Looking back on the stories that have been told here so far, it’s pretty easy to see that most of them feature people who have struggled against some great challenge or difficulty. Whether it’s been depression, an unhealthy family background or other pattern of poor choices, they’ve wrestled with their lot and have been delivered, or at least have grown closer to God through the battle. But is that really the case for everyone? I believe, as I wrote about the other week, that the more true we are with ourselves and each other, the more we will see that lots of people have serious struggles in their everyday lives. But what if that’s not your experience? Can God use a story that’s not riddled with hurt or disaster? Instead of arguing that he totally can, let me introduce you to Hannah Watkins.
Hannah grew up in a Christian home. A lot of our stories begin this way, bit the usual disclaimer, at least in my life, has been that we always knew a lot about God without actually knowing him, let alone knowing him. Hannah claims with a sincere heart that she can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t in love with Jesus. Further defying the norm, she’s made it through the dark teenage years without running after the crowd or falling to temptation. Part of this experience that has brought pain, though, is that her closest friends put her in a ‘goodie church girl’ box. Instead of respecting her strength and dedication to holding fast to good values, they stopped inviting her to spend time with them. It seemed they didn’t want to feel judged for their decisions, even though it has never been her intention to look down on them. Anyway, that’s been her life, and she had always assumed that her lack of drama or difficulty meant that her story couldn’t be as powerful as others we’ve heard this summer. Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, during Beat the Drum, she answered the call to be vulnerable and stood in front of a lot of people to share her story of purity. To Hannah’s surprise, several of her students followed up with her after class to tell her how powerful this had been for them. The simple fact that it was possible to live out these morals we talk about had blown them away and encouraged them to turn over a new page in their own lives. She found that her willingness to trust the Lord with her life of consistency had been a catalyst for change in the hearts of others.
It’s worth sharing that while Hannah may indeed have things in order in her personal life, her future, to the average onlooker, appears to be rather chaotic and uncertain. She did a year of college close to home, and is taking the semester off this fall. Though unclear as to her ultimate calling in life, Hannah has made herself totally available to God’s will for her. In his faithfulness, he’s called her to Zambia for the summer, even though she hasn’t been away from home before. In a time where Hannah anticipated extreme homesickness, God has continued to be everything he’s promised to be by protecting her from any of that. She’s on the other side of the world with less than enough answers about the future to hold up in a typical small talk interaction, but Hannah’s so full of peace and assurance that she’s in exactly the right place. The Lord has honored her trust by continuing to carry her this far, and she’s more than excited to find out what’s next.
A huge part of Hannah’s confidence in this being the place for her for now is the community in which she finds herself. Our EXP family has grown closer with each passing week, and that’s something we’re all remarkably thankful for. Being one of the younger interns at nineteen, Hannah speaks of us as her older siblings, and loves the way we care for her. I totally resonate with this gratitude, as I’m only a year older than that; I feel so valued and safe among these people. Like all of us, Hannah obviously loves and misses her family and friends back home in East Lansing, Michigan, but it’s that same closeness that makes her appreciate the bond between our crew over here. God speaks through people, and it’s so encouraging to see how he’s voiced himself in us to confirm that he’s doing powerful things through Hannah’s life.
Spending time with Hannah and reflecting on her story this week has reminded me that the Lord really is able and willing to use anyone’s life or story, whether it’s dramatic or simple; whether it belongs to a wretch or a saint. Yes, this truth works in both directions – it’s just as impossible to be too good to be used by God as it is to be too depraved for him. His only condition is that whatever sort of life we bring to God, we surrender it to him fully and without reserve. He doesn’t need our life to be intriguing or in order, just true and available. So whatever you have to offer him today, know that he’s ready for you, to guide you along the adventure of your life for the sake of his kingdom purpose; something incomprehensibly bigger than ourselves. All it takes is an attitude of surrender and a willingness to step out your front door.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR
William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern