A couple of days ago, I got to wear my Liberian dress and talk to a younger generation about what it was like to grow up in Africa.
We talked about that big word “missions” and what it means to spend a lifetime telling others about a relationship with Jesus. We talked about languages and laughed when a mispronounced word turned a man’s name into “sheep”. We played African instruments and looked at pictures of me at 7 holding a monkey. We touched the 10 foot long boa constrictor skin I brought with me and talked of God’s miraculous power in saving my sister who was bitten by a viper a lifetime ago.
But in the days since, I keep thinking of things I forgot to tell them. I remembered to tell them my Kisi name (Finda Soko), but I forgot to show them the unique and very cool way Liberians shake hands! I told some about that time I ate a rotten porcupine – but forgot to show them the picture of grasshoppers fried to a golden yummy crisp in palm oil! But even as my thoughts swirl, there’s this one thing that I can’t shake … it keeps swelling in my heart.
You see, my parents were just farm kids. You might think that you need some special experience or “background” to prepare you to move your family to Africa and translate the Bible into a language that has never even been written down. And while there’s no denying that my mom and dad are two amazing people – and that they definitely had training before they went – they started out on a simple farm in North Dakota, doing what farm kids do across this world every day.
So what I can’t stop thinking about is this: what makes them so special? Why did they end up in the middle of this grand adventure that has taken them to the far corners of the world and changed hundreds of people’s lives as they’ve walked? And I think it comes down to one word.
Simple obedience. A heart to hear God … and then simply follow. Sometimes we can’t hear God because our world is so full of noise. Distractions surround us and consume us. When is the last time you stopped, breathed in deep His holy breath, and just listened?
But then sometimes we do hear His voice. And like Moses, we deflect. We find every reason why we are not qualified, every reason we will fail. And we tell God that someone else would do a better job. And while we applaud the efforts of those around us, we hide inside our own quaking insecurities.
Sometimes we get really busy doing good things for God – until we end up empty and lost, realizing we weren’t really following Him, but our own personal notions of godliness.
Because, let’s be honest. Which one of us really feels qualified, gifted, or talented enough to do great things for God? And isn’t that just the point? I told these kids the other day that God has hidden treasures in them – gifts that they will discover as they walk with Him. And each discovered gift gives them a new opportunity to follow Jesus more fully.
What gifts has God placed in you? We like to think of gifts in grandiose terms – music played in Carnegie Hall and art displayed in the Louvre. Have we forgotten the lesson of 1 Samuel 16:7? “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” What lies in your heart, my friend, that is begging to be let out? What next step is the Lord calling you to take? Because a calling isn’t a grand plan for your life – it is this day lived in full obedience to Him! In the array of gifts God has hidden in me, there is one embarrassingly simple thing that has reached more people for Him than any other. It is this: a mere smile.
A simple genuine smile has opened more doors to conversations about the freedom Jesus has brought me than any long-winded argument about apologetics ever has. There are other gifts and abilities God wants me to use for Him, but what I’m trying to say is this: don’t wait for the big moments. Or for the more talented people who’s gifts seem to shine brighter by man’s standards
God is calling you, today, to offer everything you have, large and small, to Him.
And the adventure that lies before you will take your breath away. It starts with one step of obedience.
“Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King –
Trust them with Jesus. Do the next thing!” (ancient Saxon legend)