(Caution: the post to follow is a long, probably quite boring and possibly even able-to-be-interpreted-as narcissistic view into my ponderings about the future. Because we know nothing about the future except that the Lord's return is imminent, this post could be a waste of both your time and my energy. Consider yourself fairly warned.)
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
I've been hoping and waiting for the Lord to put His desires into my heart, that I might do with my life what He would have me do. I suppose that coming from a Lutheran, that seems a little... odd. That's not exactly the way we talk about vocation. Even as I think it and type it, it feels strange, at though the next thing I'm going to say is that I've also been praying about what I should wear tomorrow. Okay, no. That's not what I mean.
The Lord lead me on this crazy journey into volunteer English teaching in the Czech Republic, lead me to be a missionary here. I should also clarify that by crazy, I only mean that 3 years ago, I probably had not a thought in my head about mission work, as far as actually doing it myself. I had no desire for that. I did not really think that it was the kind of thing that I could do. Not because I didn't (in pride) think that I was capable of it, but because I just didn't think that was the kind of thing that I was cut out for. I definitely was not (am still not...) "holy enough" to do it. Missions is the kind of thing that those other, syrupy sweet Christian girls-- one of which I decidedly am NOT-- do. It was something one had to be groomed for her whole life. Not me. I felt groomed for school, studying, teaching (wait a second... that's what I'm doing with a lot of my time...). In my mind's calculator, plugging in "Ashley" plus "missions" always returned "ERROR" or "undefined quantity" like dividing by zero.
Funny thing about God, though. He doesn't let a little thing like our silly notions about mission work or about our own innate capacity for doing His work get in the way of calling us to do what HE wants us to do.
Since I am planning for only another year in volunteer missions in the Czech Republic, I have been trying to figure out the answer to the "what next" question for some time. A year ago at this time I was toying with the idea of returning to entomology or possibly getting a M.S. in Biochemistry, possibly even going into some kind of medicine, but I had a growing interest in working for the Church rather than pursuing a secular vocation. I really can't see myself being personally fulfilled (or as being useful to others) in entomology, or in pretty much any other secular role. Weird. I never thought I would want to be a church worker.
At home this summer, I took a few days to visit Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and chat with the good men there about a possible future studying with them to pursue a career in Deaconess ministry. After speaking with them, and having an interview at the Nebraska District office for admittance into the program, I'm thinking that's still an option, but I feel like I know very little about the possibilities there (note to self: look up rostered, called deaconesses and ask questions about their work). I am really attracted to the idea of studying for a Masters degree in theology at CSL, but don't simply want the degree for the sake of having it.
At any rate, another of the ideas floating through my head for a while has been in the area of Bible translation. It's a bit of a surprise that it's become something that I'd want to even consider. When I was at the U, one of my best friends and her boyfriend were talking about joining Wycliffe after graduation and a wedding and becoming linguists. I thought they were crazy and couldn't understand why they wanted to do that. Now, as I look back, I'm saddened by the hardness of my heart at the time, and amazed that God has made such a change. And what a change.
I've been thinking and praying about the possibility of joining Lutheran Bible Translators for a while (okay, a handful of months) now. Last night before bed I hit up the LBT website. I read for about 45 minutes and just felt like I'd had the wind kicked out of me. In a good way. I seriously was so moved and in me a yearning to become a translator was so stirred that I felt nauseated in a good way (is that possible? If it is, that's what I felt). I couldn't believe it. Then my "it's bedtime now, go to bed" alarm went off (yes, I actually have a clock set in my room to go off at bedtime), and I hit the bed and pulled out my Treasury of Daily Prayer (highly recommended!). The overwhelming emotion (no, I know I'm a Lutheran and we don't operate on feelings, but this one was hard to ignore, and it wasn't something a Pepcid could cure...) didn't go away, but grew as I read the Psalm for the day, #46. It outlines the incredible majesty and power of our God, the mighty works He does and His unwavering sturdiness (the first verse of this psalm is remarkably, but not coincidentally, like the first line of the Reformer's most famous hymn), how because He is with us, we won't fear even the most terrifying disasters. Just incredible. So here's verse 10 which just stopped me in my tracks:
"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"
I guess another thing to know about my thinking in the last year is that I've been constantly brought to a screeching halt in my Bible reading when I come across God being exalted among the nations. I can be reading along and enjoying myself, but then every time I read any text which is directly speaking about God being known and worshiped by all the peoples of the world, it catches me like a snag. I had all of a sudden a mental image of our Good Shepherd, as I wander after my own ovine thoughts, catching me by the neck with His crook and saying "look at this and ponder on it my lamb."
I say all that in order to say that the Lord is giving me desires and massaging them into my heart, desires for a future in mission work, desires of working for the translation of the Bible into all the languages of man, that all people on earth would have access to His saving, life-giving, inspired Word. I am working on delighting myself in Him, but when He places before me such captivatingly beautiful gems of a future, it's no work at all to be utterly delighted.
Okay, enough stuff about me. Please pray that God will raise up His people throughout the earth who want to do the work of missions, of evangelism, of Bible translation, of unglamorous, behind the scenes work; for His cross to be proclaimed to all the world.