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Doubtfully Trusting

When you’re driving, it’s probably a good idea to know where your destination is. If you’re going somewhere but you have no idea how to get there, you’ll probably end up lost, confused, and stressed out. So, before you leave, you put the address in your GPS and trust it to guide you to your destination.

Life is a lot like a road, and, if I’m being honest, I often make God my GPS. I say, “Okay God, I know where I want to go with my life. I want to get to this place and do this thing. I know the direction I need to travel, but sometimes I miss the turns and I need you to help me get there. Will you guide me?” So, I make a plan, have a destination, and listen to His voice, trusting that He’ll bring me to the place I intended to be all along. But, truthfully, God is not really meant to be a GPS. In fact, I know it’s super cliche to say, but God’s actually supposed to drive.

I’ve spent a lot of my life convincing myself I was allowing God to drive. I mean, I allowed Him to take me to Kenya, despite my defiance. I heard him whisper “go” so many times while I was shouting “stay,” but I eventually allowed Him to take me anyway. And I’m glad I did because it was life changing and indescribable. And, since I’ve been home, I’ve been searching for something that will fill the hole I have from leaving parts of myself behind. Because I left behind all the babies I held, children I played with, laughs I expressed, love I spread, Quizzing I taught, hugs I shared, and moments soon to fade from memory.

I let my heart get broken because I knew He had a better destination in mind for my heart. I fought it– I tried for as long as I could to maintain control and hold onto my plan for my life. I told myself that I was okay, that it hurt but I could fight it, and that in the end, it would turn out how I intended all along. But, I eventually jumped over to the passenger seat and said “Alright God, whatever. It hurts, but I’ll trust you.” So, I trusted Him to take me where He wanted me to be, but, all the way there I’ve been voicing my defiance and unwillingness to completely surrender.

These aren’t the only times I’ve done this. Countless times I’ve said, “Okay, I really want to go here and do this, but if you don’t want me to, I’ll listen to Your voice.” Then, I get out, move over, and let God drive. But, here’s the thing guys– I could still see the road. I could still see all the twists and turns, potholes and bumps. I let God drive, but I still had one hand on the wheel, and was prepared to brake if we needed to come to a sudden stop. I’ve been saying, “God, you’re doing a good job and all, and I’m going to let you finish. But, just to let you know, there’s some potholes coming up. If you could avoid those, that’d be great. And, by the way, you missed that turn, so you should probably make another turn up here and go back.” I was the world’s most annoying backseat driver.

It wasn’t because I didn’t trust God– I did. I just didn’t want to completely surrender my life to him. I wanted to have some control– some say. So, I backseat drove while God steered, thinking that meant God was actually driving, because I was terrified. Not having control of your life is terrifying. It’s stressful and scary– it’s uncomfortable. But, God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust. And trust is more than just allowing God to drive. It’s completely surrendering everything– giving up total control, and taking your hands off the wheel. And recently, I’ve been learning to do more than trust– I’ve been learning to surrender.

This past year, God has been placing road signs in my path, hinting at me that we should turn that way. And even though I was claiming to let Him drive, He passed them and went on the way I wanted, because, being blind and all, I couldn’t actually see them. He just drove– allowing me to eventually figure out for myself that the direction we were going was filled with potholes, bumps, and discomfort. He kept making the signs bigger and more obvious– probably hoping that I’d see them. But because I’m very blind, and very stubborn, I continued to ignore them. Until one day, we were driving down the road and I screamed “STOP! I can’t do this anymore.”

“I know. Now, will you listen to Me?”

And so, here I am now, trying my hardest to give God total and complete control– to surrender my life, my comfortable, and my plans. But, for me, that’s difficult. If I can see the road at all, I can’t keep quiet– I can’t watch God pass by all the turns I want to take– I think I need to take– and willingly stay silent. So, I’ve allowed God to take control in whatever way He needs to, and, you know what He said? He said, “Rebekah, you’re kind of annoying. You keep trying to backseat drive when I am the perfect driver. So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m kicking you out. You’re sitting in the trunk, with your eyes to the road behind us instead of ahead of us.”

So, that’s where I am now until I learn to surrender– sitting in the trunk, only able to see the road behind us. God buckled me up, promised me I’d be safe, and gave me His Words to hold onto if I ever felt unsure. And, quite honestly, I’m scared. I feel the ups and downs and bumps and rough patches and I so badly want to jump up and say “God! Watch out!” But, I’m not going to. Because He has told me to trust Him– to surrender to Him. So, I am.

