Friday, June 5, 2015

Dazzling in my Disappointments

      My college years were ones marked with great friends, great fun, great stress and decent food (sorry cafeteria workers). In those 4 years other than the question what my major was there was one question that I was faced with answering more often than any other. "What are you going to do when you graduate?" This question brought me joy or anguish depending on the mood of the week. I didn't have it all figured out at the age of 10 like some of my classmates so this question was often one answered with a bit of insecurity masked by self- confidence. Throughout the four years I answered it very differently depending on my mood

June 2011 (Freshman Year)- I want to be a Church Planter or a teaching team pastor, probably in North Carolina but maybe Africa. I just don't want to work in youth ministry.

June 2013 (Junior Year)- I think I'm going to do ministry in the Northeast. I really hope at Salem Church in Staten Island. I will probably be a young teaching pastor or maybe work with small groups or discipleship. I will probably do anything other than youth ministry.

June 2015 (1 Year after Graduation)- I am finishing a year long internship with Salem Church in Staten Island where I have worked in youth ministry while helping out with small groups. A role I will continue in for the time being.

        As you can tell my answer did not line up with reality. I graduated college with hopes of grandeur and knowing that I would come into Staten Island and change the world for Christ. What I was met with was a church that needed me to do the one job in ministry I felt unprepared for and honestly undesiring of: youth ministry.  What I have learned in the year of living in the tension of my dreams not being met by reality is what I would love to share with you: God can dazzle us in the midst of our disappointments. 

       Sitting in the reality of not being in the position that I was meant for and had dreamed of took its toll on me. I felt bitter at times but mostly I was just plain disappointed.

 I was a two-time award winning Pastoral Student at Liberty University. I traveled and preached at events up and down the eastern coast. People once told me that I would preach at conferences.  With all of these dreams and qualifications I felt I carried; why in the world would God have placed me in the one place I didn't dream of and the one place I felt unqualified for?

      I have come to find that the answer lied in the way I asked the question.

      I viewed preaching and the success I had experienced in the past in pastoral roles as products of how God had gifted ME. My gifting and talents were going to take me far in life with God receiving the glory of course. The truth was if I was being really honest, my hope for a successful ministry and future was placed squarely on what God had given me not on God Himself. 

     In taking me to a place where I felt my talent couldn't help me, God forced me to come to realize that the only thing I truly need is Him. My hope must be transfixed on the Giver of life and grace not on what I think He has given me. 

     Now a year into working with students I can tell you that I do still feel inadequate most days, but I know that is okay because my hope is not in my adequacy but rather in my gracious loving Father. 

 But perhaps the most profound thing I have come to realize is that I believe God graciously held me from my dreams and aspirations to guard and protect my soul. 

I am a better follower of Christ, husband and minister because of how God worked in the midst of my disappointment. He taught me where my hope truly needed to be found and a myriad of other things in this year. I will not downplay the emotions that I felt in this year or how difficult it was for me at times. What I will say though is that today I can tell you that I'm extremely thankful for it. 

 Through the circumstances of my life not lining up with my dreams and plans God has more aligned my heart with that of His Son.  

If you are in the midst of great disappointment, I encourage you to press into God. God dazzled me in the midst of my disappointment and I believe He wants to do the same with you!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Purpose in the Journey

           There are few circumstances in life where the personality of my wife and I are in more direct contrast than when it comes to how we handle road trips. 

           On my perfect road trip there are several 2 minute stops where it's a race to see how fast you can get gas and buy snacks that results in a frenzy that would make a NASCAR pit crew jealous.  

            In my wife's perfect trip we stop every so often for sit-down meals and sometimes we stop  just because. 

             In my perfect road trip I do whatever possibly allows me to pass the time the fastest whether it be entering into a comatose status of sleep or plunging my mind into some kind of entertainment venue. 

              My wife wants to look at every mountain and take in every second of the scenery as we drive by. 

           You might be wondering "Cool Dustin, why are you sharing this?" (If you weren't play along, it helps my ego). The reason I share this is that I think it highlights a very real tension that we all face in life. 

          This tension that I'm speaking of is the age old question of what is more important the destination or the journey?

          Though in the context a road trip the way you answer this question may not lead to any significant implications it certainly does have massive implications when applied to our life. Is life all about the destination? Your dream job in your dream house with your dream family riding in your dream car, or is life more about the path you take while getting to your destination. 

          As I have been dwelling on this question in my own heart I have come to the conclusion that while the destination is important there is purpose in the journey. In the Bible I see two shining examples of why there is purpose in the journey. 

          The first is the life of Jesus. In theory Jesus could have lived 33 years in relative obscurity before dying for our sins but He didn't. He chose to travel around Israel and Judea and Samaria before heading back to His destination, Jerusalem.

          In His journey through these regions lives were healed, communities were mended and relationships were created. Yes, His destination had eternal purpose but so did His journey. 

It is my fear that in placing too much importance on the destinations of our lives that we miss the beauty and opportunities that are afforded us on the journey. In our hurry to get to the next thing how often do we miss what is right in front of us. 

           The Second example is the concept of Sanctification. For those of you that don't carry around a fancy theological dictionary with you while reading blogs, that is just a fancy way of saying "the process upon which we become more like God." 

           Allow me to explain what I mean by this. The moment we are saved couldn't it be possible that God could snap His fingers and turn us into Christ in a second. In a split second we could go from wrong to right. Anyone who has been a christian longer than 20 seconds can tell you this isn't what happens though. In His sovereignty God allows us with the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit to struggle through becoming more like Him. What could He could do in a second He allows us to work alongside Him for a lifetime to accomplish. Why?

 I believe God allows this because it is the intimacy that is born through the journey that makes the destination worth it. 

            Though my head is drawn to believing that it is only the destination that matters experience has taught me that what happens on the journey makes the destination worthwhile.  

            There is purpose in where you are at in your journey, whether that be mile 1 or 100. It is in these trying times on your way to your destination that you have the opportunity to make meaningful relationships that change lives and communities. It is also in these times that the intimacy created with God and others makes your destination worth it.  For if we gain all of our destinations but have no one meaningful beside us have we gained much at all.

May we delight in our journeys as fervently as we pursue our destinations.

- Dustin Wells