Hi Jack,My entire life I've always known that I won't lead a "normal" life.God has blessed me with a very intellectual mind, but also a passionate, zealous heart for his kingdom and his people. College is just around the corner for me and I'm having difficulty deciding which direction to move.I know I am being called to full-time ministry, but I don't know what or where. I've been on urban and rural missions in the US, I serve locally, I've been a speaker at youth meetings and also write, I'm on a Board of Directors for a non-profit Christian youth organization, and I serve musically in several different areas. When I think about what I would like to do I always come to a point of confusion. After the church split in my former denominational church I have a burden for the church institution. My other passions are music and evangelism and discipleship. I have so many things I want to do, so many things I could do, but I don't know what the right thing to do is. I'm really torn, should I be pursuing missions, church-institution work, or what?Amidst all of this confusion I'm getting offers from many different colleges including some Ivy League universities that appeal to me theoretically, but in the end I know lead away from the path I should be following (self-reliance vs trusting God). Basically: I know God is calling me, but with all the opportunities out there, I don't know to where. I've prayed for so long and I don't know what to do.
Thanks, Elizabeth, for sharing your dilemma with me. I praise the Lord with you for your gifts, and with you, know that the Lord will guide you into His calling.
Let me pray as I consider your situation: "Father, I thank you for Elizabeth. I praise You that she wants your best. Help me to answer her wisely."
1) I'll begin with a question: What do you consider "normal?" Which of the characters in the Bible would you consider "normal?" What God calls us to is to know HIm, walk with Him, and follow His leading. I know this is what you want, and it's the secret of joy and great contentment.
2) It's rather unusual to see the range of activities you have been involved in. This is great preparation for the future. However, as you anticipate, you will have to concentrate on a focus where you can make your greatest contribution. Then there are things you can't fully anticipate, such as marriage, or an injury, or an area you have never thought of - which might combine various of your gifts.
3) The choice of college is key, and perhaps this is your fundamental concern at this moment.
a) I look upon college, for someone like you, not so much as a fine tuning of your skills as a preparation for your life's work, but more as a general preparation, an absorbing of basic elements of culture, a broad base upon which you can build. If this makes sense, you would major in something - perhaps literature, history, or philosophy but then take subjects in many fields. Your fundamental question would be, "What Lord do you want me to concentrate on when I graduate?"
b) While in college, don't crave a lot of high level experiences. Learn, rather, the basic skills of how to present the Gospel to non-Christians, how to disciple a new believer, and how to form leaders. All these basic skills will prepare you for whatever way you will be called to serve the Lord. Read carefully through the New Testament and try to get a grasp of what Christianity is all about.
4) Should you study in a Christian college or in a secular school? There are at least two ways to go:
a) Go to an evangelical Christian college with a high academic level, like Wheaton or Gordon. Take advantage of their Bible and missions courses. Get to know key professors who can guide you to future theological and biblical study. Make friends with keen Christians. Get involved in ministry on the week-ends. This is what I did, and it prepared me for Seminary. I hadn't attended a Christian High School and it was helpful to me. Some will call it a "hot house environment," but is has the great advantage of helping you develop a Christian world view through all your courses. It will be expensive.
b) Go to a secular school. Plunge into the non-Christian, anti-Christian atmosphere where professors mock the Church and the Bible. Participate in a Christian group like InterVarsity, Crusade, Navigators, etc., and learn to answer the hard questions. Learn what it is to belong with a committed Christian group that plans an effective witness on campus. Your faith will be stretched. You'll get in deep touch with the issues of our day. Some will say you could lose your faith. You could probably get a scholarship. Three of my granddaughters went this route. Their mother got them a free ride to the U of Chicago and Emory. They made it through and learned a lot.
c) Make sure you plan to attend at least one Urbana Student Mission Convention (2009 or 2012).
d) Consider a summer attending the Latin America Missions' Spearhead program one summer in Mexico - 8 weeks of hands on involvement in the culture.
5) While you are studying, making friends, ministering, getting to know a wider world, constantly be asking the Lord how He wants you to serve Him. He is more interested in your finding His path than you are! Be faithful in your quiet time, plan not to study on the Lord's Day, and spend time in worship each day. LIttle by little a vision will begin to unfold. The Lord rarely shows us the whole map, but He does show us the next step and give us a general idea of a future that is compelling and even exciting. Be prepared for times of dryness when you have to hang on by sheer faith. Deepen your relationship with your few Christian friends who will pray with you as you all seek His will.
I trust these thoughts will be helpful to you, Elizabeth. From your description you appear to be a "golden girl" right now. As you get involved in the college / university world you'll discover that there are more like you than you had first imagined! The battle between self-reliance and trusting God will be with you the rest of your life, however. You have the right focus now. Keep it up.
If my comments seem relevant, don't hesitate to write me personally. I'd love to follow your journey. It will be anything but boring!
Blessings on you.
P.S. Take a look at John 10, and meditate on the privilege of being one of Jesus' sheep.