Maria Daughtry stood in front of us, her palm outstretched as she spoke a sentence that nearly brought tears to my eyes. “Feel free to plan, but hold those plans with an open palm,” she then continued to joke about calling a DTS a “gap year” and I laughed at the fact that I had stopped using that term about a week into the school. The word, “gap year,” did not seem heavy enough to capture the weight of what was taking place in my heart and in my mind. This Discipleship Training School, this “gap year,” as I had so eloquently titled it, was not, in fact what I had anticipated it to be. I landed in Kauai with the expectation that 1.) I would figure out what exactly it was I wanted to get out of my life and 2.) I would learn a little bit about Jesus along the way.
We have all heard the saying, “We make plans and God laughs,” right? Well, my version had always been, “I make plans and God is okay with them because this is obviously what I am meant to be doing.” Before stumbling across YWAM Kauai’s website, I had been on a much different track. I was a senior in high school, going to audition after audition at colleges and universities across the East Coast with the intention of studying musical theatre. I loved everything about it and knew that becoming a singer and an actor and being on Broadway was what God had planned for my life. I knew all of this without actually ever consulting Him about it… silly, I know. So when God so graciously offered me the opportunity to take six months studying His Word and serving others in His name, I was so annoyed at how my other plans had not panned out that I said yes. Now, let me tell you why my own plans falling through was one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6
Before DTS, I was the definition of a lukewarm Christian. I rarely prayed for others, worshiped, had a quiet time, and going to church or any type of gathering where Jesus would be talked about seemed a bit like a chore. I wanted something more. My first few weeks in Kauai were riddled with self doubt and questioning why some people seemed to be closer to God than I was. I felt like I tried and tried to get it right, yet somehow always felt like I was falling short. Someone always seemed to be better at worship, someone always said a “better” prayer than I did, or encouraged a team mate better than I could. Why could I not be a better Christian? Then it hit me- I needed to surrender.
I had to lay everything down at Jesus’ feet. I had to realize that my walk is not about how well I can pray in front of people or how easy it is for me to journal about my love for Jesus. I does not matter how loud I sing out in worship or how many people I can encourage in any given day. My relationship to God is not a competition, in fact, it is the exact opposite of that. He calls us to “…rest in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91),” not to drive ourselves crazy attempting to be as “good” as the Christians we see around us. One of our speakers, Mark Riley, reminded me that, “…to worship the Lord is a privilege… ” I had to stop viewing time with Jesus as a chore (the furthest thing from what it is) and start treating my relationship with Him as a gift, as a privilege. Once Jesus helped me to do this, to not worry about what others were saying or doing, but to focus on Him and what He was saying- that is when I finally felt peace about my previous life plans not taking the shape I had intended them to.
There is one moment, however, that took place in Nepal that drove this point home. Some of our team had gone out to trek, while six of us had stayed back at the base, and for a week we were in charge of our own ministry, worship, intercession, and rest times. The five girls that were with me during this time showed tremendous maturity, love, and patience for each other. Multiple times we got together to just pray and speak truth over one another, and it was during one of these times that I felt incredibly discouraged. I was struggling with not having gone on the trek, as well as comparison to other people’s gifts and abilities had begun creeping back in. As we prayed for each other, the Lord made it clear to the other girls that I needed some sort of prayer or encouragement. When they stopped what they were doing to ask if I was okay, I was taken aback.
How had they known I was feeling bad? I hadn’t told any of them… but Jesus had. My God specifically set aside time to show me that He is always by my side. He used my friends, who are all so special and uniquely gifted, to minister to me when I was feeling low. And this was not something that just happened to me! Over the course of lecture and outreach phase, I got to see Jesus speak individually to every person on our team. It was truly an amazing display of how our Savior loves us all uniquely and desires to be with each one of us.
As my time in DTS came to a close I realized that my priorities and plans had been rearranged. My life was no longer about myself first, Jesus second. God had shown me that He is the only thing worth living for. His love for His children is unfathomable and He wants all of our hearts. He is not an afterthought, as I had treated Him for so long, but Jesus should be the only thought.
Jesus changed my life during DTS. When I learned how to give Him everything, every situation, every dream, goal, and plan, that is when I truly felt at peace and was able to rest in the assurance that He will take care of me. It may not always be easy, Christians are not promised an easy life, but we are given a relationship with our Savior. Through the different speakers coming in and out of our base, and then the wild adventures experienced in Nepal, Jesus showed me that He will never let me down. When my plans seem to “fall through,” His ways are always better than mine.