This past weekend, I had the amazing opportunity to be in Orlando, FL. I am a part of the design team for a conference called Exploration which takes place every two years. The purpose of this conference is for 18-25 year old’s to gather in worship, small groups, and workshops, to discern their call to ministry. We had about 500 people attend this weekend conference where students were not only exposed to what it means to be a Pastor in the United Methodist Church, but they were also exposed to what it means to be a lay leader, a deacon, a staff member, and every other sort of position (whether paid or non-paid) in the church. As a member of the design team, it was my responsibility to work with a team to coordinate worship and what it would look like.
Perhaps the most meaningful moment of the whole conference for me was on Saturday night as we shared communion. A student came up to me and asked me to pray with her. As is my custom, I asked her what I could be praying for and with tears in her eyes, she asked me to pray that she would have the courage to let go of all control and let God lead her. She was feeling nudged to say yes to her calling, but saying yes didn’t make sense. Saying yes would change things; saying yes meant giving up all control to God. In that moment, she wanted to say yes, but she was afraid of what saying yes would mean.
I could easily relate to her. I can remember the countless times I have felt God nudging me to do something, but I was too afraid to let go of my ability to control things. For me, saying yes to ministry meant that I had to let go of the dreams and plans I had for my life. Let me be honest, I did try pursuing “my” dreams, but as I pursued them it became clear to me that I was not happy doing that work. I did well in my business classes, but I never got excited to go to class. I could never figure out how I would actually use that degree.
I learned a lot in my business classes, but the only place I could apply my learning was in a church setting. When we would talk about budgets and spreadsheets, all I could think about was balancing a church budget. When we talked about marketing, all I could think about was how marketing applied to the church.
Everything I did, I tried to apply to a church setting. It was clear that I was feeling called to be in ministry, but I felt like saying yes to that nudge meant that I had to let go of my hopes and dreams.
Like that student, I too prayed have prayed many times that I would be willing to let go of all control and let God lead me. And maybe you have too.
Maybe you have felt nudged to do a career change but doing so means you would have to let go of certain things. Maybe you have felt nudged to start a family, but doing so means you let go of your daily routine. Maybe you have felt nudged to go back to school but doing so means things have to change at home or at work. Maybe you have felt nudged to take a step away from work, or to ask for more responsibility, but doing so could cause a lot of changes around you. Maybe you have felt nudged to go back to church or join a small group but you worry that people might not be welcoming or accepting or that the whole experience may be bad.
We have all felt that nudge to do something. And the truth is that many of us have, at least at times, been afraid to say yes to those nudges. Saying yes means we let go of the things we can control and that can be terrifying. We want to move forward, but we worry that unless we can maintain all control, moving forward seems nearly impossible and, honestly, kind of foolish.
But maybe that is not was saying yes to those nudges means or looks like.
Let me explain.
As I have gotten older, and have become more and more willing to say yes to those nudges every day (some days I say yes while kicking and screaming). I have come to realize that I was not really longing for cars or wealth or prestige. What I really wanted was purpose, the opportunity to make a difference in this world, to say that my life mattered and made a difference.
But I could not accomplish that on my own.
On my own, I would have to work twice as hard, while doing a career that didn’t really bring much joy to my life (I didn’t really have fun going to the classes that would help me accomplish what I thought was my hopes and dreams). And to be completely honest, perhaps for a season I would have been able to accomplish the things I was longing for, but eventually I would have to work even harder to fulfill that longing once again. But for some odd, and beautiful reason, saying yes to God and to those nudges meant that I was given the opportunity to find what I was truly longing for in a more permanent way.
I am reminded of a scripture out of Matthew 11 in which Jesus says these words: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
First, let me say this. When Jesus says that his yoke is easy, he is not talking about egg “yoke.” That is spelled yolk and not yoke. But don’t be embarrassed if you did. At one point I also thought Jesus was referring to the egg kind.
When Jesus says yoke, he is referring to a type of harness used for oxen to get them to pull farming equipment. What Jesus is saying here is that we need to stop trying to lead ourselves and instead let God lead us.
Let me paint this picture. If the oxen roam on their own, they may travel to where they need to, but nothing really gets accomplished. They didn’t do any substantial work and there is still work to be done. But when the oxen give up their ability to control their own path, and let their master place a yoke on them, they are guided to do what they need to do. They find their purpose and they find their path.
The same is true for you and I. When we let go of our need to keep control, and allow/invite God to place his yoke upon us, then we begin to find our purpose and path in life. We begin to see that in letting God lead us, in saying yes to those nudges, we find the things that we are truly longing for. We find real purpose for our life, the kind that brings fulfillment, joy, peace, confidence and everything else we long for.
Saying yes to God and those nudges means you will find rest in your soul from all the wrestling, the doubting, the worry, the anxiety and even the fear you carry because in God you will know that all things can and will work out. It’s not always easy but it is the promise that God has given to you and to me. My prayer today is that you will let go, allow God to lead you and see your longings fulfilled in God.
Together on the journey,