On May 6th, 2010, I wrote down a prayer to God telling Him that I felt like I was being pulled so fast toward my future, and that I felt like I was at risk of forsaking so many important things to get there just so that I could find a tentative sense of security in a plan I had complete control of. The legend is true: I had mapped out my life at 7 years-old, and up until that point, I figured I had done pretty well making my way down my checklist of ambitions.
As many of you know, God brought us to our knees the next day when we found out that dad’s cancer had returned. Since that day, I can say that the Holy Spirit has manifested itself in a completely different way in my life, a way that makes me crave stronger faith and desire a servant’s heart.
I can’t help but think of the story in Matthew 4:18-20, where the Bible tells us of the calling of Jesus’ first disciples:
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
That last sentence always gets me. We don’t get an explanation of their thought process or a detailed justification of their actions. They just left what they had been doing and followed Jesus. They might’ve thought they were secure in what they were doing as members of a fairly lucrative career in a society that depended on fish to eat. It was probably what they had expected to do for the majority of their life. But then there’s this glorious interruption.
About a year ago, I was confronted with that same command: “Come, follow me.” I never would’ve expected the call of God to come and transform my life and desires like it did. He met me at a time of pain and brokenness after losing my father, and He began to show me that no obedient child of God was too weak to bear the burden of a call to serve the Kingdom in ministry.
Since then, I feel like God has allowed me to go to those places that humble me, grow me, stretch me, push me, and test me. Beyond just preaching the Word of God, coming to understand the breadth and depth of ministry and servant leadership has brought me to a place where I can’t imagine doing anything else.
It took me a long time to accept the God-given ability to preach and share the gospel. I fought it, and I fought it hard. I struggled with doubts, insecurities, and opinions. I think the classroom had been the only place I had ever really felt fully confident. My grades and my success academically drove me. In fact, success became nearly all-consuming. But as I drew nearer to God and servanthood and began to realize the irrefutability of a call to ministry on my life, it became an exhausting feat to walk away from where God wanted me. There were times when I would feel mentally and physically worn down, nearly sick to my stomach, trying to make myself at peace with going away and abandoning the pursuit and preparation for ministry. Perhaps I was grieving the Spirit as I continued to pray for clarity, feel the urging from Jesus to move in the direction of ministry, and consistently choose to walk away from it.
I express all of that to say that my decisions for my future are not impulsive or unmotivated. I explored many universities, enjoyed the experience, and worked incredibly hard to maintain my success academically. But at the end of the day, that’s all I ever saw: my success. I had positioned myself for a constant pursuit of an unattainable level of success, and had never once considered fulfillment. I came to realize that to hear my Heavenly Father tell me before His throne “Well done, good and faithful servant” is more precious than any acceptance letter can ever be.
I was blessed and privileged to receive an acceptance letter from Princeton University, along with nearly a full scholarship to attend their institution for four years. I am incredibly grateful for the school’s generosity, and I understand the value the world places on that opportunity. But I know in my heart the decision that glorifies God and gives me peace is the decision to decline their offer and attend the University of North Florida.
I have received a very generous scholarship offer from UNF that would provide me with the funds necessary to participate in an internship/leadership college program through Celebration Church. It would also allow me to save up money, and attend seminary debt-free if I choose to after finishing my undergraduate education and internship. God has opened the doors for me to pursue His call on my life, and I am incredibly excited about all the opportunities to practically prepare myself for ministry in a church that calls out and develops leaders under some incredible pastors.
Thank you to everyone who has been persistent in prayer for this decision. Some people, including my friends, family, teachers, pastors, and church leaders have been incredibly patient and helpful in encouraging me to seek God’s will. I am blessed beyond measure to have those people in my life, and I cannot express how much their support has and will continue to mean to me.
For the first time in over a year, I feel at peace about my future. I am waiting expectantly for what God is going to do. I know I have so very much to learn about ministry and preaching and leadership, and I know that God has to continue to help me work out my own shortcomings and insecurities and dependence on myself.
To close, a little light reading:
"'Not called!' did you say? 'Not heard the call,' I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father's house and bid their brothers and sisters, and servants and masters not to come there. And then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish his mercy to the world."