Same seat. Same time. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I’d sit in a gymnasium full of 13,000 college students. We’d worship together, open up the Word, hear from an enlightening speaker. I cherish these moments, always listening with the belief that every word could change my life if I let it.
Though, one occasion was much different. My heart was pounding, and I was so engulfed in my thoughts that every outside noise approached me like a tapping sound heard from inside a fish tank. This sensation wasn’t new – something big was happening. The speaker (I don’t even remember his name) told us his story, of which I only remember bits and pieces. He was a History major in college and had the full intentions of going to law school. I could hear the blood rushing through my ears: I’m an English major, and I have the full intentions of going to law school. He then told us that God ripped him from this plan and put him to work on a farm for 10 years in the middle of nowhere. Now, he’s speaking in front of 13,000 college kids. That’s all I heard for the rest of the day.
My spirit was burning with what can only be described as that “Holy Spirit fire” – so distinct and unmistakable. I was ready! This was it. This was my call to ministry. The past few days had been riddled with signs that could only be labeled as God “winks,” and this was the culmination. In this time and in this place God was speaking to me through a man whose story was strikingly similar to mine.
Being the planner that I am, my mind was reeling over my options. Should I change my major to theology? Should I start a Bible study, right now? I know a couple of girls who would oblige. Oh, but first things first, I definitely need a new Bible. Why didn’t I think of that earlier? The church was where I was going to be. In fact, it’s where I’d been my whole life. My dad is a pastor. Bible verses were my mom’s primary method of teaching me and my brother. I attended private, Christian schools my entire life. Well, I went to a public high school, but I grew up in the Bible belt so little was lost there. This is what I know. This is where I belong, and this day was my confirmation!
Here I am, maybe a year and a half later, living alone in the inner city of Washington D.C. interning for a major government agency. Weird smells of marijuana mixed with urine and the sound of jangling coins in plastic cups assail me from every direction. I’ve learned to keep my eyes low and use the reflection of windows to make sure no desperate man is following me. My heart hurts at the sight of the crumpled up man with only one eye begging on the corner, and my heart rages at the disrespectful comments I get for just walking to the grocery store as a woman. Trash blankets the streets, and when it rains sloppy, damp wrappers and newspaper mush underneath my feet. I cried myself to sleep for about a month, and all I can think about is fresh air, sunsets, and open fields. Ministry?
Something strange happens, though. Every morning, my joy is renewed! This is exactly the opposite of where I want to be or where I saw myself years ago, but here I am. I know God has placed me here for the purpose of ministry because of the peace and contentment that swaddles me moment by moment. On my own accord, I’d be miserable, but my God is so faithful!
I’m not sure if it will be the smile emanating from the pure joy in my soul that will bless my coworkers, or if it will be the moment that I hold the door open for the man in the wheelchair struggling to navigate overpopulated streets. Truthfully, I don’t know what my “ministry” is, but I know that this is where I am supposed to be by the uncharacteristic provisions of my Father. I live by Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Because it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, I forfeit my fleshly desires. Many mistake this as a pledge to live a life of suffering, but, to the contrary, this is freedom. No matter my circumstances, I have joy. I’ve always understood that what heaven has to offer is far greater than anything found on this earth, so why shouldn’t I live that way? Chasing earthly pleasure is fruitless. I want freedom – the freedom that is found in the mystery!
By: Lydia Elrod