A Moment Looking Back…

So… it’s August twenty-second. The summer is over and next semester is staring me in the face. And, despite my firm resolution when school ended for the summer, I’ve not written much at all. This has been a crazy summer, and writing about everything that has happened and everything I have learned would probably take another three months, so instead, I think I will just share some of the highlights.

The summer began excitingly enough- with a trip half-way around the world. The mission trip to Cambodia was mind-blowing to say the least. I’m not going to take your time with the full story (it takes four hours to tell and even longer to write/read) I’ll share the main lesson I learned on that trip. It can really be summed up in one verse, John 11:35: Jesus wept.

God completely broke my heart for the beautiful people of Cambodia with their shattered culture, war-torn history, and spiritual darkness. But He also showed me that just as He stopped and wept with the heart-broken Mary even though He knew her brother would soon be returned to her, He is crying alongside the Khmer people even as their nation is slowly being rebuilt and, more importantly, as the Gospel is spreading and healing some of the deeper hurts.

I serve a God who truly weeps with those who weep. And if the Creator of the universe is not above crying with a hurt child or lonely woman, who am I to be so high and unfeeling? So I’ve spent much of this summer learning to put myself in the shoes of the people around me… learning to laugh with them… to hurt with them… to listen to them… to let my heart break for them. It’s been hard, but at the same time it’s been so eye-opening. I want so badly to look at a hungry crowd and feel nothing but compassion, just as my Lord did when He walked among the hurting people of the world.

Which sort of brings me to the next part of the summer. When I got back, I started the summer job I had lined up- serving in the conference center dining room. The Bible College I attend shares land with a conference center, so during the summer they hire students to work over break. My job was generally fun. Really fun. The work was fast-paced with lots of people interaction and I worked with a great group of people who always gave me something to laugh at.

It wasn’t always easy, though. It was extremely physically taxing, and not all of the people we took care of were easy to get along with. It was through that that God began to teach me that really, people are all the same in His eyes and that the loud, demanding conference center guests are just as much His children and are just as worthy of loving, selfless service as the Khmer orphans. I was going through the Gospels and was repeatedly struck by the story of the feeding of the five thousand. Even when Jesus was exhausted and had had a long day, He saw the crowd and was moved with compassion. And again I was faced with the same dilemma: If my Lord’s heart was stirred for these people, how can mine not be? So work was an area of breaking and learning as well, and with every retreat I once again had to beg God to give me a heart of love for the people He would bring here.

And of course as always, the summer was filled with couples. Why is it that everybody decides to get together at the same time anyway? It was really hard sometimes to see what seemed like everybody and their mom finding somebody who was just perfect and who felt the same way about them, and I must confess I found myself spending more late nights than I’d like to admit to up late bemoaning my own singleness and asking God what was wrong with me and when it would be my turn to be loved like that.

But, like He always does, my Daddy gently reminded me of His own beautiful love for me… and that He loves me too much to let me have anything like that too early or too late. When the time is perfect, and considering that He knows everything He’s a better judge of when that is than I am, He’ll bring the right man along. Until then, He has other plans for me. As anxious as I am to have my own home with a husband and a family to care for, I know it’s not time yet. And if I’m really honest with myself, I know I’m not at all ready. And as hard as it’s been with all of the couples around me, it’s been very encouraging to see other, older girls who have faithfully waited and trusted God seeing that hope fulfilled. It’s good to be reminded once in a while that God really does know what He’s doing and I can trust Him in everything. And, as came up in Bible study a little while ago, hope in God never disappoints.

A lot about what I’ll be doing in the future is up in the air. Right now, I have no idea what next semester will be like. I know it’s going to be very different from the last two, but what that actually means I have no clue on. And out past this next semester, I’m completely in the dark. Past December tenth, I don’t know what I’m doing at all. But somehow, I’m not the least bit worried about it. I’ve stopped stressing out about that all too common question of what I’m going to do next after “wasting” two years of my life getting a degree from an unaccredited Bible college. The answer is that I don’t know, and that’s okay because it’s not my problem. That’s the nice thing about trusting in authority… it takes away a lot of burdens. And, it just so happens that the Authority I’m trusting in knows the whole big picture of history, so I figure He’s a pretty good one to know what I should be doing next, and He’s been teaching me a lot this summer about how He leads us.

In June, I was going through the book of Proverbs. I found over and over verses about how people can make their plans, but in the end, God is the one who decides what happens. Proverbs 16:1 says, “The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” We can make our plans, but God gets the final say. Verse nine of the same chapter says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” A few chapters later, Proverbs 19:21 reads, “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel- that will stand.”

God’s been teaching me about how He leads in the most natural days. As much as I might want to hear it sometimes, God very rarely gives us instructions by rolling back the sky and speaking from heaven. Instead, He guides us so naturally in everyday life that often we don’t even see His hand until we’re looking back on what happened. This sort of work of God is displayed beautifully in the story of Ruth.

When Ruth went out to glean in hopes of providing for herself and Naomi, she didn’t go expecting to find a husband. Gleaning was the lowest occupation and was essentially the same as begging. She had made her plans, and gleaning was the best she could do. And there was nothing wrong with that. She did her best to be faithful with what she had. But while she was planning her way, God was directing her steps. She did not intentionally begin to work in Boaz’s field in hopes of being redeemed. She did not even know that such a man, or perhaps even that the laws of kinsman redeemers, existed. In her faithfulness, God guided her without her knowledge to the place where He would begin the process of her redemption.

So often God seems to work like that. I may have no idea what He’s doing, I may not even be able to see His hand at all, but He is always there, orchestrating everything perfectly. It’s so comforting knowing that as I look forward at my future and see nothing but foggy dreams, and even as I look at the next semester not knowing what to expect, God has I all figured out. I don’t have to understand ahead of time, or in the middle of things, or even looking back on them, it’s enough to know that He does understand. And that’s all I have time for, so I guess I’ll stop rambling and just move forward. Year two of college is waiting.

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About Stephanie Joy

I'm just a girl growing up in a world with very little light and trying to follow God's will for my life. I love Jesus, my family, and my friends, and I pray that somehow someone will be blessed through my scribblings. View all posts by Stephanie Joy

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