Periodically I will look through a folder in my desk I have labeled “encouraging notes.” Over the years I have collected these things from people so that when I feel a little depleted I can look at them and find some encouragement. Reading through them brings back fond memories of people I have not seen in years and experiences that shaped who I am today. One letter I came to was from my youth pastor in my graduation letter. He said this, “remember, God’s the man, you are not.” To the average reader that might not mean much. To me, it brought me back to one of the most significant lessons in my life.
While in High School I took a trip to Reynosa, Mexico. This town is on the border and is a stark contrast to its neighboring town in the United States. The area is poor. The people are longing for something more and are anxious for interaction with us. Our goal was to go there and serve the church with both building and ministry projects. They were trying to reach people with the Gospel. I thought that I was going to have a pretty significant impact on this trip since I had taken some advanced Spanish and I loved God. That seems like a pretty solid gift mix for a trip to Mexico. But, as G.K. Chesterton said, “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” In other words, I might have all the skills for the trip, but it doesn’t mean that is what God has in mind.
Our trip was by bus and it was to take 28 hours to get there. If you have ever been on a bus for that long, you know that there after a few hours it gets old and starts to smell. We got part way into our trip and our bus broke down. We had a convoy, which was convenient, but we didn’t have much extra room, which was not convenient. We split the bus up among the other 4 busses. I got stuck on a bus with people I did not know. They welcomed me by squirting me with a squirt gun. I was not amused.
We got to Mexico and things seemed to be back on track. The first morning we were to go to the church for their 5 a.m. prayer meeting. The church met every morning to pray for an hour. This in itself is an experience because it is a dark room and the people pray out loud while walking in a circle. It is also amazing that so many people give up sleep and time to pray together. We have so much to learn from them! However, that first day I started to feel a little dizzy as we approached the church. I got up to exit the bus and I fainted down the stairs of the bus.
I don’t know if you have ever fainted before, but it is a very confusing experience. I woke up on concrete. It was dark and I remember seeing a dog running around to my right. Above me were some people who I knew. They looked concerned, but I remember being completely unsure as to what was going on. It took me a few seconds to even recall where I was.
After some water and time it was determined that I was going to be alright. However, just to be safe, my youth pastor wanted me to rest in the hotel room. I did not want to rest in the hotel room. I had not traveled that distance to simply sit in the hotel room all day long. I lost the argument and I sat in the hotel room. I was alone in a Mexican hotel room with no guitar to write a song about it.
What I did, though, is pout and complain to God. I remember being completely confused about this. Why was I having to sit here when I could be used by God for something amazing out there? What did I do to deserve this punishment? It was then that I opened my Bible up to Romans 12:3.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”
It was like someone had taken a fire hose and sprayed it on my face and my life was now completely exposed before a holy God. I knew that in my mind I was pretty important to this trip. I knew that according to my agenda I needed to be out there doing the work of the Lord. God was reminding me that His concern was not just for the work, but for each individual person including me! In fact, I grabbed my pen and feverishly wrote this down: “I guess I am not as important as I thought. God is the man, I am not.”
The words are not eloquent, but the message is profound. I was not essential to the plan, but God was willing to use me for it. I was not a vital component, but I was a loved component. The message to me was to surrender and understand that it is not just everyone else who needs a Savior, it is me also. It was time to get off the pedestal and serve like Jesus did.