the struggle to surrender

The question is…does the Christian life have to be one of such great struggle all the time? And the answer: No!

No, it doesn’t have to be such a struggle all the time. That is not to say there will be no adversity, trials or temptations. But, inasmuch as the struggle is an internal quality, it is not, of necessity, endemic to the Christian experience.

You see, for the Christian, the struggle always boils down to a single question embodying several facets – the question of surrender. God has already said that He would take care of our every need. Our salvation is already assured in Christ. Jesus already promised us peace, joy, fulfillment…Purpose is already infused into our existence. All those things that we struggle about in our Christian walk are already guaranteed. You name it; we’ve already got it!

So why the struggle?

Well, sometimes I don’t like what God is telling me to do because it doesn’t fit with my own plans. You know, it can be difficult to let go and simply trust that God will take care of things. Other times, I have a hard time just accepting that there’s nothing “I” need to do, all I have to do is accept the peace/salvation God gives as a gift.  And there are times when experiences of disappointment with people I’d trusted cause me to doubt God’s faithfulness.

At the end of the day, for whatever reason, we find ourselves struggling to live out our professions of Christianity. And so continues the Christian struggle. But have you noticed that the moment you stop struggling against God, and surrender, it’s smooth sailing?

The moment you choose to trust that God won’t let you down like so many others have in the past…the moment you let go of your self-sufficiency and choose to rely on God’s strength…the moment you submit to God’s plan for your life, trusting His wisdom above your own or that of your family or community… In the moment of surrender is found the peace Christ promised for His followers.

There was Paul, kicking against the pricks, fighting the conviction that there was something to this Christianity thing. Jesus comes to him on the road to Damascus and asks him to surrender. Quit fighting, stop struggling, and surrender to God, and there is where you’ll find peace.

The Christian’s experience does not have to be one of struggle after struggle: If we had a heart surrendered to God at all times, in all circumstances, our souls would know only rest. The sooner we surrender, the sooner we find peace.

thankful for the struggle!

This year I will have been a baptized member of the body of Christ for 20years. Twenty years! It seems almost unbelievable. How blessed I was to be introduced to a loving relationship with Jesus from childhood. Really, I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know God…or a time when I didn’t have an awareness of His love for me. He’s just always been there for me and I’ve been blessed to know it my whole life!

Spiritual struggles during the first decade of my life involved things like overcoming fear of the dark and developing patience towards my siblings. God helped me through all of them! One time, someone had to go and close the gate after my Dad had come home from work and my sister said she was scared to go alone so I went with her. As soon as the gate was closed, she ran off back to the house, leaving me all alone in the dark. I remember praying and asking God to give me peace in the knowledge that He was with me. He came through! After that, I was never afraid of the dark again.

So when I see children make decisions for Christ, I know, from my own experience, that God is working in their lives. He can give them strength to overcome character defects, even in their under-10 yrs, as they ask for His strength. It was such a blessing to know Jesus from my childhood – I don’t know how I could have made it through the first decade of life without Him!

The church finally relented to baptize me at the age of ten and that marked a new phase in my Christian walk. There were several different struggles, but probably the biggest was the buzz over boys. It was such a struggle to focus on my studies (which is what I knew God was calling me to do) instead of thinking about boys all the time. haha. So silly when I think about it now, and yet a very real struggle! Actually, it’s a struggle that just morphs and matures if it isn’t overcome from our youth. It just manifests differently in grown women…but maybe more of that in a different post.

For me, the struggle shifted from boys to books in my early twenties when I realized that God was calling me to commit my life to full-time ministry. This was way out of line with what I had envisioned for myself. So much of my identity and self-worth was wrapped up in my academic pursuits. So I struggled to put down the books and pick up the Bible. So intense was the struggle that it came down to a decision between Christianity and atheism.

While wrestling with the call to join CAMPUS’ Missionary Training Program instead of taking what seemed like the perfect job, it became clear to me what God was asking me to do. Then I realized that I did not want to do what I knew God was asking of me. But what would be the point of calling myself a Christian if I was unwilling to obey the One I called Master? To disobey God in light of His clearly defined will would be to deny Him. I couldn’t be a Christian i.e. a follower of Christ, if I refused to follow Him. By His grace, I chose to follow Him!

