Words by Mallory Bingaman
I know many of you remember the Great Reads series we went through nearing the end of the summer! If not, just know that it was a time certain authors were able to share their heart behind their books and why they were so essential to growth; Jennie Allen was one of the authors interviewed for this series (https://vimeo.com/174574584 - check out the interview!). She has been a woman that has inspired me in a lot in the past 4 years. I remember hearing her speak to the women at Kanakuk Kamps during our staff training week. She invited us into vulnerability. She strongly encouraged us to pour out our burdens and bruises with a fellow staffer and embrace our brokenness. She didn’t say “wallow in it!”. However, she did invite us to be healed and empowered by the blood of Christ. Community is so incredible in that way. At a Christian camp, where you are on staff, it was easy to feel that we needed to hide in order to appear unblemished and primped for our campers. She reminded us that we are all in desperate need of redemption and to not hide behind pretty smiles. The joy of the Lord doesn’t come from “having it all together” it comes from being full in His goodness despite our current situation.
The quote mentioned at the top is something that I stared at for a good five minutes when I was reading through the chapter. I got really uncomfortable. I got nervous. I was a little anxious. I can absolutely see how she feared that her “sold out” days were behind her. I graduated from Dallas Baptist University in May of 2015. While at this university, I attended chapel twice a week, was involved in a missions based sorority, served at a (Christ based) pregnancy resource center, was a leader with Beach Reach and attended a multitude of Bible studies and worship nights. Jesus was visible at every turn and there was a plethora of people running towards him with me. It was so easy and accessible to fill myself with scriptures and the aroma of Christ. When I moved to Denton, I had already been attending Cross Timbers for a couple of months, but I was not surrounded by the same things. I had to learn how to make friends again. I had to learn how to spend time with Jesus again. I had to learn accountability for going to church and being involved. I was learning how to be self-sufficient and, unfortunately, making money and paying bills came before trusting the Lord. I cannot tell you how many times I have been in tears stressing about finances in the past year. I kind of acted like as I grew up and religion made sense but I didn’t have time for relationship.
I think we worry a lot about the idea of having “peaked”. Have I given all I have to offer? Was college really the best time of my life? Will I just be waiting around until the next big thing? Did I care about living for Jesus more then than I do now?? There are lots of taunting questions we can dwell on, quite honestly. I think turning our focus on all of our earthly responsibilities will often take our focus away from the Lord. As we look at our to-do lists and think about all the things we should be doing, we forget all the sweet things the Lord is doing on our behalf. He is providing and romancing you in little ways all the time! So, we had more time in college to be “on fire” for Jesus or maybe it was your high school days that come to your mind instead. Don’t beat yourself up! Sure, it is sweet to celebrate those times and remember how you were able to serve often and fully. Friends, the opportunities don’t stop just because you got a job, got married, had kids or whatever added duties you think are holding you back. If anything, the Lord is championing you into sweeter times to glorify him and contribute to his Kingdom!
Worker Bees: Don’t feel like you can’t glorify the Lord in the way you love and serve in your occupation. He uses our gifts wherever we are - not just in churches.
Retired People: You have opened up your schedule to rest in and engage the Father’s heart. You have opened up your time to serve in a multitude of ways - young adults, camps, making dinners for people, etc!
Parents: You have the opportunity to raise of kids that know their identity in the Lord; truly loved and seen children that feel safe in the arms of the Father.
Empty Nesters: You have the opportunity to support and encourage your kids as they go off into the world and serve! Then, you have the freedom to bring people into your home and create an environment where others feel welcome - just like your kiddos felt.
Young Adults: Even in the chaos of adjusting to adulthood, you have the opportunity to lean into the Lord’s purpose for you and explore the gifts he has given you.
Married Couples (in any stage): You get to model what Christ looks like in a marriage and have healthy conversations with people about how to make it work and ways to honor your spouse.
To All: We are daily given the choice to remember how desperate our hearts are for the Lord. As believers, we acknowledge that if the Lord doesn't show up, we are nothing. We need him to give us energy and belief. We need him to guide us through hard times and to remind us to be thankful in the sweet times. We need him in resolving hard relationships and broken families. We need him when our worry is out of control and it makes us sick. We need him when we don’t know how we will pay rent. We need him when we are restless. We need him to fill us and replenish our thirsty hearts. He is stepping into our mess everyday and inviting us to be part of something bigger than we can imagine. He has equipped us for every circumstance and wants to empower us to be radical followers every single day - not just to remember how sweet the good ol’ days were. You’re not finished friends and isn’t that incredible?! The Lord takes pride in utilizing his children for Kingdom work! He delights in seeing us know we were created with love and purpose. I pray you keep adapting to what’s happening in your life with a joyful and expectant heart. Take every opportunity captive and know the best is yet to come.