(I’m happy to introduce my youngest daughter, Holly Dahlstrom, to you. Her joy, courage, and love of people inspire me. Her capacity to hear God’s voice and follow is a reminder to us all that “a better story” awaits, if we’ll but listen for the voice of our Maker and follow. You can follow all her Rwandan adventures throughout the summer here.)
CEZ, OVC, ‘letter of invitation’, MOU, developing world, US Embassy, PEPFAR, cultural assimilation.
These are words I never expected to use in a single conversation. Yet I found myself on the phone this morning speaking with the volunteer specialist for World Relief discussing the final details for my upcoming journey to Rwanda. How did I find myself here? The answer is simple. To some the answer I will give is frustrating and naive. To me it is merely the truth. I would not have found myself using these terms on skype this morning if it had not been for God’s calling on my heart two years ago to do something very new.
I sometimes think that “call” is a term overused in Christian culture. I always wondered how I was supposed to know if I was being “called” to do something or if I just felt like it. Was God going to speak to me from the clouds like He seemed to do in the Old Testament? Would it be through miracles and signs that I knew the feelings I was feeling were from God? I truly never understood the concept of “calling” until I was in the midst of my own call. One night I went to bed living my life as usual and the next day I woke up and realized that my life was never going to look the way I thought it would.
When I started university three years ago I had every intention to major in theatre and give the theatrical life a try. I took all the classes, made some very dear friends and tried out for a show. By the end of the year, the passion I once possessed for the art was gone and I felt very lost. I hit that point between loss and frustration where your existence is wrapped in a state of uncertainty. You let go of the thing you love, though you’re not really sure why, and then you sit and wait. This story is quite often the Christian life, but it’s only half of it. It’s the next step that makes the crucial difference between living in the misery of uncertainty and stepping into a greater story that is being written.
For me the next step was figuring out why I no longer had the heart for the stage that was once such a prominent part of my life. The same quarter that I changed my mind about theatre I was also studying the book of Matthew at the weekly on campus worship service called “group” (which is a longer story for another time). It is in the book of Matthew that we read these words:
And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
The entire book of Matthew is an instruction manual on how exactly we can bring a measure of the kingdom of God to earth. Read the beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That attitude was once so completely unthinkable, yet here we are explicitly asked by Jesus to turn the worldly way of thinking upside down. At group, we called the beatitudes the Upside-Down Kingdom of God and that is exactly the story that I want to try to live into. I believe it is a story we are all called to, as Christians, in one capacity or another.
For me, living into God’s story meant changing my major from theatre to global development studies. It meant no longer memorizing monologues and instead writing at least one research paper every quarter (If that’s not a sacrifice, I don’t know what is!). For you it will mean something entirely different, I’m sure. I think the beauty of call is that you have the assurance that God will not leave you in a lurch. Yes, there are moments when I have desperately wished I could have had my own way. The late nights in my living room next to a stack of books about microfinance and the broken heart as I read about female circumcision among Egyptian women are never things that I wished upon myself. But I have grown.
Stepping into a call will stretch you and grow you in ways you never imagined. Stepping into a call will lead you to worlds you never dreamed of. Stepping into a call will completely change your life. I am about to board a plane for Rwanda. A country that was devastated by a horrific genocide in 1994 is now the place I am about to call home for the next ten weeks. This is not the story I would have written for myself, but it is the story I have found myself in and it is phenomenal. I am still surprised by myself when I pack my backpack every morning with books about Africa and economics, but this is who I am now and I am exceptionally grateful. Through the agonizing moments of fear I have felt a closeness to God I didn’t know one was able to experience and through the moments I have wanted to run far away I have felt God constantly calling me closer to Him. Above all I have felt an abounding love unlike anything I have ever known. This is what it is to step into a call. If God has called you and you are uncertain, take a leap of faith. God is not out to get you, he’s out to help you realize your potential and share your gifts with the world around you in order to bring a measure of the kingdom of God to earth.