I’ve rewritten this blog about 5 times.
Nothing I can conjure up, no words or stories can really portray what I’m feeling, thinking, experiencing. It all seems like too much or not enough. That sounds kind of dramatic, but hear me out.
Sometimes I get really overwhelmed by the size of the world.
Whether watching thousands of people flood in Bryant-Denny Stadium on a Bama football Saturday, or looking at a map in one of my longing-for-adventure moods, I am in awe of just how big this world is.
As I sat in the front row of the massive sanctuary of First Baptist Church, Orlando a few weeks ago, I experienced one of those moments.
Firstly due to the aforementioned size of the room, secondly to the presence of an even bigger God.
I’d just finished a hot, six-week adventure in Phoenix–like, just rolled off the plane last night after an all-nighter the day before, just finished. In desperate need of sleep, I’d managed to push my body and mind to their extreme limits (anyone who knows me knows I simply cannot function without adequate sleep) to debrief our summer with a NAMB leader and among ourselves.
I woke up the next morning a bit more refreshed and ridiculously ready for breakfast. Our team, along with the 160 other GenSend student missionaries, had been hauled to Orlando for the North American Mission Board’s SEND Conference.
Looking forward to getting back to Alabama (a first, if I’m being honest) and desensitized to the routine of Christian events, I’ll admit, though I was excited for the conference, I wasn’t necessarily expecting God to show up and show out or anything.
I really love when I’m wrong.
Counting down the hours to bed time in my mind, my attention was quickly snatched by an interesting video on the trendy screen.
I would’ve rolled my eyes if I’d had the energy.
Except it wasn’t what I might consider the typical, boring Christian visual display. Instead it was full of truth I’d been longing to tangibly see and hear, a reminder and a challenge to live for God’s glory.
“REDEFINE,” it read. “There’s no such thing as an unsent Christian.”
I already knew these words, but seeing them across the screen, hearing them over the speaker, replaying them through my head as a band came up to lead worship: my heart was overwhelmed.
I’ve written about my spiritually draining experience in Phoenix, how that one church service created in me a deep sense of longing to be home with my church.
This moment in Orlando was like being engulfed by a flood.
It was an answered prayer for a return of familiarity. It was an answered prayer for a desire to offer myself as a living sacrifice to the Lord for His kingdom. It was a call to meditate on His all-encompassing glory and live as if nothing else matters.
At the end of the conference, I, along with the rest of the room, wrote a letter, a prayer to God.
“I know I’m called to missions, even if I don’t know exactly what that looks like. But for right now, just don’t send me back to Tuscaloosa the same person I was when I left.”
I’ve been in Tuscaloosa for less than a week. My bank account demanded I get back to work, and my heart was yearning to reunite with friends. So I departed for my two-hour journey south after church on Sunday, my mind still soaking in the day’s teaching on Galatians 6.
In verse 11, Paul lets the church at Galatia know he is writing to remind them of these gospel truths, not some detached scribe as was typical of the time, but Paul himself.
Paul is so convinced of the gospel’s truth and power, so urgently concerned for the spiritual well-being of the Galatians, that he simply must let them know how greatly he means business.
I prayed for this kind of urgency on my way down I-59.
Yet when I pulled into my apartment complex, I’d returned to friends, to a work schedule, to a room needing to be cleaned. My fire for the Lord remained, I simply had no place to focus it and I felt discouraged.
On Wednesday I walked into my friends’ apartment in an attempt to keep myself from getting lonely.
“Well, we’re about to leave for church.” My heart felt grumbled at the thought of returning to my empty apartment. “You want to join us?”
My ears perked at the promise of pizza, so I tagged along for a time of prayer and free Domino’s goodness.
Looking forward to being around new (and familiar) faces and desensitized to the routine of Christian events, I’ll admit, though I was excited for some food and fellowship, I wasn’t necessarily expecting God to show up and show out or anything.
I really love when I’m wrong.
In Orlando it was bass rattling my heart and brain, large LED words burning into my mind, a handful of pastors, missionaries, and church planters sharing simple, yet profound truths.
In Tuscaloosa it was a group of about 15 college students, a college pastor strumming an acoustic guitar, three small groups praying for the upcoming school year and the people we’ll encounter along the way.
In both of those moments I was truly overwhelmed by the omnipresence of God.
Time does not limit Him. Our weaknesses and failures do not slow Him down. Wrong turns, poor decisions, and perceived mistakes do not surprise Him.
There are 7.5 billion people in this world.
Maybe you read that and weren’t impacted by the weight of that number. Think of your life thus are. Maybe you’re 21, 18, 62, 37. Think about all the things you consider important. Try to remember all the things you thought were important five years ago. Consider the details of your day, of all the days you’ve lived. Hard, huh? Imagine all of that times 7.5 billion. All of those dreams, all of those worries, all of those laughs, all of those people.
God created all of them. And He knows each and every one of us intimately.
Does that not just blow your mind??
In the past three years, missions have become a huge part of my life. One trip to Philadelphia over spring break my freshman year of college did me in. I knew there would be more. I didn’t know how, where, when, or really even why; just that.
Yet even then, the Creator of the universe, of every critter, every star, every speck of sand, every atmospheric makeup, He had a plan laid out for how I would work in and serve His kingdom. Every step I take within that plan wrecks me a little more, allows me to see a side of my Father in a totally new way, teaches me a bit more about how worthy He is, reveals to me an ounce more of His glory. It’s a heavy thing.
There’s a few verses of scripture that have stuck out to me for quite some time, but have only really started to make sense to me recently.
Moses said, “Please show me Your glory.” And He said, ”I will make my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you My name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”
And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
For a long time, I read this and thought God was being kind of dramatic and a bit harsh. “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.” Really? C’mon, God, we get it, you’re God. No need for all that.
But the more I’m exposed to Him, the more I feel His glory pass from my cleft in the cleft in the rock, the more I am just wrecked by how worthy of glory He is. So much so, it’s taken me a week to write a post I’d normally type up in a day or two.
I don’t even know how to express the way this revelation has impacted me, how to share it in a way that will duplicate those moments for you.
We cannot bear the weight of even a brief glimpse of His full glory– not physically, spiritually, mentally. In no way can we withstand it; it’s just too much.
I think sometimes, at least in my life’s experience in the Bible Belt, we become used to and overly desensitized to Who God is. All too often He is the loving, angel-like figure in the sky sending down blessings through rainbows. He’s mankind’s magic 8 ball, someone just waiting around to answer all of our requests, big and small.
BUT HE IS SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT.
Everything, everything, in this world and beyond. He made it. He crafted it with His hands like a child tinkers with Playdoh. That simple.
Yet intricate enough to form all of your organs and blood cells and veins and nerve receptors. Not to mention gravity and all the chemistry behind stars and planets and atmospheres and things I can’t even begin to fathom or explain.
I don’t understand how we, how I for so long, could claim to believe such things, could claim to know such a Being on a personal level, yet withhold our full, total, radical devotion to Him.
Take a moment to ponder how great (and good) God is. Talk to Him about Himself, about you, about how those two truths intertwine and impact the world. Because, yes, He is a big God, but He bends down to listen to our intercessions. He calls us to draw near to His heart, to leverage our whole lives for His eternal glory, to make much of Who He is in all ways.
What a beautiful, simple, intricate truth.