My word for 2018 is invitation. Typically I have words like faith, love, generosity, which are all great but there is something that feels very different about this year’s word. I want to share with you three invitations God has extended to me over the past 6 years.
Invitation to healing
In the Fall of 2011, I found myself in the darkest place I had ever been in my life. I was battling alcoholism and depression from the grief of suddenly losing my mom in 2009 and honestly, I was losing the battle. I was in an abusive relationship and I kept all of my pain tightly compartmentalized. My life was a mess.
Every Sunday evening at church (yes, I attended church regularly), I begged God to release me from the darkness. Every prayer was met with the same answer, “I’m not a quick fix. Give me your life and I will heal you.” It was a beautiful invitation that I was unwilling to accept because to accept it, meant I had to stop holding on to anger.
In November of 2011, I started to have some health problems. I remember after some tests on my heart my doctor called me and said, “If you don’t quit drinking, your heart will give out.” I had already started to lose some functionality and I was on a fast path to heart failure. I was 42 years old and a single mom to a beautiful 10-year old daughter.
Again I begged God to intervene and again He extended the invitation, “Give me your life.” Well, this time I accepted the invitation and by the Holy Spirit’s power, I walked away from alcohol and abuse and into God’s amazing grace and love. I’m thankful to say that I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since 11/10/11. Praise Jesus! My heart is functioning fine too!
Invitation to follow
A month or so after giving my life fully to Christ, I was praying and asking God, “What do you want me to do now?” In one of the very few times in my life, I heard an audible voice answer, “Follow me”. I was a little taken aback for two reasons: 1) When you hear God’s voice THAT clearly, it’s a little off-putting; 2) That felt like a really lame calling. So, in typical human fashion, I asked two more times, each time with growing frustration because I wanted a different call. A better call. Each time I heard the same answer, “Follow me.”
As I researched a little bit about the invitation of follow me, I realized that’s the language Jesus used when he called His disciples. That can’t be lame!
Matthew 4:19 Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
John 1:43 Jesus said to Phillip, “Follow me.”
Luke 5:27 Jesus said to Levi, “Follow me.”
Mark 8:33 Jesus said to the crowd, “If anyone come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
So, I decided right there to accept the invitation if simply following Jesus wherever He would lead. I don’t have some great goal, I just love people and love God and do what He tells me to do. It sometimes feel strange and it sometimes feels like not enough, but it never feels lame like I had thought in the beginning.
Invitation to boldness
A few years ago, I was in a Perspectives class and one of the speakers was from a ministry in New York City called International Project. This ministry trains people to be missionaries. They believe strongly in showing God’s love to all people by meeting them where they are and not asking them to change, just simply loving them and show them God. They also believe strongly in a home-church model. I fell in love with this organization immediately.
The other reason I was drawn to International Project was because I have loved New York City for as long as I can remember. The idea of bringing together a ministry I love in a city I love was a wild dream. I started praying about whether or not this was a dream God placed in my heart.
Fast forward to Fall 2017 and I feel God inviting me to apply to International Project for their 10-month training. It was too much so I prayed about it for about a month and talked to my close friends and pastor. Everyone was unanimously in agreement that this looked like God and I should apply. I applied.
Fast forward to today and I’ve passed 3 of 4 phases in the application process. Wow! I’m getting ready to go out to NYC in April to meet team members and visit sites to see how this ministry works. I’m also going to see if we are a good fit. It’s beyond a wildest dream…it’s God’s call of Follow Me.
I believe God is inviting all of us to deeper walks with Him. You have no idea where God may lead, so accepting a vague invitation may feel scary. Trust Him. Follow Him. God has nothing but your best in His heart because your best brings Him glory and builds His kingdom. Don’t pay attention to the nay-sayers, follow what you know God is saying and accept His invitation. He will never leave you or forsake you.