I grew up in a loving family with my dad, mom, and my two sisters. We went to church every Sunday, and I was the picture of a “good church kid.” I put my faith in Christ’s salvation when I was in second grade, but it really didn’t mean a whole lot to me then. The worst thing anyone could ever say to me was “I’m disappointed in you,” and I lived my life in hopes of never hearing that phrase. I was striving to be the perfect kid. I knew all the Sunday school answers, never got in trouble, and got good grades.
I was a huge people pleaser. I would do anything to make sure that peace was kept in any situation and that nobody was mad at me. The word “no” was not in my vocabulary. I felt so guilty saying “no” to someone that I just wouldn’t. I would rather take on a hundred new responsibilities than turn someone down. I rarely said what I truly felt and often felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I wanted so badly to be accepted by others. It was a delicate front I kept up: changing who I was to fit into whatever group I was around at the time. And through it all, nobody really knew the real me. Some days I didn’t even feel like I did. This kept up through high school. I still went to church every week, still knew all the answers, but still felt empty inside.
God was working in my heart at that time, and near my senior year in high school, I went to a conference called LIFE with my youth group. It was there for the first time in my life I felt like I truly connected with God and saw how much He loved me. I realized that God’s love for us was unending. He sent His son Jesus Christ to die for our sins, in our place. I knew I deserve death for the bad things that I’ve done, but God has given a free gift of salvation. All we need to do is accept it. I realized my true need for Him, but had yet to let Him have complete control of my life. I still had tight control on my future and what I wanted to do with my life.
The summer before my freshman year in college approached, and I continued to feel lonely. I had friends and community, but I felt if people knew who I truly was, they wouldn’t really accept me. Stevens Point wasn’t my first choice in schools. In fact, I didn’t want to come here at all. Coming to college, I was terrified. I didn’t know if I was going to make any friends because I was so awkwardly insecure. I got involved in Cru and the Bible Study in my dorm, but I found myself on the fringes more often than not. I longed for community, but vulnerability was not an easy thing for me. I slowly started making friends, especially at Cru’s Fall Retreat, and looking back, I now know that God had His hand in the whole situation, and there wasn’t a better place I could have gone to college.
My sister had gone on a summer project (an extended missions trip) to North Myrtle Beach the summer before I started college, and she would not stop talking about it. I was curious as to what a project entailed and decided to sign up, avoiding North Myrtle Beach (NMB) as an option, simply because that was where my sister had gone. My whole life had been following in my sisters’ footsteps, from high school to college and everything in between. Though NMB sounded like a fantastic project, I let my pride get in the way of applying. God had other plans for me though. I didn’t get accepted to the project I applied for, and I was devastated. I put summer project out of my head and decided to pursue other options for the summer. A few months later, I got a call from one of the staff in NMB, offering me a spot on the project, I prayerfully accepted, without knowing that I was headed for the best summer of my life.
Going on project was something I was excited for, but also terrified of. There were going to be 100 students and 30 staff, and I only knew four people. In a few short weeks, they became my brothers and sisters. Not saying that the summer was easy, I was stretched to the extreme. I was encouraged to be vulnerable, and let people into my life. I had thought admitting I didn’t have it all together would isolate me from others, but in reality, the opposite happened. In our vulnerability, we bonded as a group and could encourage one another in our struggles. I also learned about how extremely broken we are as people and how great our need for God is. I was pushed out of my comfort-zone in a close community that was striving for the Lord. Yes, I was uncomfortable sometimes, yes there were times I just wanted to turn around and go home. But I wouldn’t trade my experience in NMB for anything in the world. I learned so much about God’s truly unending love and acceptance for me, no matter how awkward and insecure I feel. I learned about our call to be continually spreading the gospel. I learned so much about our broken world through the wonderful opportunity I had to co-lead the Prayer and World Vision Team over the summer. Once again, God knew exactly what He was doing when He put me in NMB instead of where I planned for myself.
My career plans have changed and I now want to go into full-time ministry of some sort. God calls us all to different career paths, but His will is that we are reaching out to others wherever we end up while following Him. This isn’t to say that following God’s will for your life will always be easy. A few weeks after getting home from project, one of the friends I had made that summer passed away in a car accident. The whole project was shaken, and we all wondered why. Through all my questioning and doubts, God is still sovereign, and His will is better than anything we could plan for ourselves. I want to encourage you guys to be open to anything God may be calling you to. It may not be what you want at the time, but His plan for our lives is so much greater. I still struggle with people pleasing and my insecurities, but I now know that God has accepted me right where I am, no matter how I feel. His grace, love and acceptance are unending. I want to leave you with one of my favorite verses, Zephaniah 3: 17 “The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing”. This verse gives me great encouragement, because I know that I don’t have to please people anymore and I don’t have to work to gain acceptance from God. He is pleased with us just as we are.