Well, I’m in the final days of being at home before I head off to New York City on Summer Project, and all I really know to say is that I can’t believe the time has finally come. While I wish my adventurous side was a little more, well, adventurous, the reality is that I often anticipate moments like this with great excitement up until right before they happen — and then, I’m ready to run away. While my fight-or-flight moment hasn’t come around yet (and who knows, maybe it won’t?), I know that initial fear will be so minimal compared to the joy I’m about to experience through fully devoting this time to the Lord this summer. In the midst of preparing for project, I’ve had a whirlwind of thoughts come through my head as I begin to think about the team I will join as well as the people I will meet while in the city, so this post is an (abridged) compilation of what has been going through my mind as I think and pray about this project.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” -C.S. Lewis
With all of the walls that God has broken down and all of the challenges He has presented me with these past few months, I have been put in a position to constantly ask Him why He was doing it and where on earth He wanted me to go. Often times, I felt like I was standing before Him with a stack of disappointing stories, hoping that He could just rewrite the endings of them all. Instead, He asked me to drop all of those stories as they were, because rewriting the endings would only leave me with the weight of false happiness — which can be far more dangerous to our faith than disappointments. I wouldn’t say that I’ve truly pushed all of my expectations to the side so that His can fill my heart fully, but I do know that if I had been presented with the same heart-changing situations even a year ago, I wouldn’t have been ready to tackle them with the same faith that I have now. And a year ago, I handled the situations that God put before me with far more trust in Him than I would have the year before. With every passing day, He is softening my heart more and more and just when I think that He’s pushed me as far as I can go, He tests my faith once more and shows me that He will always sustain me, even in the hardest of times.
That being said, the opportunity to go on this project has come at the perfect time. For those of you who were around when I considered going to Sweden last summer and ended up forgoing that opportunity, I think that it was actually a blessing in disguise — I may not have been in the right place to go on that trip last summer, and going on Summer Project last summer may have resulted in my pursuit of something different for this year. Don’t get me wrong, God still would have worked through me had I gone last summer, because He has no limits. But I use all of this to say that as I look back, it is so evident that the Lord has been preparing me for this summer long before I committed to go back in March.
Right now, all I can see in my head of what’s to come on this project is a chunk of time that will be spent in a city that I have been longing to return to since I went in December. I don’t know anything about the people I will meet or the conversations I will have; I’m not sure what challenges I’ll face or if I’ll shed tears over something either highly disappointing or overly joyful; I have no idea how deep of friendships I will form with the team of people who will be by my side throughout the entire project — but I can only hope (and sometimes with great hesitation, if we’re being honest) that I’ll have no other option but to look to God for everything I need to sustain me while on this project.
And for the people I will meet while I’m there — people who haven’t been able to experience all of the things I can talk about with such joy because I know Christ — I pray that the Lord is softening their hearts to hear the great news of the gospel. Last summer I had a friend who was about to go on a mission trip and I remember him feeling all of this pressure to have his testimony perfectly spelled out and to have all of the correct Scripture memorized, and I told him so confidently that he didn’t need to be overly stressed about it, because God was going to be with him in every conversation… all of a sudden, I’m the one who feels this overbearing pressure to become a Christian apologist overnight, and I continually have to remind myself that none of this depends on how many books or how much Scripture I can read because God can work through even the most broken of people.
For the longest time, I thought that God was going to build me into a comfortable cottage in which I could peacefully live out the rest of my life. But I think He’s just getting started on a new wing of His palace. So, here’s to being on the brink of an adventure in which I won’t return the same person. Oh, to be in a city I love serving the God I love among people who are desperate to know the One real love — I can’t wait. After my trip to the city this past winter, I ended my post with, “New York City, I’ll be back.” …and here we are.