“Hey my friend asked for your email. I hope it’s okay that I gave it to him. He has an opportunity that he wants to talk to you about and I think you’ll be really excited,” I read the text message from my friend Josh, curiosity piqued.
Usually these kinds of messages are about writing opportunities. And normally I feel sort of disappointed because I always have to turn them down due to the fact that I have been lousy at taking care of the writing projects I’m already juggling.
But this opportunity was different. As I skimmed the email from Josh’s friend I realized that this was an opportunity to travel. To Israel. In three weeks.
I immediately felt at odds with myself. Typically, I am spontaneous, a little A.D.D., and love to travel. Since graduating college, I’ve moved four(ish?) times and visited six different countries. I save money for the sheer purpose of having a new adventure. I love the feel of backpack straps digging into my shoulders as I board an airplane. Seeing cities I have read about, walking cobbled streets under dim glowing streetlights, discovering what I’m truly made of as I acclimate to a different culture…these are the experiences that make my heart beat faster, these are the experiences I yearn for after several months of being stationary.
However, before 2015 began, I felt God was leading me to make some changes in my life. For the past three years (probably more), I have been claiming I would write a book. I still haven’t. I know I’m supposed to, I even know what it’s going to be about…I have eight pages written. Eight pages in three years. So yeah, at this rate you can expect it to hit Amazon sometime in 2047. Remember how I said that I’ve been pretty lousy at managing my writing projects? It’s called a lack of discipline, mixed with a touch of laziness, and a double-shot of “Hey, Netflix!”
But at the beginning of last year, I felt God nudging me to begin. To be a woman of integrity with my calling and gifting. To have follow-through and build a schedule around the goals I felt God had placed in my heart. It was time to change “I will” into “I am”.
And as much as I wanted it to, I knew that Israel didn’t fit into that equation. The back half of 2014 had run me ragged emotionally and physically. Admittedly, this trip would delay my goal of truly digging in to my book project until mid-March.
Even with this knowledge I felt like a crazy person for even considering turning down the opportunity. And so, I did what any oral-processor does and I discussed it with a half-dozen of my closest friends. The general consensus was that no one saw any ‘”real” reason for me not to go. Which made me feel even crazier. And if I’m being honest, it made me afraid that if I didn’t go that they would all think I was this married-to-her-schedule-stick-in-the-mud who was incapable of letting loose.
After all, sometimes it feels like the mark of success for a young adult is how many epic places we can visit and post about on Instagram. This is what our culture has become. And to be honest, I wanted to be the cool jet-setting girl who posts pictures of the Temple Mount on Instagram. Good Lord, I hate that I just admitted that for so many reasons. And yes, I had other (better) motives for wanting to go, but when I got down to it, the perception of my peers was one of them. I mean something has to be wrong with someone who turns down a nearly free trip right? RIGHT?!
My inner argument arrived at a spilling point while at work one day. My boss asked me how I was. Apparently when I am emotionally stressed that’s all it takes for me to lob frenzied stories at unsuspecting bystanders. But honestly, I’m glad I did because he said something to me I will never forget.
He thought for a moment before asking, “Whose standard of success are you measuring your life by, Coleen? Is it God’s standard? Or the world’s?”
“Uhhh…” I probably gave him a blank stare at this point.
“How are you measuring your success?” he prompted again. “What you’re doing may not be how someone else would do it…But do the thing you’re being asked to do the way you’re being asked to do it. God measures us against what HE has asked US to do. That’s it. Not what someone else is doing. So what is it that he’s asked YOU to do?”
Well frick, when you say it like that…
I didn’t go to Israel. In my heart I always knew it wasn’t what God was asking me to do last year. Would it have been alright if I had gone? Would God have inevitably used it in some manner for His glory? I have no doubt He would have.
But this is a part of growing up. This is a part of maturity and adulthood…giving up things you love for the things you love more. And the really cool thing is, because I turned down the trip, shortly after, I received some pretty cool writing opportunities that I never would have been able to pull off it I hadn’t said no.
We’ve all been entrusted with specific callings, talents, and opportunities. It is up to us to steward them, to listen to God’s voice when he is leading us to do something… even if that something is spending hours in front of your computer in solitude, plugging away at a long put-off project. Even if to everyone else it looks like your year is sort of boring.
And there’s so much freedom in that, in doing the thing you feel compelled to do in the way you feel compelled to do it…even when it isn’t glamorous or Instagram-worthy. Even when no one else may hear about it.
Remember Whose standard of success you’re measuring your life against.