Jennifer McPhail, Cambodia
I was a small-town girl happy serving in a quiet, country church with my family, and that is how I envisioned my starry future. But what inspired me? Daring acts of faith or testimonies of miraculous provision for a need gave me chills. I could not hold back tears when I heard stories of lives redeemed and transformed by saving grace. I was a young woman clinging with one hand to a picturesque life like I had grown up with, yet longing to reach for the unknown, the uncertain, where God’s hand is clearly seen.
Little by little, finger by finger, God gave grace to open my hand and “let goods and kindred go” to move halfway around the world with my husband and baby. That was more than seventeen years ago, and I have to say there have been many times that I realized I was holding on to some temporal, transient thing I did not want God to take.
Maybe you have the same inner war, yearning to risk it all to serve the Savior you are learning to love more and more, but still clinging to the safe and certain. Maybe your passion for Christ and the Gospel has spurred you to look at your global opportunities.
Maybe when you read Christ’s words calling for denying self, taking up your cross, and following Him, you tremble like you are scared or excited, or both. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it,” our Lord continues in Mark 8:35. In strange paradox, He calls us to let go of this life so we can have something far better, the life He gives.
But how do we relax our often white-knuckled grasp? Or how do we even know when what we are holding on to is a weight we need to set aside? What can we do to be ready to reach out for the adventure He wants us to have, whether at home or on foreign soil?
It is true that at times God will wrestle a treasure out of our childish fist, and then we tearfully bring our grief and our loss to Him in surrender. Today, though, let’s simply consider how to loosen our grip in three areas so we can let go as He leads us to.
Loosening my grip on my “likes”
Our individualistic culture encourages us to define ourselves by what we like, as well as by how many “likes” we get for what we like. From the time we were tiny tots, we’ve been asked,
“What is your favorite color?”
“What do you want for your birthday?”
“What’s on your bucket list?”
“Do you collect anything?”
“What music group or actor do you follow?”
“What is your favorite hobby? Sport?”
We learned to answer the questions in a way that declares who we are by what we enjoy. But what are the things that should determine our identity? Can I be too narrow and even confined in a box by my likes and dislikes? Perhaps our self-life has been promoted by the world around us and needs a demotion. We could expand our likes to include the whole color spectrum or every wholesome thing that comes our way. It can change the way we look at food. People. Events.
In this case, loosening my grip on what I like to do and have has helped me enjoy so much more of God’s world, like Cambodian cuisine. I don’t have to carry a bunch of stuff around with me, because there is more to enjoy everywhere God takes me. I have freedom to grow and change as new opportunities develop, because I am not who I am because of a defined set of preferences set in stone.
Loosening my grip on my security
Let’s face it. Most of us girls are not daredevils. I loved depending on my dad, and I love depending on my husband. I am also an introvert, loving those “me times.” So when I tell you that I get up most mornings and drive a moped in nonsensical traffic to the market to buy the day’s food and talk to the women there, you must understand that there has been a big letting go to get to this point.
Right now, you may feel insecure just giving a testimony in a group or sharing Christ on your summer job. I don’t know what terrifies you, but often we have something we find security in that we don’t want to let go of. Privacy, finances, relationships, or even phobias can all be things that hold us back from considering a Gospel-focused direction of life.
Loosening my grip on my dreams
What do you aspire to do and be? We all have dreams, and the world around us is constantly whispering its mantra, “Dream big. You can do anything you believe you can. Believe in yourself. Follow your heart.”
When we step out on faith, we lay aside many of our own plans and designs for life. Peter probably wanted to be the best fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus called him to feed His lambs and fish for men. Did Peter lose his dreams?
I envisioned myself changing the world through writing books. I had my husband and my life planned out. During my college years, the Lord challenged me to lay aside every plan I had made in pride and ambition. Since then, He has given more than He ever took away. His plans are breathtaking!
After the rich young man sadly walked away from Jesus, Peter remarks,
“Well, we left everything to follow you.”
When Jesus answers him in Mark 10:29-31, every question you may have about what will happen when you loosen your grip is answered. Sisters, this is not asceticism! We are reaching forward to a fuller enjoyment of the greatest adventure, following Christ.
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.