In 1981, I was working full-time in a high school ministry. Our summers were free to request a summer placement in another location. There were choices like summer camps, oversees projects, and staff training in Colorado. But, I couldn’t take my eyes off this world map that hung on the wall of my office. Day after day, I prayed for that huge island on the other side of the world. There’d never been a summer project in Australia. True to my personality, I asked and asked and asked again until finally, my boss set it up for me. Flying solo, I headed off to the land of kangaroos, wombats and koalas.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. Surrounding the ‘please, can I go’ and ‘yes, you can’, I was struggling with what felt like everything. My job, my future and God. I knew He was real but I was miserable and didn’t know why. As I got off the plane in Sydney, I blurted out, “Hello, and oh, by the way, the minute I get back to the states I’m leaving staff. I hate it.”
My hosts handled it well and in their wonderful accent, Bill and Faye said something like, “Oh, okay,” and never mentioned it again. I was quickly submerged into reaching high school students for Christ and for the next several months, I know God used me in spite of myself. I also felt completely loved and accepted. But that wasn’t the cure for my discontent.
My heart was still asking God two questions. Do I love you? and Do you love me?
I really didn’t know anymore.
Ministry in Australia was very different from working with high school students in Texas. We had complete access to the classroom. I was allowed to help teach a Bible course and I could sit with students during their lunch breaks to talk about God. The spiritual battle was strong. Australia began as a convict colony. Prisoners banished to the continent hated the idea of being controlled by another country and it was my feeling that some of that ‘don’t tell me what to do’ lingered in the way they thought about God. Talking about a God who said humble yourself, follow me, and be my disciple didn’t sound so good. Seeing the team’s passion to persevere was inspiring. I also saw how pride stood in the way of salvation.
Toward the end of my time there, I attended a two-day training for the area staff. As I looked around at these people who I’d grown to love, I couldn’t help but ask myself why was I so different? They wanted to serve and I just wanted to get out.
“God, do I really love you? If we all have the same Holy Spirit, no more, no less, why am I so unhappy in ministry and they’re so happy? Shouldn’t I have that same excitement and joy? Shouldn’t I want to be in ministry? I have all of the Holy Spirit, too, so why aren’t we all alike?”
And then God showed me.
When I was much younger and returning on a flight from Europe with my family, I got very sick. I threw up and with my head in my mother’s lap, I begged God to take away the nausea. And then I said the fateful, “God, if you’ll just make me feel better, I’ll be a missionary.”
Fast forward to Australia. I suddenly understood what I’d been saying my whole life. ‘God, do you really love me? Yes, I’ll be a missionary but you’ll probably make me go to Africa. And I really don’t want to be that crazy kind of missionary who acts really weird. And I really don’t want to be the kind of missionary that wears dowdy clothes and looks tired and poor all the time.’
The lightbulb went on. I confessed my pride and my fear that God was going to make me into something that I didn’t want to be. I told him that I knew He loved me and I trusted Him with where He’d take me and if I was supposed to be a crazy missionary, I’d be one. The pressure of fitting the mold left, I wasn’t conflicted anymore about being in full-time ministry. I just wanted to be whoever God wanted me to be. My love for God and my understanding of His love for me took a giant leap forward that summer in Australia. I am glad I was miserable and asked those two important questions.
Diane Burns writes from Dallas, Texas, while working full-time and enjoying her 3 adult children. She has one published book on autism that gives hope to parents of that ‘different’ child, and has self-published several works of fiction under Diane Drake. She loves character-driven stories, to laugh and to be inspired.