For those who haven’t been keeping up with my life, just recently I changed my major. And it was the best thing I could have done for myself. But, it is also the most terrifying thing I’ve ever had to do. I was a Chemistry major. I love Chemistry, but I am not sure I was ever super passionate about Chemistry– or at least not as passionate as I am about other things. But, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and because I enjoyed it and was pretty good at it, and since I never found myself excelling at any specific subject, I chose to study Chemistry. And to tell you the truth, I was a little scared to go into anything else, because with something like that, your future is more sure, more secure. Not that any future is ever guaranteed, but at least it set me up to do something. But, I’d been wrestling for a while about what to do. Because I loved Chemistry. But I was passionate about so many other things– Bible Quizzing, writing, studying God’s Word. And it wasn’t until I was reminded sometime last year, by a rather surprising but wonderful source, that such pure and uncontrollable passion existed that I realized something was missing– something had to change.  I so desperately wanted to do something with all these passions of mine, but I didn’t know what, and I was terrified and completely unsure. I wanted to stay comfortable and, to be perfectly honest, I was slightly afraid of what others would think. But, eventually God told me to sit down, shut up, and stop letting my own fear control me and let Him take control. So, I changed my major.

I switched to cross disciplinary studies. Which means I can study Chemistry, religion and philosophy, math, and English all at the same time. I can become a jack of all trades without becoming an expert in anything. And I am so happy I did that, but it also means my future has become so much more uncertain and terrifying– it’s not sure. It’s open to so much possibility, and simultaneously so little. And like, I’m trying so hard to hold onto God and His promises, but guys, that’s not easy. I know that I am the type of person who won’t know what I want to do until I’m doing it, because there are so many things I’d be happy doing. Maybe I’ll end up being a pastor, or teaching, or travelling. Maybe I’ll take some more trips to Kenya, and elsewhere, to find that missing piece of me and spread my uncontrollable love for Quizzing. (There is so much desire and passion for Quizzing in Kenya, but they lack the resources and leadership to spread it). Maybe I’ll get a Ph. D in Chemistry or Literature. Maybe I’ll get my M. Div. Maybe I’ll end up unemployed and living in my parent’s house for the rest of my life.  Who knows? All I know now is that I am trying my hardest to surrender the hardest part of me to surrender– my life and my future– to the One who makes my future. And it takes a lot of faith. It takes faith that sometimes I”m not sure I have. But, if Joshua can believe walls can crumble simply by walking around them, Abraham can say “Here I am”, and Peter can step out onto the waves, surely I can allow myself to surrender my future.. And I know that I’ll doubt– I do doubt. I’ll struggle and fight and try to regain control of the vehicle of life. But God is helping me to be still. To know that He is God. To surrender my life and plans to Him. And, although it’s a difficult and scary time, it’s also the most peaceful and beautiful feeling ever.

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Library Encouters 

God does some incredibly strange and wonderful things, doesn’t He?

I wasn’t going to go to the library last night. I was in my room, softly playing my music, relaxing, and about to open my physics homework to take one more look before I called it a night. Being a person who normally doesn’t do homework in her room but instead goes to the library or finds an empty classroom on campus, it was weird that I was okay with staying in my room. But, the laziness, non-desire to deal with people, and the always overwhelming temptation to buy another cup of coffee I probably don’t need, made me want to stay. Until something inside me said, “go to the library. You have to do your work there.”

So, I packed up my backpack, made the 30 foot trek to the library, found a nice spot in the cafe (with the scent of coffee overwhelming me– which I didn’t give in to), and got to work. I was somewhere mid-physics problem when I ran into my friend Adam, with whom I have a 60/40 being mean/ being nice relationship, and we briefly talked about our lives and our work after quipping about how annoyed we were to see the other one in the often frequented library. I thought “was this the reason I came all the way over here? So I could hear Adam talk about his struggles of work and school and so I could tell him my brief anecdote about my grandfather going to seminary with Victor P Hamilton, the author of my Pentateuch textbook?” That seemed a little weird, because I could hear his struggles (and insert a sassy comment intermixed with encouragement) anytime, and a quick scroll through Facebook and he would have seen my grandfather anecdote. So, I continued working on my Physics homework, still not sure why I was there.

Then, I remembered I had to print my Calc weekly and my Pentateuch assignment. Was this the reason I felt a desire to come all the way out here? So I wouldn’t have to rush before class to print the assignment? Probably not. There’s printers in the building across from my dorm, I have an hour and a half free before that class, I have a whole week to do the Calc weekly, and since I won’t have time to do it until at least Wednesday, I was in no rush to print it. But, I printed them anyway and got back to work.

