A note from Nika
I wanted to share with you a special guest post on the SJOC blog. In our Theology Automatic for the People (TAP) classes, we eagerly desire to make participants better worshippers of God. While I have often in my teaching profession settled for smarter sinners, my goal now transcends mere intellectual knowledge and aims to help folks learn to love and worship the triune God better through theological instruction. With that goal in mind, our classes end with a “final project” of sorts. Each student chooses his or her own project—art piece, song, recipe, poem, chart, book, etc.—to communicate what God taught them through the class and as a means to worship God through the creation of the project. The result is a beautiful and profound night of show and tell in the highest order. Seriously, ask someone about it, it never ceases to amaze me.
One of my leaders, Tami, submitted a blog post she had written for her final project. Her piece serves as a great example of what it looks like when the gifts of the Spirit, theological instruction, and vulnerability to share what God has taught you collide. I trust you will be encouraged by her words:
Every New Year’s Eve I select a single word that will be my mantra for the upcoming year. Before the word is determined a lot of thought, contemplation and prayer have gone into the word. Just as the Knight told Indiana Jones that he has chosen wisely for he chose the correct Grail, if you’ve chosen your word wisely the word will be consistent throughout the year. It will come up and challenge you over and over and over and over.
As we have journeyed through the Old Testament, time and time again God’s chosen people decided to take their fates into their own hands. In the very beginning Eve listened to the serpent and not God and by her and Adam’s actions they allowed sin to enter into the garden. Cain allowed jealousy to enter his heart and killed his brother Abel. Abraham and Sarah determined that since she was so old Abraham should sleep with Hagar so they could start their family through her, even though God told him he would give him heirs. And this one, this one astounds me more than all the others, the slaves that were lead out of Egypt by Moses, they saw all the plagues and were spared, they “strolled” through the parted Red Sea, and received mana from heaven on a daily basis, but after tiring of endless wandering they decided to build a gold calf, I’m pretty sure these were the first millennials and they were pissed because there wasn’t a Starbucks close by. I mean if I had seen all of that, I can’t even with those people.
In the last 20 months I’ve lost in this order, a sister, a dog, a husband, another dog and then another dog. If you don’t know me let me explain I’m a “microwave” griever. I don’t thrash around and go for days without bathing or getting out of bed, four days after my husband died I went to a fund raiser for an animal rescue organization. That’s how I roll. I knew I could not control those tragic losses, so when I realize I cannot control something I have no problem moving forward from it. I got through the holidays last year because well, it was all already planned. Then the New Year started I chose my word and like the Jewish people I headed to the desert, although my desert was Palm Springs and I didn’t so much as wander as I had daily cocktails (is that ok to tell?), exploring stores and my daily manna came in the form of chips and salsa at fabulous restaurants. No golden calf for me, but, it was a time of restoration.
When I returned I took a contract job that to put it mildly, made me envy Job, in that, I would have been happier wearing a sack cloth and sitting in ashes. Needless to say, that was not my job. I decided to quit and search for what would be my job. Throughout my life I’ve never had a problem getting a job. Get me in the interview and you’re going to hire me. But something strange happened no one was responding to my resumes, NO ONE, so maybe I realize, my desert was actually unfolding in front of me. Days went by, then weeks and then months. As the time went on longer and longer it seemed that the voice of God was getting more and more quiet.
Much like the Crusader Knight in Indiana Jones was put in charge of guarding the Holy Grail by Spielburg and Lucas, God in all of His wisdom provided me my own Knight, although mine wasn’t a thousand years old, mine was blonde, loving and faithful, her name is MariAnne. She constantly reminded me that God was with me. Constantly. To the point that I wanted to ask her to stop because for some reason, this time He wasn’t. I kept trying to figure out what all of that loss was supposed to mean for me, I totally understand that Jaime went home to paradise and that was excellent, as he was no longer sick and he no longer had to live by faith, he was fulfilled, the dogs for the most part were in the later stages of their lives, my sister fought demons all of her life and she was finally at peace, but for me, what was the message in all the loss and not finding employment and now there was only silence?
And there in the background MariAnne was telling me that God was with me.
To be honest I sort of felt like Saul and believed everyone was against me, maybe even God.
I was starting to run out of money and thought well I can sell my house, I started plotting out ways to make it through but I wasn’t praying and I wasn’t asking for direction because what was the point God was silent and I’m so good at controlling things I can figure this out on my own. As much figuring as I was doing there was no peace only fear. And yet there beside me, MariAnne stood and repeated that God was with me.
As important as my word for the year is, I totally forgot about it, it never entered my mind. I bet you are wondering about my word.
Finally, after months of waiting and about a month before I was going to have to put MY carefully plotted out plan into place I got a call to come in and interview for a ministry organization. I meet the most remarkable man, Reverend Celestine Musekura. His story of the reconciliation of God in his life was so profound, so lovely and so emotional that I really wanted that to be my job. I wanted to work there badly. This job didn’t even come close to meeting my means financially yet I tried and tried to figure out a way to accept their offer. I figured if I could work there, in a position serving others through ministry then surely, I could hear God again, it sort of became my golden calf. Again, I would be in no better way financially but man I really wanted that job. That was going to be my answer.
At the exact same time I also received a call about a job I had applied for but I felt I was a long shot for, this one was with SMU. This job met every item on my checkoff list but, it wasn’t in ministry and how could I hear God if I was back in the secular world where you aren’t even supposed to bring up faith or religion or beliefs? SMU offered me a job and fast tracked me to hire in a week’s time, which I’m told is never done (that’s a humble brag by the way).
I know this is long, and I am trying to sum this all up and put a bow on it so be patient.
To my surprise in my “secular” world job I found out that my boss and his wife, one of the professors I work with, are very strong Christians and they told me they had prayed for me before they met me and prayed that I would accept their job offer. One of the other professors went to grad school with my deceased husband and he tells me wonderful stories of their time in school together. And the best part, a great friend of mine, Steve Bagby, who I worked with at Redeemer Seminary was the new Assistant Dean of Admissions for Perkins Seminary at SMU. I can honestly say, that Steve Bagby became one of the biggest impacts on my Christian life. Besides Martin leading St. Jude, Steve’s influence and teachings is the main reason I’m at St Jude and not at a Baptist or mega church.
And all of a sudden just like Paul on the road (that’s a little dramatic but effective, and a great way to bring in the NT to my story) my eyes were opened. (So, boom I converged the OT and NT – mic drop.)
During all of this time, I had forgotten my word, but remember at the beginning of this long discourse I said if you have chosen wisely, the word will come up over and over and over. Much like the majority of the people we’ve studied throughout this semester I lost trust in the promises of God, even for a short time I didn’t trust. Eve didn’t trust God to not eat the fruit, Abraham did not trust that God would give him a son, the Jewish people didn’t trust that God would lead them to the land of milk and honey, I didn’t trust that God was with me, even though time and time again he gave me ample opportunity to TRUST HIM. And He had even provided my own Crusader to remind me that He was with me through all of this which also equates to trusting God.
So, have you figured out my word?
For a word to have the proper impact it must have a verse that supports the word and that you have to reflect on daily. My grounding verse is - Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding and in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. “
Side note, I think it’s quite remarkable that my grounding verse is from the Old Testament.