project NYC: in the face of defeat.

I can’t believe that it’s already the time to say this, but we’re officially at the halfway point of our time on project. It’s going by so quickly! While there are a lot of things I miss about North Carolina (like being there to cheer our baseball team on to Omaha- go Heels!), there is something about New York City that will always hold a special place in my heart. This past week has been filled with a number of great experiences:

Seeing Annie on Broadway:

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Hurricane Sandy Relief Project:

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Mets Game:

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Walking the Brooklyn Bridge:

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However, being on project with a mission as challenging as this one doesn’t cease to bring obstacles. This week, I faced the hard realities of both apathy and rejection as we visited college campuses. After several really great conversations with students at the beginning of the week, I experienced most of my time on Wednesday having students tell me that they didn’t have time to talk. I completely understand the busyness that accompanies school, but it’s hard to hear people say over and over again that they just don’t have the time to talk about Jesus. When I finally did approach a girl who was willing to talk, she told me that she believed in God, but she didn’t believe in living for Him — her exact words were, “Well if I’m living for God then I’m not going to have any time to live for myself.” What I’ve found in these statements is a sadness that I can’t even explain, because these people think they know God when they’re missing out on such a big part of what He gives us when we have a personal relationship with Him.

Thursday only exposed my weaknesses and inhibitions even more — after a significant number of rejections from students, my partner and I sat down to talk to two girls who were excited to tell us that they believed in God too. It would’ve been easy to say, “okay, great!” and walk away from them being happy and content that they believed in God, but our mission with Cru (and as Christians overall) isn’t about counting heads but to help people understand that God wants a living and personal relationship with us, and we can only find that in Jesus Christ. So we continued to ask questions, and as we continued to talk to these girls it became evident that they saw God as their assistant, not as their Lord and Savior.

I told them the story of the girl who told me that she would rather live for herself and asked them what they would have said in that situation. One girl said she wanted to live for both; the other one said herself, because if she’s living for Christ, then it’s His life and not hers. My partner asked them if they believed that Christ knew them before they were born — they said they didn’t know. I asked them if they believed Christ was thinking of them personally when He hung on the cross — they said no. They said they saw God as someone who guides them, but not as someone who deserves their entire life.

I told them my story and that I used to believe the same thing because it was such an easy thing to buy into, but that understanding that God really did want all of me changed my entire life. At that point in our conversation, they had voluntarily told us that they believed the Bible to be true and they believed in Heaven. So I asked them (with a boldness that only God could have given me in that moment) if, when they got to Heaven and stood before a holy and mighty God, they would be completely content in saying, “I’m glad I chose to let you assist my life rather than lead it.” They said yes.

My partner pulled out her Bible and read Psalm 139:13-16, which says that God knew them before they were born; she then read John 14:6, which says that Jesus is the only way to having a personal relationship with God. Once the second verse was read, one of the girls stacked her survey cards, handed them back to us, and said, “Well, I don’t believe that.” We told them that it’s okay they didn’t believe it, because there are times when we fail to believe that every day. They told us that it was “nice” that we believed what we did, but we should be careful about who we share our beliefs with, because not everyone would be as nice as them.

My partner and I walked out of the dining hall in complete silence — I had tears welling up in my eyes and we both just nodded when we asked each other if we were okay. On the subway ride back, I thought about why I was so upset — those girls made me into something I’m not. They made me out to be an extremist, someone who is irrational about the way we should see the purpose of life in today’s culture. It cut me pretty deep, because in reality I came here to tell people a truth that no one else would tell them — a truth that would set them free.

I think it’s natural to feel all of those things in the face of rejection, but what should have bothered me more is that they were making God into something that He is not; that is way more important than what they think of me. And if it hurts me to be rejected by strangers, how much more does it hurt Him when the people He loves — the people He died to know — reject Him?

I experience times in which I’m just as guilty as those girls for putting myself on the throne before Christ — this project isn’t about me. It’s about Him. And as the days and weeks pass by, I continue to find that I need the Lord so much more than I could even imagine. In the first week, we would experience minor “defeats” in conversations with students and when my partner would suggest that we pray about it, I definitely didn’t approach it with an “I need you, Lord” attitude. This past week, however, when we got rejected time and time again, I stopped in the middle of the hallway and told my partner, “This is the devil trying to get the best of us; we need to pray right now.” If there’s one thing I can promise from these experiences, it’s this: God never fails. And He never leaves us when we ask for His counsel.

How grateful are we to serve a God who always fights on our behalf? The Lord is good, y’all. And with a God as powerful as Him, the defeats that I’ve experienced this week are barely even notable when it comes to the story that God is writing for His people. So bring on the challenges — they’re not my battles to fight anyway.

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”
-Matthew 24:6

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