People usually go into missions with certain expectations: to see God work amazing healings, to struggle with the new experience of language barriers, and to get sick in some form or fashion. What people usually don’t see coming, however, is that missions is more about what God does in you rather than what He does through you.
For me, this was a difficult concept to grasp. Shouldn’t I be concerned about how many souls can possibly get saved instead of worrying about if God is doing anything in my relationship with Him? Apparently not. God is such a loving Father that He is more concerned about His children spending time in His presence and receiving His love than He is concerned about how much you can do for Him.
Don’t get me wrong – obedience is a sign that you love God (John 14:15). But He isn’t sitting on His throne watching and waiting for you to run around in circles trying to impress Him. As the lyrics to Bethel’s song “Pieces” says, God doesn’t give His heart in pieces. When you become His son/daughter, He loves you completely and entirely. Your response to Him that follows does please Him and make Him proud, but it doesn’t make Him love you more or less.
However, this concept was very foreign to me a little over 6 months ago.
When I entered my DTS, my conversations with God primarily consisted of me asking what I could do to please Him. To me, I could never do enough to try to earn my Father’s love. I journaled a prayer along these lines at the beginning of lecture. Little did I know, prior to arriving at our base, our guest speaker for the second week, Christian Fox, prayed and asked God what He wanted to say to all of the students. During class a few days after I journaled my feelings to God about my deep desire to simply please Him, Christian shared the words God had given him for me:
“The Lord sees you and He knows you. You are fully loved and accepted by Him. Your identity can’t be found in anything other than His unconditional love and perfect view of you. I feel like God wants to say to you that He’s proud of you… I feel like all He see when he looks at you is pleasure, smiling…like when your kids do something amazing and you say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s mine. That’s my kid right there!’”
After Christian spoke the first few words, I was in tears. God heard my prayer! He saw my heart! And He loved me – regardless of what I do. Abba continued revealing this theme to me during my quiet times, through lectures, and on outreach, consistently for the next six months.
One monumental way He reiterated this message to me was during our outreach in a tiny village in the Himalayan Mountains. Our team was split into two groups: those who would trek for several hours each day to reach distant villages with the gospel, and those who would stay primarily in the original village. Our leaders told us to pray and ask God which group we should be in; when I talked to God, He gave me a choice: He said I could go on the trek, but I would get sick if I went. I had the option to stay. Of course, since I struggle with trying to earn God’s love, I told Him that He was worthy and I would go.
God had other plans. (Proverbs 16:9)
Later, when it was time for the trek, He told me that He wanted me to stay. On one hand I was relieved (I’m not a huge fan of struggling to breathe while climbing mountains), but on the other hand I was disappointed because I wanted to prove my love and devotion to Abba. However, I knew that God always knows best and works things together for my good (Romans 8:28), so He had to have a purpose for this change of plans.
When our team first arrived at the remote village we would be staying at, the first person we met was an older Nepali man named Bibek (Name Changed). Right away it was obvious that he had a servant’s heart: he chopped up firewood to keep us warm, walked a very long distance early every morning to make us breakfast, and he never let anybody wash dishes.
Our Nepali hajurbua (grandpa) was so adamant about serving that we had a competition about who could get the closest to serving Bibek in return. For example, I’d gather all of the breakfast dishes, sneak into the kitchen, and pick up the sponge, when suddenly Bibek would appear with a big smile on his face and then take the sponge from me while laughing. After fighting for the sponge, I would eventually surrender with a laugh and a “Dedi dhanyabaad!” (Thank you very much!), then rush back to let my team know how far I made it that time.
As we did ministry in the village, Bibek was always right beside us: he escorted us to a village two hours away and walked home by himself after we were safely there; he prepared our breakfast every morning; he even loaded up a heavy backpack full of Bibles to bring to other teams that had trekked into distant villages by himself. His presence always brought a feeling of security and warmth.
As we coordinated with our translator and didi (older sister), she would ask Bibek about what ministry we would do each day. (He speaks almost zero English.) Towards the end of the first week, she told us that on the upcoming Sunday, we were going to have a picnic (church in Nepal is on Saturdays). We weren’t sure what ministry this meant, but a picnic sounded like fun.
Sunday morning after breakfast we packed our daypacks with boiled eggs and our water bottles, then Bibek led us into the bazaar and we bought wai wai (precooked flavored noodles), tangerines, and water. Prepped and full of energy, we began our journey.
Our journey, however, ended up being different from what we expected. We crossed the river by bridge and followed a path on the mountain adjacent to our village. Our path was parallel to our home village, so the whole time we were walking we could look to the left and locate familiar parts of town. Up ahead on our path, we saw tiny patches of snow still frozen because the shade side of the mountain stays cool enough. We had been dreamily looking at that snow from our far away guesthouse, wishing for an opportunity to play in it, since we had arrived a week before.
Much to our surprise, when we got to the snow (which was hard as ice), Bibek took a rock and broke some of it up, then threw it at us! He started a snow fight. We eagerly started breaking up other patches of solid snow and tossing it back and forth. It was so much fun! We continued playing and making our way across the side of the mountain, and then Bibek surprised us again – he led us up a steep slope to a long and wide solid chunk of ice, sat down at the top, and slid down! Then he motioned for us to join him. The look of joy on his face was so sweet.
After playing and laughing, we ended up down by the river. We sat down in a circle and enjoyed our picnic lunch. After resting for a bit, we got up and continued our journey. We kept wondering when we were going to get to the place we were going to do ministry, but time continued passing and still we were just walking our path. Eventually we walked through a village, but we didn’t stop. We just kept following our Nepali grandpa.
Occasionally, through translation, Bibek would share insights with us, like how his dad is buried under the rocks by the river. When someone would slip on the ice, he would call out in a concerned voice, “Careful! Danger!”
Eventually we made it back to our guesthouse and realized that our path was really one big circle. I was confused – we didn’t do any ministry. We passed through tiny dwellings, but we never stopped and shared the gospel. We didn’t pray for anybody. We sang a few songs together, but they weren’t worship songs (Disney, of course). Had we wasted the day?
During my quiet time, the Lord gave me a revelation that addressed this question and confronted my battle with a performance mentality: Bibek just wanted to spend time with us. Similarly, that’s all my heavenly Father wants: to spend time with His children. Neither of them want us to jump through hoops and spend all of our strength trying to impress them or earn their love; they just want to enjoy our presence.
Dhanyabaad, Abba, for being a Father who desires relationship with His children and loves us so much that You would go out of Your way to teach me this lesson through a kind Nepali elder in a remote village in the Himalayans.
If earning God’s love is something you struggle with, I strongly encourage you to listen to Bethel’s song “A Little Longer” during your quiet time. Soak in your Father’s love and believe Him when He says that you have received the Spirit of Adoption and nothing can separate you from His love. (Romans 8:15, 38)