When asked casually how SMI is going, my answers thus far has been one of two: “cool” and “it’s like college.” [Smile].
Though the prior answer is a neutral word I’ve incorporated into most conversations, the latter has been something I thought more about when we walked into our partner church last Sunday. In college, I had the opportunity to grow among a close community of believers, receive three square all-you-can-eat meals, outreach, and study. When asked about school, I felt like there was little to say about academics because most of my attention was focused on the things of God, as I would boast.
But on this second Sunday, I recognized a certain feeling during praise and the weight of reality sunk in. This subtle tiredness just seemed familiar for some reason. While my understanding of God’s love grew the most those years, my darkest sins and tendencies were also revealed. Perhaps that’s the point. The highs were great, although there were many deep lows. As the service began with jubilant music, my mind focused solely on the struggle aspect of what I thought was living missions-minded while in college.
I thought about the difficulties, the fresh passion faced with obstacles that left me tired and uninspired. I remembered those nights where I wept with groanings too deep for words. Things had come to a point where every new face I faced was a project because I wanted to just get the job done—no emotions, no purpose, no love attached. For quite some time, my greeting to anyone who wanted to talk came from Walmart’s familiar “How may I help you?” uniform. This repeat lesson, this race, was a challenge I feared to accept as the praise and worship songs continued.
Before despair set in, my outreach pediatrician-to-be friend started dancing to the songs and got me and the rest of the group to follow suit. There’s something about outward expressions of praise that changes things internally.
For the record, I took hidden pride in my perfect church attendance. I liked the praise of friends and strangers. I liked the “good” reputation I carried…
How broken cisterns and man-made idols crumble like sand when we try so hard to hold on…
As service continued, I started to grasp that through the sermon, God was obviously speaking to me at that moment. In short, the Spirit was making the Gospel clear in light of my current dilemma. I can’t fully understand why, but God’s continuing to give me the desire to want to bring glory to His name in loving others well. However, in order to do so this time, I must cling to and fix my eyes on JESUS rather than relying on my own supply of love and strength. For where does faith, hope, and love abound if not from the very person who embodied these? [Grace moment].
How is it that the God of the universe would remember me when I so easily slip away from His table over and over again, trying to control my life for fear or lack of faith in His work? And as God is continuing to redeem our relationship, He never fails to remind me that community is around. Surprise, surprise. So while I relearned that the vertical (relationship with God) is first, my orange-pink-jumpsuit friend affirmed, “Here you should remember that you’re part of a team.” Indeed, the pastor closed with a reminder that “cross is vertical then horizontal [and they go together]”.
If there’s any encouragement for the tired laborer, it’s: Jesus is truly alive so stay close to Him! And seriously, if God is for us, who can be against us? No one is able to snatch them (you and I) out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29b). Such steadfast comfort enables us to serve joyfully.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.—Lamentations 3:22-23
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Angelique Nguyen. © 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org