn’t right, but because I had earlier said “no” to God and what resulted was spiritual havoc.
Let me be clear, God IS love and God will always welcome us back with grace and mercy. But should we carry ourselves higher, serving our self-seeking desires and thinking we know best, WE WILL FALL. We will suffer. Because His glory must trump the glory we often build from the very lies we create.
I said no and soon, a pervasive, scary, and gut-attacking demon came into my life. Flushed in my anxiety, nightmares, and soul, I had to run back to Colorado.
Yes, Rwanda could be hard to live in at times, and it isn’t often a dreamed about paradise for most, but I want to proclaim now that my return home had very little to do with career goals, service dreams, vocation, or desire. I was spiritually malnourished and broken and Rwanda requires the spiritually strong. When I was a volunteer back in 2011-2013 in Ruramira, God soaked my life. Drenched in the Holy Spirit, I found a treasure I had not ever known. That’s what I initially wanted to seek in my return. God. Yet, my own manipulations took over and God realized that if I stayed yet again, I would be doing it for my own will, not His. I wasn’t quite ready. This, you see, was heart-breaking.
God sets His ways and we waltz on in, thinking we can handle it. Disaster ensues. We use words of faith but follow suit in actions of disbelief. We refuse to relinquish the rights to our life, and until we make that move, what is it that God can do? The author of the universe He can have his way; but the difference of Christianity from other religions is that He wants us to want it. What good would his Son’s death be if we had no choice but to come to Him?
Our pastor said it perfectly today at church: God gives us enough to believe but never enough to make us believe.
I said “no” to God, turned away, and I absolutely paid a price.
In the two months that I have been back, I’ve moved into my own little place with a kind roommate and dirt trails that lead to more hilly trails for running. We have a patio that I often use for writing and reading on quiet mornings. More than this, I have found God again, and yet even more than this, I am being made new in Jesus, Himself.
Previously, I returned from Africa wide-eyed and unsure. Shocked by the stark cultural, economic, and social conditions, I was paralyzed, grabbing for anything that I could. With no direction, I didn’t turn to God, I turned inward and focused on each and every opportunity that I would do or the school I would study at or the populations I would serve. And you guessed it, because the Lord saw it too. Come down from there, child, get off your pedestal. I may be called into service but if I pursue it, it must be because of God’s grace and love, not my own. A self-serving job of service is just what it looks like: hypocritical.
This time around, it’s different. My spiritual upheaval this last go-around in Rwanda encouraged me to move outwardly for Him. To trust.
Orchestrating a peculiarly wonderful circumstance, I am engaged in a community group with 12 other 20 & 30 year olds seeking to serve Christ. My co-leader is Rwandan and another woman who is informally acting as a self-appointed mentor for me, has parents who lived in Siberia as missionaries for years.
My new church home has representation from multitudes of countries and cultures. The worship feels gospel-influenced with no one afraid of praising with raised hands and grateful, beautiful voices. The sermons are loving but not soft. They challenge me. Enlighten me. The Word of God has come alive and I see now how all of this – the roads that brought me here – are to equip. Like God’s people in the early church until now, we are called for a purpose. God will use us to glorify Him.
Divine often told me “buretse sha” in nearly all we did. In cooking, walking, praying, and in sipping chai tea. “Wait, my dear,” wait and find rest. Lately, when I have found myself on my knees, yet again, God has reminded me of the very same things, “be quiet, be still, make no plans. I have something for you.”
I encourage you to stop and listen if you are reading this. When you are commanded, GO. Do not refuse.
I am blessed to have stability both in job and home as I am rocked to the core as a Christian. Something is coming and God is preparing me. You can’t serve if you don’t submit. So here I am, waiting. I’ve ripped up all the plans I have had, had plan to make, and wanted to make for the near future. Everything – poof! I’m giving and deferring this all to God. The dreams I have and the goals I’ve built; should I put these hopes into my love for Jesus, I have faith they will come when the time is right. And if they don’t it’s because it wasn’t His ultimate plan for my life. I’ve been burnt, bruised, and a bit frayed on the edges, but Jesus will make all things renewed and ready – even you and me. We are called. Will you come?
I am the vine and My father is the gardener.
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while ever branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you.
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me…
This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
(John 15: 1-4; 8)