It’s hard to believe it was almost five years ago that I spent a summer serving as a youth ministry intern. During that summer of missions and ministering, it was incredibly humbling to see the way that God was moving in my life when I handed over the reins.
I had taken the internship after a lot of deliberation. An alternate offer was on the table to work with a minor league baseball team and honestly, that was probably more on my self-projected career path. It didn’t necessarily make sense or seem like it would further me professionally by taking the youth ministry position — but somewhere, inexplicably, deep inside; I knew that was what God was calling me to follow.
That was the first time I laid down ambitions to follow a calling.
The entire summer of 2008 I was pretty much stripped down. All of my preconceived notions about who I was, what I was worth and where I was going were challenged. My vulnerabilities felt exposed. And so did all of my faults. But in a perfect way. I was daily reminded of how blessed I was; and thankful that I had listened to God’s calling on my summer.
And as I was spending the last night of the last mission trip of the summer in a small town in Georgia with nine middle-school kids, we each picked up a stone to lay at the cross. And with that stone we would also lay down something that was hindering our relationship with God. What did I choose to lay down? My ambition.
I am so susceptible to my personal ambition.
Where school could take me. Where a career could take me. What greatness could I achieve? What prestige could I gain? How much money could I make? How many honors could I achieve? Such a slave to my own ambition. And with that I pledged to try to listen to God’s movements in my heart closer. To lift up more of my big decisions to what he wanted. To make my achievements for His glory — not mine.
And, oh, I stuck to it for a while.
But then college graduation came and a job called and a move happened and other internships took place and new friends came into the picture and old friends left the picture and time passed and more time passed . . .
And you get the idea.
God has always been a part of the decision, but it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve started trying to make God the full decision. Where does He want me to be? How does He want me to be acting? What does He want me to be serving?
Ambition is like a sleep.
It slowly creeps in and like a dream you get swept into your own stream of reality. If only ambition was as easy to hand over as it is to wake up from a deep nap.
This morning pastor led us to read Mark 10:43-45:
“…But whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (NKJV)
To lead, to be great, in Jesus’s eyes? That’s to serve. In His big picture it’s not most important to Him who is on the Forbes top earning lists or who has wrote the latest Pulitzer Prize or who has just been named an NBA All-Star. He’s worried about who is caring for others. He cares about who is serving others in His name.
And I know if I listen to God’s calling on my heart for how He envisions my life playing out–what do you bet it involves serving?
One of my 25 by 25 pledges is to find a group I am passionate about to begin serving again in the community. But I know that’s not going to be enough for my faith and what God expects of me. That’s laughable. I know that God is calling me to serve in my current job. How can I serve my co-workers? How can I serve my neighbors? How can I serve people I don’t know in the community? How can I serve my family? How can I serve the people who would never thank me?
And how can I make sure that I’m not serving for my own recognition, laying down that ambition, and instead dedicate it to God?
I’m not saying I have to quit my job and work in a church. I think God gives us specific talents to also serve in other places in the community. But I am saying that it’s time to stop being so focused on personal achievement and see what I can give, what I can lay down, with no regard to myself and all the regard for what He wants to do through me.
“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh (or that selfish ambition), but through love serve one another.” Galations 5:13 (NKJV)