TLimS Week 5: Matthew 13
For the last two weeks, I've been writing about how the Lord reveals Himself to us as our shepherd through providing not just for our needs, but our wants as well. First, we established the structure of desire, and argued that our wants are meant to come in line with God's wants. Then, last week, we talked about why we should want what God wants. For the final week on this topic, I want to paint a picture of what this looks like--for God to provide for us by giving us what we/He want(s).
It is really important to start off where we left off last week--specifically, that there is nothing here on Earth that can give meaning to our lives. Once we fully accept this as truth, only then, will any of this make any sense.
I'm going to start this story in my early college days, when I came face to face with tons of choices about my life and what I wanted out of it. My parents, like any good Asian parents, wanted me to be financially secure, so they suggested lots of majors from hard sciences, to law, to engineering. I waffled back and forth between many majors, but each time I had to decide on something that would lead me down a path on figuring out my major, like what classes to take, I remember thinking, "I know God doesn't want me to just learn things for my own sake or just learn things that the world says are important. I want to learn things that God has given me a passion for, or maybe try to see how God has a passion for these things too."
So I took whatever classes I was genuinely interested in, and then constantly asked God what He thought about those classes, trying to seek out what God wants, in general, but also specifically in my life. My major path went like this: physics --> economics --> political economy in industrial societies --> development studies (study of developing countries).
In the end, God put on my heart a desire to serve the poor and the underprivileged. I began seeking out opportunities to do so, tutoring English for adults, working with development NGOs, doing relief work in both Thailand and New Orleans. These are some of my college adventures that I truly wouldn't trade for any physical thing in the world! I didn't know that I wanted these things heading into college, but God led me to them, and His plan for my college experience was so far and beyond what I could have imagined. I still have incredibly fond memories of these times, and God used them to teach me and grow me so much.
The adventure continues: after taking several big academic risks (also led by what I thought God wanted), I ended up getting involved in South Africa (SA). Most people know that Elanor and I work with the Jens, a missionary family in South Africa, and minister to Chinese South Africans. What some people might not know is that I got into this ministry through professional life choices, NOT some kind of ministry calling. The short story is that I wrote my undergraduate thesis on South Africa (instead of China, which is what everything in my program up to that point was logically leading me towards... but God had other plans) and even made my first trip to SA with a University there in Johannesburg. I didn't find out until after getting involved in South African academics that our church had a missionary family living and working in South Africa!
The rest, in some ways, is history, but I have since gone to South Africa at least 5 times (I've lost track), with the last time being for 6 months to do both dissertation research and weekly ministry with Chinese South Africans.
Have you ever had a period in your life where you literally woke up every morning and thought about how incredibly lucky and amazing your life is? Like literally there isn't a day that passes when you don't think about how your life feels so surreal because of how blessed you are? For both Elanor and I, much of the 6 months in South Africa felt exactly like this. I've never experienced anything like it for such a long stretch of time.
God brought us onto a crazy adventure--one that created lasting memories, taught us personally, and provided us insights into God's kingdom of heaven here on Earth. I started this story with my early college days because if I had just gone with the flow of the world, and wanted what the world said I should want (a stable major/job), I would have missed out on so many amazing experiences! I had no idea what I was getting into, and I certainly didn't know I wanted any of these experiences, but step by step, decision by decision, God led me on a crazy adventure full of traveling, exploring, ministering, serving, loving, and learning. These are some of the most meaningful moments in my life--and I trust that all these plans, these God-plans, are way above and beyond anything I could have planned for my own life if I had just pursued what I thought I wanted.
The first verse I memorized in college was Matthew 13:44, "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." When I memorized it, I had no idea what it meant. My discipler explained it to me, but I still didn't get it. I don't think it was until recently, maybe the past year or so, when I finally got this: God's kingdom, the eternal things, are so immensely meaningful, so intensely and deeply moving, so beyond what we could ever want, that it would only makes sense to give up our lives and buy the whole farm!
When we want what God wants, He not only makes it happen, but He also takes us on an incredible adventure, bringing meaning into our lives in such a way that only He could orchestrate. What a wonderful shepherd we have in the Lord!
May God bring you on many adventures as you follow Him, giving up your wants for His, and trusting that He will provide for you things that you didn't even realize you desired.