Ever since I was a child I knew that I was destined for incredible things. Of course, in my young mind, those things were greatly romanticized and exaggerated. I pictured myself writing best sellers, traveling the world staying just a few steps behind adventure, intrigue, and international wars, and then coming home to spin the stories for others to read. I saw myself dancing, singing, acting, writing, painting- you name it- and I was proficient at pretty much everything I set my heart on. Of course, as a child I did not put much thought into how I would become proficient at any of it, I just somehow thought I would be. Somehow I thought these grand things would make a difference and I thought that I would have to achieve these things to be a somebody. The thing is, anybody can be great. Anybody can do great things, and it doesn't require becoming famous or inventing new technology. World changers are regular people living regular lives. Our heritage is in our relationships, not our accomplishments. We can make the biggest impact by just living our lives, loving others, and doing our best to make this world a little nicer of a place to live in.
I may have once had grandiose ideas of what I was called to do and be in life, but what I ended up becoming was much greater than I could have imagined.
When I was a teenager my dreams of becoming a figure skater or an astronaut had faded into seeking after what God's call on my life was. Being surrounded by so many strong Christian people who loved me and learning all I could about what the Bible had to say about God's call, I felt that I was perhaps called of God to become a missionary. I was beginning to feel conflicted, however. I wanted to be a part of that Great Commission.
Matthew 28:18-20 "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen." (NIV)
This is reinforced in Mark as well. Mark 16:15 simply says, "And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (NAS)
So, I knew I had to tell other people about God and his love for us. And the logical thing for me to do was enroll in a Bible college and fulfill that call. I pictured myself living the remote jungles of a country whose name I couldn't pronounce, running an orphanage and school, teaching those children about the love of God. But for some reason I still felt the draw toward writing and acting. And in my mind at that point in my life I figured I couldn't do both. It was either one or the other. I could either stay in the states and write novels or I could travel abroad and be a missionary.
Off to Bible school I went. And boy, was I miserable. I struggled to fit into this new world of all or nothing. It seemed that no matter what I did, there was always something I was doing wrong and nothing was ever good enough. Whether these were expectations that I was putting on myself or expectations others put on me, it did not matter. I was struggling to understand what it was I needed to be doing and why I even went to that school. Life was not easy at that point in my life and I was quickly learning who I was and what I wanted out of life- and yes, what God even wanted for me- even if other people disagreed or did not see it. I had to take my life in my own hands and do the unexpected. I admit that the choices I made that followed this revelation were rash and mostly built on extreme emotions, nor would I recommend that for anyone.
So, here I was, in the heart of my first year at Bible College, dragging my feet and wanting to run the other way. The thing with the Great Commission is, it was instructions for all the world- not part of it. A person does not have to go to the far reaches of Africa and preach to remote tribes to fulfil the Call of God on their life. We can look in our own backyards. I also learned that being set apart did not mean isolate myself. I could still go to movies with my friends or listen to the music I liked, even if it wasn't always Newsboys, but sometimes the Beatles. I could still do theatre and write stories and make a difference in the lives of my friends. I began to adopt the ideas of St Francis of Assisi, "Preach the gospel to every creature, and if necessary, use words" and Mother Theresa, "If you judge people, then you have no time to love them." Powerful words from powerful people. But, God was not done with me yet.
In another twist of fate, I dropped out of Bible college. Actually, I purposely failed out. There were reasons, and some of them were ugly and not very wise, but there you have it. I failed out on purpose. I threw myself into a job and community theatre. I spent as much of my time with Seth, as at that point in my life, he was one of the few people that actually understood why I did what I did. I think that while other people didn't understand, and even some were disappointed in me, they all knew that sometimes people need to make mistakes in order to learn from them and grow. And that is what I was doing.
And then the trade towers in NYC were attacked by terrorists. I was making deliveries when I heard it on the radio. I thought it was some sick joke the morning show on the Oldies station was playing until I got to the dentist office I was delivering to and saw the surreal images of the second plane hitting the second building. About a month later Seth and I were married and a month after that Seth was off to boot camp and our lives would forever be changed. We were 20 years old, still trying to figure out life, but not wanting to do it alone.
And then I became a mother. This was a far cry from my lofty dreams of my childhood. I was changing diapers and cuddling an infant. And the words of Pastor David at my high school graduation ceremony came flooding back. He said, "The thing I like about you, Crystal, is that you get it." You get it. I had forgotten he had said that. I got what the Bible had to say, I got what this life was about. I got it. "And at the risk of scaring you half to death, you will be able to teach it to your children." I can't remember the exact words of what else he had said, but yea, he did scare me when he talked of me becoming a mother. But, here I was, a mother. And I had forgotten what it was that I got. So, here was a new plan before me. To be the best mother I could be and teach my children about God and his love. I was to raise a child to be a good member of society and what it means to be a follower of God. And it would begin with me cuddling that small little baby girl.
