'Come away with me'
In early October after weeks of planning, preparing, fundraising, organising visas, and packing, I flew over to South Africa with a heart full of gratitude and expectation, ready to begin the Harvest School of Missions.
In a baptism of fire, I was introduced to a whole new level of community living; sharing a dorm with 80 other girls. Bunks crammed together with blankets in between as make-shift walls, suitcases and luggage piled high against any spare wall or floor space, make-up bags and towels hung haphazardly on bed ends, and the constant activity of girls being girls. An introvert's dream really.
In those first few weeks, I struggled with feelings of loneliness, despite being surrounded by the other 220 students every day. It made me realise again how deep my need is to feel loved and known.
During this time, I felt God inviting me to draw close to him, and my heart wanted more than anything to just sit still in his presence. He is always beckoning us to him, we just don't always listen.
God's invitation to 'Come away with me' is always there. Saying yes to this invitation is ultimately why I decided to go to Harvest School in the first place.
Just where has my yes taken me?!
Today I had a moment of contemplating where my 'yes' to God has taken me...
As the smell of petrol wafted into my nostrils and the sun beat relentlessly through the window of my un-air-conditioned car onto my sweating skin, I adjusted the sun visor hoping for some relief.
It promptly fell into my lap. I sighed, considering the 65 cents in my purse and the similar amount left in my bank, reluctantly concluding a new car was just beyond my reach at this point. (Although, I thought smugly, surely the car competitions I've been entering will pay off at some point? There's hope yet!)
Moments like these have become quite familiar over the years. They often remind me my life isn't exactly following the recommended trajectory of someone my age living in a wealthy country. Most people are working on building their careers, saving money, buying houses...you know...responsible, hard-working citizens 'building a future'.
But here I am, back from another trip overseas, dwindling down to my last dollars, scrambling around to find work of some description, and definitely not ticking off any career advancement goals. Of which I seem to have none...
It's easy to let such thoughts pull me into feeling a great lack of accomplishment or sense of failure, and to question the wisdom of having said 'yes' to another unconventional adventure.
But I choose not to dwell in these feelings, because if I did, maybe I would start shaping my life according to the perceived expectations of people around me.
And if I did that, I think I'd be saying no to the greatest invitation there is; to live, fully engaged with the One I love. Going on adventures and getting to know God more and more intimately, and along the way discovering more of the way he's made me tick; coming fully alive.
Saying yes is easy when you're in love
When you're in love with someone, you don't really give a hoot where in the world you are or what you're doing...you just want to be together. Loving the person and being loved by them is what fills you with joy.
The love you share is what matters, not any of the externals. The rest is just an adventure – an adventure that makes you fall more in love with that person.
I want to keep saying yes, because I'm in love with the one who invites me on these adventures. I want to follow where he leads, simply because I want to be close to him. The point is not what I do, where I go or what I achieve. The point is Jesus.
Sometimes I've made my relationship with God about what I can do for him. I lose sight of what it's all about; Him. Being in love with him. Without intimate connection, it all becomes meaningless. It all becomes draining. All of the fun gets evaporated. Putting my focus on what I do takes away the whole entire point of Jesus. It's about love. Loving him and being loved by him.
When we're in love with Jesus, the things we do for him become a wild, fun adventure. Hard times become bearable because the one we cling to is the one who matters. If everything we've worked for crashes down around us, our identity doesn't crash down with it. Because the one we need, love and find our purpose and hope in, never fails. He is steady, constant, unchanging, true.
Sometimes he will invite us to go on crazy, daring adventures with him, but more often it just looks like waking up every day and saying yes to being fully engaged with him throughout our day.
And why wouldn't we want to say yes, when we're in love with him? He knows us better than anyone, and has a knack of knowing just what will bring us joy and fulfilment.
Bonnie Dowie loves all things old-fashioned, exploring new places, coffee with friends and being with her family. She is passionate about broken hearts and relationships being restored through the power of vulnerability and honesty with God and others. Bonnie has a Bachelor of Humanitarian and Community Studies and a Master of International Public Health, and hopes to work in developing countries one day.
Bonnie Dowie's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bonnie-dowie.html