I am sitting with my notebook, pen in hand. I want to write something from my life that will be helpful and encouraging to other people who are struggling in similar ways that I have in the past. It has been quite a while since I have written anything.
I want God to use me. The desire in my heart for God to use me and the struggles I have been through is so strong that I am always thinking of how God could do that. One of my thoughts is that God can use my writing. My mind is not cooperating though. I think of a topic that I want to write about, but the actual words stop before my pen can write anything down. I have so many ideas, but they remain there, as an idea. It is as if God is not allowing my mind to go forward.
I have other ideas of ways that God can use me. I want to speak. I want to come along side those who are struggling. I want to break stigma. I want to start healing groups. I want to share my story. I have lived through depression. I have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and have learned how to still thrive in my life. I have found hope in God's unconditional love for me, and I want God to use me to help and encourage others to get help and find hope.
These ways that I have for God using my life do not seem to be happening in the time frame that I had thought that they would. I have taken steps by getting trained. I have volunteered. I have prayed. I thought that things would be happening sooner. The truth is that I am frustrated. I believe my desires are from God, but it is hard to have so many doors seemingly closed. Is God going to do anything else with my life?
As I am thinking about my desire to be of service to others and the steps I have been purposely taking toward ministering to others, I am reminded of a few things that have happened in my past that may apply to my current situation. The first is of when I wanted God to use me as a missionary to tell people in other countries about Jesus. I wanted God to use me in a place that other Christians might not want to go. I wanted to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, specifically I wanted to do this in Africa.
I went to Bible College to prepare to be a missionary. I made friends with all the African and other international students. I went to an African church each Sunday. For my senior project, I chose to do research and make a strategy on how a specific group of African people living in an American city could be reached with the gospel message. Finally, after I graduated from Bible College, I actually went as a missionary to Africa. This was my dream of how God would use me for the rest of my life.
I had my future ministry planned out and was even doing it. But then it didn't turn out as a thought and dreamed it would. I found I couldn't do it. I didn't find peace in what I was doing. I felt overwhelmed, and wondered why God wasn't using me in the way that I thought that He would. My ministry in my sight had failed. I didn't understand.
The second thing I am reminded of when it comes to feeling frustrated with my life not going as I thought it should be, is of a specific event when I was on a tour in Israel. Here is just a little background. This trip to Israel happened after many years of deep, dark depression and a diagnosis of a mental illness. I didn't think God could ever use my life again. I felt like I had failed God, and God had failed me. I had been through being so hopeless in life that I started cutting myself and even tried to kill myself.
Over those years, I went to lots of therapy and learned to live again. I felt like I had come out the other side. I discovered that God loved me even when I was at my very lowest. The only thing was that I still held on to the idea that if my life got bad again I could go back to cutting or I could commit suicide. I could just go home to be with God without having to live through the pain.
So, back to my trip to Israel. I was on a tour with a Christian group, and one of our stops was at the Jordan River. The Jordan River is the place that Jesus was baptized by John at the beginning of Jesus ministry. The Holy Spirit had come down on Jesus as a dove, and God the Father had said, "This is my son, in whom I am well please." So being at the Jordan River was a very special place, and while there, we were given the chance to also be baptized in those waters.
Baptism is an act that shows others that you have given your life over completely to God to follow him the rest of your life. I was first baptized when I was ten years old. Even at that young age, I wanted to follow Jesus. Now at the Jordan River I could show once again to the world, my full life commitment to Jesus. I would probably never be back to Israel, and I didn't want to miss this special and meaningful opportunity. So I said, "Yes, I will be baptized as a show of continued commitment."
All of us who made this choice to be baptized, walked into the water in our white robes. We stood in a line with the pastor waiting at one end. Other people sat on the shore to witness this show of our commitment to Jesus we were making.
The pastor asked the first person if they believed in Jesus and if they were giving themselves to Jesus to be their very life from that day forward, then he baptized them. It was then that the reality of what I was doing dawned on me. If I did this, I was saying to God and to all those watching on the shore and in heaven above that the rest of my life was his.
Life. That was a big word for me. In the past eight or so years, I had thought more about death than about life. I held death/suicide in my back pocket, just in case I needed to end my life. If I went through with being baptized though, I would be emptying my back pocket and giving all of my life to Jesus. Jesus would in fact be my life. That would mean that I would give the option of suicide to him as well. Death by my own hand would no longer be an option. I would have to trust Jesus as my life no matter what happened.
The first thought in my mind was, "God has tricked me!"
I had not been planning on giving up the option of suicide. Now though, I was standing in the Jordan River with a crowed of witnesses watching, and I was getting closer and closer to the beginning of the line. The decision must be made now. Do I walk out of the water keeping the safety of the suicide option there, in a sense telling the world I was depending on myself? Or do I take the steps forward and give every bit of my life to Jesus, no matter what?
I was so scared. I couldn't turn back. I must say yes to Jesus. He would have to be my very life. He would have to take care of me when things were good and when I wanted to die. I would no longer be the director of my days or my ministry. I would follow Jesus and watch what he would do with my life that was his.
One more step. It was my turn. I would make the promise to God.
"Yes, I believe in Jesus"
"Yes, I give my life to be his from this point onward."
I was lowered down into the water. I died to my death and to myself. I was no longer my own.
Coming back to today, I remember that commitment that I made to see what Jesus would have for me. I think of how he has since lived through me, and I am back at peace. I do not need to make ministry happen in my time or in the way that I think that it should be. Jesus will take care of me, and he will use me in his time as he wills. I will walk with Jesus day by day and watch and be available for him.
Jesus is my life. He is my life not just in this moment, but in every moment until he decides to return or take me home.