How do I write a summary of 7 weeks of spiritual growth and the phases of emotional highs and lows that felt as long as seasons? How do you put into words the face of someone who has never seen a Bible before as they see it for the first time? Or explain the way that conversations about who God is arose from thin air? How do I even begin to explain how much I learned about God and how he works…. how he uses us in each other’s lives. How community is given to us freely if we are just vulnerable enough to accept it… and how through that vulnerability we find blessings. Or how after the blessings there may be times of pain and struggle because we are only human, not one of us is God, and even though he uses us to edify one another… only He satisfies. That’s it. That’s the main thought, or fact rather, that I learned that is continuing to change me. Nothing else satisfies.
I thought I knew it before. Before East Asia the Lord gave me a sweet season of life. A time of happy changes and a period of seeking Him and desiring Him alone. Then he blessed me with wonderful friendships and community in Auburn, and a desire to serve him. He cultivated that desire in me so that I found myself, 3 weeks before leaving, in Atlanta at a briefing for the East Asia Summer Project. I was terrified, but even then he was teaching me to give it all to him, all my anxieties and fears. He made Luke 12 my source of comfort, and that was all I felt like I had to cling to.
So I went into the East Asia trip thinking: “Alright Lord, you’re on my side, I’m following you and in turn you’re going to use me in huge ways." Sounds a little conceited, right? Well it was. God graciously revealed to me in those 7 weeks and even since how prideful I am. God doesn’t need me, he doesn’t need this selfish, conceited person to bring people into his kingdom… But he chose to use me. He used all of us that went. He gave us boldness to share the gospel over and over... even when we didn’t want to, and that was when he did the most... when we had no energy left, when no power was in our hands, when all the glory had to go directly to Him allowing us to take no credit. But He was gracious and through using us, he taught us so much about ourselves… For me, He revealed that I was presumptuous. Even though I thought I was “giving it all over to God", I had selfish motives, thinking of what I would get from “being obedient". The funny thing is that even in the midst of all that, he still pursued me, he showed me that faith is not a feeling (that cheesy quote that we hear all our lives, especially if you grow up in the Presbyterian church), but it’s true. He increased my faith, he taught me that I had more to learn.
And that’s the thing, I never want to stop learning. I want Him to continue to teach me and refine me and grow me… I want to be open and vulnerable and willing to be led, because that’s life, that is walking with God, allowing Him in, allowing Him to make a beautiful butterfly out of an ugly caterpillar, and it’s one of my life cravings. The Lord did amazing things in East Asia, but the biggest thing that is so evident now is how he changed each of our hearts. Talking to my teammates after being back, I see how all of your hearts are set towards one thing: Christ. We now know that nothing else matters. And through us realizing this, Christ looked upon
us and led us with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, He eased the yoke of our jaws, and bent down, fed us, and continues to feed us because we stopped running from Him and started running towards Him. (paraphrase of Hosea 11:4).
-Caroline Russell, Senior