At this point, I wasn’t making a lot of progress on my physics, so I gave up and switched to reading a commentary on Genesis 2 for my Pentateuch class (the aforementioned textbook whose author went to seminary with my grandfather). Then, a freshman who I don’t really know and have talked to maybe once came in and asked politely if she could sit with me. I told her “of course!” and went back to reading. I glanced up at one point throughout my reading and asked her what her major was and how she’d been enjoying her first year. She eventually left, and I again wondered if that was why I had felt such desire to go to the library– to give this girl some company as she worked on her stressful autobiography assignment for her First Year Seminar class. I didn’t really think so, but, since it wasn’t quite 10:00, and I hadn’t yet finished my physics, I decided I’d wait a little longer and get a little more work done.

I finished my physics assignment and was reading Genesis 3 in preparation for class the next day when a classmate said, “Hey, Rebekah, do you have your physics notes from Friday on you?” Since she was absent that day and hadn’t gotten the notes yet, I gave them to her willingly so she could finish the assignment I myself had just finished moments before. Unfortunately, I had about 10 verses left in Genesis 3 to read and I was thinking about leaving when I was done. Not wanting to leave without my notes, however, I decided I’d have to wait until she was finished with them, and then I could leave. So, I finished my assignments, and contemplated getting a little ahead while I had the time.

And then God, because He sometimes likes to ruin your own plans and throw off any feeling you have of being ahead on work, did exactly that. That classmate who had borrowed my notes approached me again and said, “Hey, do you think you could help my friend with her New Testament homework?” At this point, I kind of felt like I wanted to go back and sleep or get ahead on my work, but, being a Biblical Studies minor, lover of learning, and person who’s passionate about God’s Word, I agreed.

As I gathered my stuff to go over to the other side of the room where they were sitting, my classmate reassured her friend, “Don’t worry. She’s an expert at this.” I reassured them that I was not, in fact, an expert, and was, in fact, the furthest thing from one, but I was reasonably knowledgeable and super passionate, and now is as good a time as any to find out how much I actually understand  and enjoy my minor.

I sat down and looked at her assignment. It wasn’t too difficult; it was just long and, quite honestly, should have been split into at least 2 assignments. (The work equated to reading all 4 gospels, comparing their introductions, talking about their connections to specific passages in the Old Testament, finding all the times Jesus mentions the Kingdom of God and explaining their meanings, and comparing the death and resurrection stories of each of the 4 gospels. There were 9 questions, each of which would require at least a paragraph or more of explanation.)

The first question instructed her to read the opening chapters of each book and compare writing styles, characteristics, and stories. I had done the exact same assignment last semester, so I figured it would be pretty painless. I asked her, “Ok, do you have your Bible?”
“It’s in my room”
“That’s alright, we can use mine.”
“You have yours’ with you?”
“Absolutely. I always do.” (Something that should be known about me: there are two things I always have in my backpack– a journal and my Bible. Because I never know when I’ll need to write something down or look something up. And, although I have the Bible app on my phone, nothing is better than seeing the Word printed on a page and being able to hold it in my hand).

I handed it to her and asked her to turn to Matthew.
“I don’t know where that is,” she replied, almost timidly, like she was worried that I would judge her or God would smite her.

I showed her how to find it, and I told her about the Bible app she could download on her phone if she wanted. “Cool!” she exclaimed, “I did not know you could do that.”

Admittedly, as I was waiting for her app to download, I looked at my watch and thought, “Oh man, I should have left earlier. How can I help her with her New Testament homework if she has no idea what it even is?” I wondered how someone’s knowledge could be so limited that it literally doesn’t even exist. Even growing up in a public high school, all my non Christian classmates had at least some knowledge of the Bible, what it was,, how it functioned, and how it was structured.

But, I figured now is as good a time as any to test out both my knowledge and my passion, so, I pressed on. As the app was downloading, I flipped to one of the gospels in my Bible, opened another on my phone, and then instructed her to find one of the others on her phone. I gave her a brief run down, for context, of what the purpose of the gospels is, then, I had her read the stories. As she was reading, I chatted with my physics classmate, and helped her with some of her work, familiarized myself with the rest of the NT assignment, and thought about how I could explain these amazing stories to someone with no knowledge. I thought about how I could start at square one– how could I answer these questions without spending hours explaining things that I grew up learning, that are so ingrained in me they’ve become second nature. I wondered how I could explain things that I myself had learned in the past year, but that excite me as if I’d studied them my whole life. I thought about how the only thing this girl had were the Words in front of her, my limited knowledge, and my passion.

