Of all the posts I have written for this Month of Missions, I reckon this one is the hardest. How do I sum up 5 years of learning? Obviously I cannot write out every lesson or revelation God has given me in these past 5 years, but with this post, I am highlighting the most pivotal. These weren’t overnight lessons or one time things. These were lessons I learned over a period of time (and may still be learning to a degree).
I love that our God is always ready and willing to teach us and grow us and show us new things. How good is that? Without further ado, here are 5 Pivotal Lessons I’ve Learned in 5 Years of Missions.
1. God greatly desires to communicate with us
Week 1 of my DTS was interesting. I was still trying to figure out if I was meant to be here, meeting new people, hearing and learning brand new things. It was all a bit overwhelming to be honest, and like I referred to in this post, I was doubting whether or not I made the right decision.
I learned very quickly, though, that God deeply desired to communicate with me. He didn’t want me to know about him – He wanted me to know Him! How do you know someone? You sit and chat with them, you hang out with them, you process with them, you laugh with them – you have a relationship. Even though I knew God had spoken to me before, there was a big part of me that diminished the fullness of that incredible blessing. Within those first few weeks, I started to recognize God’s deep desire for communication. He has so much to communicate, but we often don’t let Him.
We talk, talk, talk – journal, journal, journal – pray, pray, pray.
None of that is bad, but when do we stop and listen? We must listen. I started stopping and waiting to see what God thought, and this new habit, this revelation, it absolutely changed my life.
2. I have a gentle heart
During those first few weeks hearing God’s voice, one thing became very clear – God was on a mission over my heart. I had been studying women’s ministry at a Christian University, and somehow through all that learning, my heart got a bit hard. I remember that there was a year where I didn’t cry once, which if you know me at all, you’ll be quite surprised by this.
There was this need, or at least tendency, to put on a brave face. To be strong. To “have it all figured out.” My friend Ruth – the one who had introduced me to YWAM – wrote me in 2004, and she said, “I think people assume you’re ok because you’re Ashley Kinney. But you need your butt kicked.” I remember being a bit annoyed by that statement at first, but then I realised because I had put on this strong exterior, it was actually more than true. I needed my butt kicked.
I think at this particular time, though, this season of DTS, it wasn’t that I needed my butt kicked. I needed a truer revelation of myself, and the only way to get that is to seek God and learn about Him. As I did that, I learned that underneath my “brave face” that I had tried putting on, this “I’ve-got-it-all-together” facade, there was a girl who was actually quite soft-hearted. I just needed to break through all the walls and hard exteriors to let it come out. When it did come out, it was incredibly freeing.
3. The good can be the enemy of the best
I remember learning this in the midst of recognising the importance of having the word of the Lord about things. I had been learning about obedience in a new way and how valuable that is to God. Obedience in the Kingdom of God is ultimately a gesture of trust.
“God I trust you…that you have my best interest at heart.”
Sometimes I think we actually treat the enemy like an idiot, and although we are not his friend by any means, he is certainly not an idiot. In fact, I think the word used to describe the enemy is “cunning”, which means “having or showing skill in achieving one’s ends by deceit or evasion.”
I learned quickly that there isn’t just God’s good option and the enemy’s stupid option. In fact, it’s not that big of a distinction. Often, the enemy presents pretty good options, in comparison to God’s best. I had an opportunity after my DTS to have a great job that I had wanted for a long time prior to DTS. It seemed amazing, and you know what, the truth of the matter is that God would still love me and would still be present in my life if I had chosen that option. It wasn’t the best option, however, and I can so clearly see that now. God had missions in mind for me, and I am so grateful for that call.
4. God is in the details
When I started asking God about this friend named Robbie ;) I remember some of what God said surprised me. When it came to romantic relationships, I had the “non-negotiables” in mind only. Same belief. Same direction. What God showed me so clearly, though, is that He actually really cares about the details.
I had made a list a year prior to that about things that I would love in a future spouse. It was a spontaneous, fun activity a friend and I did on my DTS, and I honestly had never thought about that list after I wrote it. When I wrote it, I didn’t have anyone in mind; I was thinking very generally. I said broader things, as well as more specific.
When I asked God about Robbie that next year, one thing I felt God said was, “Look at your list.” I was a bit baffled by this at first because I didn’t remember this list. When I did remember, I doubted that I still had it, but I started rummaging around my room looking for it. I finally found this folded up piece of paper. After getting to know Robbie pretty well in the months prior to that, I was completely shocked when I read this list and realised that I could have easily just been writing about Robbie! Small, shallow details like “kills spiders for me” or “taller than me” were included, and God was very clear to me that He didn’t have just anyone in mind for me. He had someone great that fit the non-negotiables AND the details. It was such a cool journey with God, and hey, 3 1/2 years later…
5. God is so much more concerned with who we are becoming than what we are doing
I am passionate about this one. I am still going deeper with this one. This one perhaps has been the most pivotal.
A few years ago, I started working in an area that I hadn’t imagined or forecasted for my life in missions. I had spent so much time focusing on what I was doing and what my role was. It was exhausting to be honest.
The key, like I said above, is obedience, and because I had really began learning this important principle, I obeyed. Soon after, I still felt the anxiety over what I was doing because I couldn’t understand it in my head. I wanted to be over there, and I wasn’t getting there as quickly as I wanted.
Over time, though, God started teaching me a lot about the beauty of time and process. It’s worth going the hard yards, serving, doing the same thing over and over again because the outcome for your character is vastly more implicational than all the “doing” you can try to achieve in the same amount of time. I wrote a whole series on this here if you want to check it out. It’s a huge generational gap that we need to be aware of and fight for.
I am thankful for this revelation of God’s care for our growth. If we keep growing and focusing on growing then no matter what we are doing, we’ll be great because we’ll be more like Jesus.