This isn’t easy for me to admit, but it’s honest: I thought God asking me to stand still meant He was going to use me for big things.
Now when I say “big things”, I mean starting a nonprofit, cranking out a book and a speaking tour, or becoming a missionary in Africa. Why no other continent occurred to me, I still don’t understand. But Africa was the big one.
As insane as it sounds, I just knew He was putting my life on hold so He could fly my fear-prone tail across the Atlantic and place my bug-detesting self in a hut on African soil.
So as the years passed and He still hadn’t called me to anything beyond my seemingly mundane existence, I grew frustrated. What on earth was He telling me to stand still for if He wasn’t going to use me for something?
God and I, as we often are due to my wild imagination and fierce stubbornness, were at an impasse.
A few years ago, my family and I were invited to sing at a local homeless shelter. Because I’m ten times more comfortable with children than I’ll ever be with adults, I asked if I could sit with the table of kiddos after singing. The smallest of the crew quickly agreed while the oldest just smiled shyly from across the table, watching with her dark eyes.
As time passed, she warmed up to my occasional questions. Before I knew it, she was sliding a folder my way. “I’m a writer,” she said, hiding her eyes. “I write songs. Sometimes I write my prayers.”
I smiled at her and gripped the folder in my hands. “I’m a writer, too. Is it okay if I take a look?” Her enthusiastic nod made me laugh as I flipped it open.
She was ten and full of words, something I understood all too well. More than that, she was ten and in a homeless shelter and holding onto a raggedy folder like the words inside were some of her dearest, greatest possessions.
Suddenly, I felt words of my own bubbling out of my chest. I looked her in the eye and said, “You are a writer, girl. I want you to remember that. No matter what anyone says, no matter what anyone else believes. You just remember that God has given you this beautiful gift and you keep using it for Him, okay? Your words will always belong to you. Don’t give them up.”
She nodded, gave that shy smile again, and offered me the first of many hugs. After our goodbyes, she was hanging through the open window of my car when her eyes grew wide. “Wait! Wait right here,” she said before running back inside. She was back in no time, handing me a small pack of Starburst and hugging me through the window again before waving us off.
That small pack of candy meant the world to me. The kids had been talking earlier about their Trick-or-Treat night, about their costumes and the fun they had. It’s a highlight for most children, but for these children, it was incredible. And I had a sneaking suspicion that my new little friend had just gifted me a piece of her candy stash. She didn’t have much, but she gave me what she had and I nearly wept at what it did to my heart.
The lesson she taught me has been invaluable and I’m forever grateful for our afternoon together. I didn’t realize it, but I secretly thought I could only be useful to the Kingdom if I was doing something big. Something Africa big. In my head, everything else was nice, but it just didn’t count. God used a little girl with a heart like mine to give me a glimpse of how He feels about me.
Maybe shy smiles and a tattered gathering of words are all I can offer Him. Maybe I don’t have much to bring according to my own standards, but if I give Him what I have–no matter how big or small–it does something beautiful to His heart. I think it does something beautiful to mine, too.
I’m no longer waiting for Africa, for some grand gesture from Heaven to validate my waiting or make me feel better about my small life. I want to serve Him here, now. Don’t misunderstand me–if God is asking you to go to Africa, go. But if God is asking you to go to your local church and be faithful there, that’s good, too. If God is asking you to show up with a full heart and empty hands wherever He leads you, that’s good, too.
I’m convinced, now more than ever, that God is less concerned about building platforms for us than He is about building relationships with us. So what’s your Africa? What are you waiting for? Because the only thing God is waiting for . . . is you.