She finished reading and began summarizing. I gave her a brief lesson about distinguishing chapters and verses, and she began writing. She then asked me to summarize Luke for her. She was confused about John the Baptist and Jesus and wasn’t sure who was who, who did what, and why John was important. I summarized it for her, and added a few fun facts of my own, and waited for her to write it all down. Then, I watched as she read and interpreted John. I was slightly shocked she understood John so well. I mean, John is my personal favorite gospel writer (although, Matthew’s pretty good too…), but he can sometimes be a super cryptic and difficult to understand writer, especially if you have no background or context whatsoever. Then, I discovered she was a communication major, and maybe that’s why she appreciated John so much. I briefly went a little off topic and talked about my love for John.

To make a long story short, I walked her through all the aspects of her assignment, added a few of my own fun facts and historical context comments in there for comprehension purposes. I tried to answer the questions her professor posed about connections to the Old Testament as much as possible without overwhelming her or making it super obvious that my Old Testament knowledge pales in comparison to my New Testament knowledge. I summarized the gospels, hit on the unique details of each gospel writers’ death and crucifixion stories, and basically summarized N.T Wright’s novel Simply Jesus. (If you haven’t read it– why? What are you waiting for. It’s amazing. Shout out to my NT professor for making us read that.)

By the end, I figured she would be a little overwhelmed. So, I let her read and answer the last question on her own (since it was mostly an opinion question anyway), and began to pack up my stuff. At this point, it had been over an hour, it was almost midnight, and any hope I had of getting ahead on homework had passed. But, I waited to see if she had any questions for me or anything she wanted to talk about. I wasn’t sure if what I had said made sense, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t confuse the poor girl more than necessary.

When she finished writing she said, “That was great! I’m sorry I kept you away from your work, but I did enjoy that.”
“It was my pleasure, I enjoyed it too. Like I said, I’m a Biblical studies minor, so I’m always down for talking Scripture.”

As I was preparing to go she asked me, “Where’d you get your Bible? Yours’ is so much easier to understand than mine.” So, of course this led to a brief discussion about Biblical translations and which versions I prefer and which ones Biblical scholars agree are good. Then, she asked if we could exchange phone numbers.

“It’s so great that [physics classmate] just found you! I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee sometime and do this again. And, I will probably need your help again.”

I gave her my number, I wished her luck on the rest of her assignments, and I left. But, I didn’t stop thinking about it.

Walking back to my dorm, in the rain, I was smiling. Not because I had just dropped some knowledge bombs on someone, or that I had just spent an hour and a half of my life doing something far more important than Calculus homework, or that I had a chance to see if I really have chosen the right path in life, but I was smiling because I was hopeful, joy-filled, and warm.

I felt hopeful that something I said may have sparked an interest in her. Maybe it was something I said about Christ’s purpose, maybe it was the joke I made about how I was that kid in Old and New Testament who would say “this is my favorite book!” before every book we studied. I realized that she came to Roberts for very different reasons than I did. I wanted a place where I would be challenged in my faith and pushed to grow, and she wanted the scholarship money she was offered because of volleyball. But, I was joy-filled that, even if that class was required, she had taken the time to sit, listen, and talk about it with me instead of running and dropping the class at the first sign of struggle. And I had a strange feeling of warmth, that I am still not sure how to describe. My whole heart was happy, like for a minute it forgot the brain controlled happiness because it took it all for itself, and it still hasn’t let go.

And, I couldn’t stop thinking about this encounter. As evidenced by the fact that I had promised I’d be in bed by 10 last night, and it is now 1:45 the next morning, and I am still awake writing this post, this encounter meant a lot to me.

I’m not sure where this girl will go with everything I told her tonight. I certainly hope she texts me and asks me for help again, and I hope that something I said resonated with her. But, I don’t know. I do know that I am left now with more reassurance, more confidence, and more doubt.

I”m left with reassurance that I have a knowledge of the Scriptures and a passion and desire to learn more about them and learn more from them. I am left with more confidence that I am somewhere on the right path for my life and that pursuing more, deeper studies into this is something I need to be doing and one thing I love to do. But, I am also left with more doubt about whether or not I have chosen the path in life that I actually want to take. Now, to be fair, I have a “I should change my major” crisis about once every week or two, but this time, something’s different. I”m left with a lot of questions, few answers, too many feelings, and not enough words to describe it all. But, I’ll leave it at this: God does some wonderfully strange and amazing things. And I am so glad He sent me to the library tonight, and didn’t allow me to leave, despite all the times I wanted to.

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