one of my homeless friends and me under the beautiful big tree
I want to tell you a story...
It is not a story I could have imagined myself telling...ever...not even a year ago, but it is a story I am now telling.
The only reason I can tell you this story is because God has done something marvelous in my heart. This marvelous thing has been borne out of pain and suffering, my own—some because of my choices and some because of others'. My twenties have been about refining (I am 29 now), and these years have been mostly painful. But I no longer look at pain as I used to, for I see its great purpose in our lives.
My pain has led me to heights and depths that were otherwise impossible. My pain has permitted me enter others' pain, and I can say that I am, while still being my essential self, entirely new.
You really don't have to go to Africa or China or South America to change lives or to be changed.
I always thought that was the noble thing, and it is noble, but I am learning the noblest thing is for us to lay down our ideas of our lives in exchange for God's plan for our life. And so, I am trying nearly every day now to tell God, "God, I lay down my dreams for my life in exchange for your plans for my life."
This may seem simple to you, but it is not for me. Not only do I have old dreams, but I have new dreams every day, and to lay down my seemingly glorious dreams for God's plain plans seems like quite a big exchange...except that really I don't want my dreams as long as they are not his plans.
Through my pain, he has shown me that his plans really are better. They are grander. They make life sweeter. They give the soul an incorruptibility, where the earth could literally cave in, and yet I could hold on, because he has shown me that I could lose all except him and I would be okay.
Do you know that just one year ago
I had never been in South Dallas in my life?
At least not at all in my recollection. But South Dallas was only a few miles from my house. Growing up, in journeying south from north Dallas, we would pass an invisible "no more safety" line where the classic call was "Lock the doors!" Suddenly, we entered "unsafe" Dallas, and we were to be afraid.
How is it, then, that I squatted in front of 4 big burly men on Thursday, with a stack full of Bibles in a Barnes & Noble bag, and talked to them about the work of God to bridge our cultures? They said, "Most young white girls are afraid to come here and talk to us. But you are not afraid. You come and talk to us and be with us and listen to us."
"Big Larry," as I will call him, asked me to pray for him, for deliverance and for a sound mind. For a moment, I planned to go off and pray later, and then it hit me: no, I will pray now. And so I asked, "Big Larry, can I pray for you now?" to which he said "Yes."
So there was a long line of us.
"Tom" ... me ... Big Larry ... two other men ... and a few even behind that ...
And so this young girl who used to never cross over the "tracks" is sitting with some "scary" men. And I put my hand on Big Larry's back, and prayed for him to be delivered of that which plagued him, and for God to give him a sound mind. And I prayed for healing between North and South Dallas, and for us to come together, and for us in North Dallas to leave what is comfortable for us to go join our brothers and sisters who need us in our City. They. Need. Us.
And you know what? We need them, too.
When we opened our eyes, all of us in a line (for the whole area grew completely quiet as I prayed), Big Larry was wiping tears from his eyes. And my heart broke. How could my little prayer move him to tears? And he told me, "Elisabeth, before you came here today, I felt so sad. I was so down. And then you came and talked to us, and I am not sad anymore."
And so I made four new friends. I know four new names. I have four new people for whom to pray. We all bear hugged before they walked over to the shelter for the night—I mean BEAR HUGS, for we are brothers and sisters. Can you believe what has happened?! ... from my deep fear of dirty hands just last July to bear hugs! Who ever would have guessed??! Certainly not me!
God has a plan for your life. "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart."
His plan for your life may be a suit and tie. His plan for your life may be spit up and dirty diapers. His plan for your life may be Africa. His plan for your life may be South Dallas, or an equally impoverished area of your city. His plan for your life may be a combination of all of these or something entirely different. As many different people are in the world are there different plans.
His plan does not have to look like your dreams. Mine absolutely does not.
And so my question is, Will you, with me, exchange your dreams for your life for his plans for it?
God is calling all of us, trying to reach us, trying to break through...if we would but listen to his voice and follow him.
He is better than life.