This year marks thirty years of walking with Jesus…struggling to trust Him completely. It marks twenty years of formally being a part of the remnant church…figuring out my place in His work. And I am so thankful! If twenty years in the church and more than that in a relationship with Christ has taught me anything, it’s taught me that the Christian life is a struggle. Really, it’s a struggle to trust God, to surrender to His will – but a struggle nonetheless.

As I look forward to my thirties, I’m curious what the hallmark struggle will be. I have an inkling…but we’ll see 🙂 Hopefully, Jesus will have come before I reach the precipice of my forties with reflections on my thirties though!

Anyways, there’ll probably be a bunch of blogs coming up that are somewhat reflective on my life so far just coz I’ve been giving a lot of thought to turning 30 this year. I’m super stoked! And, like I said, thankful for the struggle that is my Christian journey with Jesus!

walking down the hill

The last time I had walked down that hill was with tear-stained face in 2002. My two years at Pearson College had come to an inevitable and dreaded end. This might be the last time I’d see some of my friends for a very long time.

A year before, I had said goodbye to the students who were completing their two year cycle. One of them had made it a point to come to my room every night and say goodnight: Buenas noches Sikhucita; que sueños con los angelitos – he’d say. (Ps: this tradition developed because he sometimes didn’t find my gorgeous roommate home ;). )

As I walked down that hill to the parking lot my second year, the tears were for the uncertainty that lay ahead. Two years at a United World College changes you and I wasn’t sure how the changed me would fit into the real world. The tears were joyful for the good times we’d had on that beautiful campus…the pranks played…the prayers uttered…the decisions made…the songs sung…the lessons learned. And there were tears, of course, for friends we’d miss!

Goodbyes have never made my favorites list so I always get around them by planning the next encounter – then it’s not really goodbye, just see you later (you know; ne dis jamais adieu, toujours à bientôt). With most of my fellow years that was easy enough because we were mostly going to college on the East Coast and made plans to see each other in the fall. But one goodbye seemed painfully final.

We used to have breakfast together every morning before class and we’d spend most afternoons talking philosophy while sitting on blankets under the loft of my bed. Our backgrounds were so different, and we didn’t always agree, yet that, in light of the mutual respect we had for each other, only made for more interesting conversation. Some friendships you never want to lose, you know. But walking down that hill, I think we both knew…we both wept…

We had heard of alumni returning for their reunion ten years after graduating. Ten years seemed like a lifetime away! Ten years happened last August, 2012! But I didn’t make it to reunion 🙁 However, after GYC in Seattle, my Canadian parents (I’ll explain in another blog post) came to pick me up and I got to see my alma mater again.

Walking down that hill to the parking lot as we were about to leave was surreal. I am ten years older than when I last set foot on Pearson’s campus. I am not where I thought I’d be in life. I am not doing what I thought I would be doing. I am not who I thought I’d be. The questions is, do I have any regrets?

Well, I’ve made loads of mistakes! I’ve done things I’m not proud of. But do I regret who I’ve become? No. No regrets there!

It was an awesome feeling, I’ll tell you. And everything I found to rejoice over as I walked down that hill back to Daddy Peter’s car was all thanks to what God has done in my life. All the things I regret are connected to the times I stepped out of His will <sigh>.

The 20yr reunion seems like a lifetime away! But walking down that hill this time around I had no more tears of anxiety for the future because I’ve seen how God takes care of His children in how He’s taken care of me over the past decade. I am now resigned to the way time and circumstance alters relationships – Heaven will be the only remedy for that. And all I can imagine is that, ten years from now, I will be rejoicing at how God has led in my life. Hallelujah!

View of Pedder Bay from the flag post at Pearson College

View of Pedder Bay from the flag post at Pearson College

Gratitude underlies Giving

Never before had I thought of myself as coming from a place of privilege. Why, by international standards, I grew up below the poverty line. I’m a candidate for aid! Am I not?

During the time of my education at Wellesley College, though, I began to detest the aid mentality. Of course we’re indebted to help each other. What I abhor is the mentality that looks at “poor Africans” and wants to help the inferior…Or the African mindset of entitlement that says, “you colonized us and robbed us of our resources and created arbitrary borders, so now you owe us to build us up.”

When I first moved to North America, the temptation was to play into the aid mentality and describe my homeland in language that solicited sympathy. It has taken years of internal struggle to learn how to present the realities of my background with fairness. That struggle has involved a change of worldview, an obliteration of entitlement and victim mentality, and a faith in what Africans are capable of (I say faith because in too many instances, as evidenced by political turmoil and financial mismanagement, we have yet to see a demonstration of the capability).