But life hasn't always been easy. Seth and I had been through a mess of our own troubles. We made mistakes together and learned and grew from those mistakes. I sought after God for comfort and guidance, and had long forgotten that there was ever a call on my life. Seth struggled in his own way, and even found himself running from God.
We found ourselves at a crossroads, both hurting. I was ready to give up, and I felt that my years of praying had gone unanswered. Seth was ready to fight for us. It seemed as if our positions had been reversed, but I conceded and we worked hard and got help. I had found that I was much like Jonah and that I was now in my very own proverbial whale learning hard lessons about myself and revelations about God's love and compassion. What I had not yet realized was that Seth was in the middle of his own Jonah story. He had been called of God a long time ago for great things, but had been running ever since. How is it that we were in the same story, but had no idea?
His fish was the ship he was stationed on. It was full of challenges and temptations, and the perfect place to hide from God. While I threw myself back into musical theater, and even enrolled in college in pursuit of a degree in psychology, Seth found himself suddenly in a position of spiritual leadership. He had become the Lay Leader aboard the ship, running Sunday services and a Bible study for his shipmates. Seth. There was a change in his life. A huge one. My prayers were finally being answered. We were getting stronger as a couple. And our focus was starting to be back where it should be.
Then the time came again where we needed to put in the request for our next duty station. My heart longed to be back on the Cape. Seth was not as convinced, but after praying about it, we put that as our first choice. We were told it was unlikely that he would get a repeat station, especially after spending the last 7 years in New England. And yet, here we are. We got the Cape again, and were back among friends. We got plugged into our church. Seth got involved in an internship program at the church and admitted that he felt we were back here for a big reason, but that he wasn't sure what it was.
Over the last year we faced some tough things, but nothing can derail us of what purpose God has for us. Something happens when God's people start listening and making choices based on what God wants for us. Satan hates it, and will do everything in his power to stop it. He likes to sew doubt and discord, but no matter what circumstances- from hospital visits, swine flu, and financial struggles, we have put our faith and trust in God. And through it all, God has carried us and led us through. Satan tried to sabotage friendships before they even had a chance to begin, but he failed. He failed miserably. Those friendships have not only budded, they have blossomed into a whole freaking rain forest.
Then I ran into some troubles with my school in regards to graduation. I had to wait and wait before I could finish my program and graduate. I am still waiting, actually, but plan on focusing on God all the while. The timing couldn't have been better. That Something Big that we knew God brought us to the Cape for as finally showed itself. I am returning to Bible College. This time I will be attending Forestdale Bible Institute and earning my Bachelors in Ministry. The purpose is to someday use my education and knowledge in counseling for those who need it. The call on my life is to make a difference, and that is huge. I believe we are all called to make a difference. The trick is being able to understand that we are not all called to be inventors or to write the Great American Novel (I think Twain pretty much beat us all to the punch anyway), but we are all called to interact with other people. This is where the difference comes in. God wants me to make a difference. I can do that. My ministry can work hand in hand with whatever Seth's ministry calling is too. It is hard to see where this will lead us, but it looks like it might be along the lines of church planting. Who knows. We are attending Bible college together and finally answering separate calls of God on our lives, but in a unified manner. This time, no matter how scared I get, I am not running. I will not focus on what other people think I need to do, nor will I put unrealistic expectations on myself. No one belongs on a pedestal- its a hard long fall from up there. I know this all too well. So here I am, real and exposed, doing my best as a flawed human to follow a perfect God. Our ministry will be for regular people by regular people, living the extraordinary lives that God intended. Crazy how things come full circle.
Some people believe in destiny or fate. I personally believe that it is our job to forge our own fates or destiny. I believe that God has given us free will, but the trick is, what do we do with that? I believe God has a plan for every single person, but because we are people with free will, we might not always choose to go in the direction that God has intended. The neat thing about it is, however, that for those of us who are faithful in seeking after God, he can set us right, or at least make good things come out of not so good situations. This is clear in Romans 8:28: "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (NLT) People are flawed and sometimes make poor choices and selfish decisions, but ultimately we can learn from them. Perhaps these things that make up our life stories and testimonies can be tools to connect to other people. Perhaps the mistakes we make and the troubles we find ourselves overcoming can ultimately bring others to God. So, perhaps this is our ultimate calling or purpose. Perhaps we are put on this earth to live our lives and be human, making mistakes and learning from them, so that other people can see how God can work and change lives; so that other people can have a relationship with God too.
Here we are, on our way to Nineveh.