Last weekend I had the privilege of walking another seven people through reFocusing's Awaken workshop. This is an email I received following our time together.
"I want to tell you about Awaken and Activate. In order to do that, though, I need to first tell you what it's not. It's NOT a card table lined with clipboards asking if you'd rather go to Africa or Japan. There is NO sign-up sheet for blocks of time to stand outside Vons with a guitar and ream of fliers. It's NOT a series of Scantron tests of your knowledge of building clay huts or water purification systems or dentistry and medicine. It also ISN'T a string of presentations by our current out-of-country missionaries telling us how we can help their cause. And [our church bookkeeper] certainly DOESN'T sit in an obscure corner, counting money and announcing, "We're still shy of our goal. Pass that plate again!" In fact, no offering was taken at all...they even fed us, provided beverages, and let us take bathroom breaks.
Yes, those thoughts all ran through my head at one time or another as week after week I heard about Awaken and Activate, learn how to be a missionary!
Let me just pause here and say that I have so much respect for missionaries who have a heart for third-world countries, who live there and work there and teach and provide. They are so special and so few. I wish I was one of them. In my current season of life, I don't have the passion to be one of those missionaries. I won't shut the door on the possibility of that in the future, though, because God has a sense of humor when it comes to me, and just when I shut the door on this, I'll find myself laying on a hay bed in the middle of a 140-degree clay hut, wishing I couldn't smell myself. If I do ever find myself in that situation, you can rest assured that it will be my passion (and I pray God will provide a shower, or at the very least some daily rain).
How did I find myself in an Awaken and Activate workshop? Well, I had been through a very difficult personal event in my life, one which changed the way I related to others, changed the way I thought, and challenged every aspect of who I am or want to be. I was left with 2 things...my family and God. I suddenly felt I had nobody to lean on other than God. Then it happened at church, the announcement of “the final Awaken and Activate for the year.” Well, I had nothing to lose! I'd already lost just about everything dear to me (save for my family and my relationship with God), so I signed up.
I grew up in the church. I went to Sunday School and learned about who Jesus was. As I got older, I learned that God was there for me and that I could have a personal relationship with Him, and I prayed more and more. I worked hard at deepening my knowledge of who God is and who Jesus was. Yet, something was missing.
For 43 years I had learned who God is to me, and I never considered who God says I am. Did you know that God has an identity for you? I'm sure some of you are saying, “I'm His child” or “I'm a sinner who has been forgiven.” Yes, you are all those things. But, specific to you, who does God say you are? Who God says you are is different from who God says I am. He created you specifically...specifically!...and has a specific and unique identity for you. Nobody is exactly like you. Did I just blow your mind? It blew my mind too! Because of Awaken and Activate, I know...I actually KNOW...who God says I am. It's incredible and empowering and intimate.
If God has a specific identity for you, doesn't it stand to reason that he also has a specific purpose for your life?
I'm going to be incredibly brave and open now and tell you the most powerful moment for me in Awaken and Activate. We were asked to do an exercise, and immediately everyone started writing...everyone but me. I was empty. I had nothing to write, nothing to give, no direction. So, I excused myself to the restroom, embarrassed, and hoping that God would talk to me in there. No such luck! I returned from the restroom, looked right at Nick and said, “I've got nothing.” Ugh...words so hard to say! I was afraid he'd tell me to pray on it. I was exhausted. I honestly had nothing more to give, and I felt like I had failed. Nick asked me to gather my tools and meet him in another room, so we could talk. We went over my tools, and still nothing. Nick asked me a few pointed questions, knowing my background, and no, those weren't my current passions. I knew what I would do if I had no limitations, and I shared that with Nick, but I felt it wasn't right, wasn't enough, wasn't achievable, and wasn't realistic to my life today. And then I don't understand what happened completely. Nick asked me another question (I don't know what it was) and suddenly a number of memories of experiences came flooding into my head, some years old, some as recent as just last week. I paused, and Nick said, “You got it, didn't you?” I looked at Nick, and we both had tears streaming down our faces. Unashamed, we didn't try to hide them or even wipe them away. They were a relief, such a blessing. I talked through those tears, telling Nick what my purpose was, and I just cried harder and it felt so good, so freeing!
I thought that would be the end of my story...but it's not. I thought my passion for this mission/my purpose would stay the same or would likely fade as time passed. It hasn't. That passion has just grown. The connectedness I feel with my Heavenly Father has blown me away. Every song I sing, the words seem more vibrant, have more meaning. And, best of all, I feel as if a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I feel free, knowing that my purpose is undeniably the purpose for which God created me. This is not a purpose I've chosen, but rather a purpose God has chosen for me and PREPARED me for. Yes, He's prepared me for this moment all my life. I can see it in the people who have had significance in my life. I can see it in my experiences, both joyful and painful. God is more real, more powerful to me right now than He has ever been before.
I am a missionary for Christ, right here, right where I am. I'm passionate about my purpose and confident like I've never been before. The Awaken and Activate workshop was the best gift I could have given myself." -S.P.