In spite of these strides in my own thinking, this is the first time I have tackled my relative privilege and its implications for my life. Although my family was never well off, we’ve always been better off than others. My parents have a substantial backyard, for instance, and my mother always shared of the fruits and vegetables with others who had no land to grow their own and couldn’t afford it otherwise.

Yet we are always striving for more…for better…And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! It’s in our DNA to strive to improve ourselves. The problem is when we our striving lacks gratitude…when our striving is only to better ourselves with no thought of those in a position worse than ours – and you’d be shocked to learn that no matter how badly you’re doing, someone’s doing worse!

Realizing that you are privileged lays a burden on you to give of yourself to help others. Then your striving to improve is only so that you can be of greater assistance to those without. Instead of working for greater comfort in this life, you work for more opportunities to serve. That attitude of sacrifice is born of a spirit of gratitude.

So goodbye to the victim mentality that says, “help me, I’m a poor African” (or an oppressed black man…or an ostracized Asian…or a poor anything at that!). And hello to the Christian mindset that recognizes God’s tremendous blessings and accepts the inherent challenge to give to others of what I have freely received.

we always have something to be thankful for

we always have something to be thankful for

9yrs a GYC volunteer

If it hadn’t been for that one GYC in Sacramento, this past convention would have been my 10th! That ruins the poesy of this post but I can still reflect on a 10yr connection with GYC…Nah, I’ll be fair:

This convention, the 9th GYC I have attended also happens to be the 9th I have volunteered at. No, I was not part of the initial group of organizers…So how did I become a volunteer at GYC 2003?

A group of us drove from Boston to Ann Arbor and arrived before registration was open. Finding the first familiar face, who happened to be running logistics that year, we asked what we could do to help. He couldn’t use our help but sent us to where registration would be set up and we became part of the registration team.

Working registration was the funnest thing because I got to meet so many people! Best of all, I got to meet someone whose messages I’d come to appreciate by listening to them on ACM tapes. This was before the fancy computerized registration system we benefit from now..! and I was assigned the names from Q through U. So I look up to see this tall, built, black man towering over me. “Skeete,” (emphasis on the “t”) he says, “Randolph Skeete.”

It was so surreal to be standing face-to-face with THE Randy Skeete! I’d only listened to his sermons like a gazillion times… The messages he preached had challenged me, encouraged me…and now here he was… in the flesh…talking to ME…! I guess I was a little star-struck huh.

These thoughts must have taken longer than I realized because the next thing I knew he was asking if he was in the right place. Yes, Q through U, that’s me! I handed him his registration information and saw him the next morning at 6.30am preaching for morning devotions (was it 6 or 6.30?).

Unfortunately, the registration people nowadays don’t get to see the CD Brooks and Mark Finleys – I’m so glad I worked registration back in 2003! haha. But, I’d imagine it’s probably still the best place to volunteer if you want to meet new people at GYC!

After helping out with registration, we were drafted into recording the seminars, a function which would now fall under the Resources Department at GYC… I loved it because it was a guaranteed spot in a seminar! There was one GYC where I volunteered as a seminar bouncer for the same reason 🙂 I guess I’m not as altruistic in my volunteerism as would become a Christian eh :-/

There’s been no turning back for me and I’ve volunteered in various capacities every GYC since my first one. Over the years I’ve volunteered for Resources, Registration, Executive Secretary, Administrative Assistant, Presidential and Programming departments.

In conversation with a friend a couple days back, I asked her why she volunteered at this past GYC under the Networking Department as a Small Group Leader. She mentioned how this was her 2nd GYC and it only seemed natural that she should volunteer to help out. Kinda like, how as a Christian when you’ve had an experience with Jesus, it’s just natural for you to want to facilitate that experience for others!

This past GYC convention was a tremendous blessing. The messages spoke to my heart and challenged me to embrace the spirit of sacrifice that is a hallmark of the Christian revolution. Witnessing, however, a glimpse of the messages in the flesh as volunteers for the hospitality department sacrificed meetings, and, sometimes, sleep, to serve our guests, put the gospel in shoes for me and blessed my heart.

It is my prayer that my life will exhibit the willingness and can-do attitude that a volunteer’s true sacrifice elicits as I’ve witnessed as a GYC volunteer.