“Would you have time on Tuesday to speak to the girls in fifth grade?” I was still foggy with jet-lag, not sure what all was on my schedule. I knew I was speaking Tuesday afternoon and had a dinner meeting with a group of young women that night . . . I hesitated while I grappled for an answer. Thankfully, God sent me to Brazil with four words that He kept impressing on me: Be Prayerful, Flexible, Surrendered, Ready (as in ready to serve). When I saw that it would fit with the day’s schedule, I sent word that I would be able to speak to the girls.
My first thought was, “Paula would be so much better at this! I’m not as in touch with young teens as she is, and fifth grade is even younger than that.” But God was about to show me (once again) that His invitations come with His grace to obey. He was taking me to another level of dependence on Him.
Since January, I’ve been living 2 Corinthians 12:9–10:
[box]And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.[/box]
I’m being pressed into positions of weakness I’ve never experienced before, and at first it was really scary. But you know what? I’m actually loving living this way now. It is so cool to know that God is putting me in a position that requires Him coming through. I love serving Him in His “Grand Plan of Redemption” and knowing it is so beyond me that it is totally Him!
I had no idea when I was packing my bags that I would be speaking to a group of young girls. But God did. And that’s why He directed me to throw in a white t-shirt with black identification numbers labeled across the left chest. It’s a shirt made to look like what the inmates wear in the prison where we minister.
Early Tuesday morning He woke me up with the message He wanted me to share with these girls. He reminded me of a time when I was close to their age (haven’t thought of it in years) and I overheard some cruel comments about me and a “label” that I was given. I didn’t come up with that illustration. God was so gracious, He knew the girls in the class needed that story, so He brought it to mind.
As I shared my stories with them, I watched as tears spilled. These girls had been labeled by others. Cruel names they’d been called were still running through their heads. They listened intently as I shared Jennifer’s story and told them how she’d felt rejected much of her childhood, because she knew her parents wanted a boy—but she was a girl. I told them the story of how Jennifer eventually ended up in prison, and how all the inmates there wear a number and that’s considered their identity.
I held up the white t-shirt and told them that I spent some time with the inmates at Christmas and asked them if they wanted to hear what I shared with them. They did. That allowed me to share the gospel with the class, to tell them what their true identity is: image bearers of God.
We looked in Genesis to see our worth and value as God’s image bearers, but then we saw how sin marred our ability to bear God’s image. But that’s not the end of the story. God had a plan, and we saw the first mention of our Rescuer who would come to take away our sin. As I shared the gospel, that group of girls soaked up every word.
God knew what He was doing when He led their teacher to invite me to speak to her class. He knew what He was doing when He interrupted my “planned schedule.” He knew what He was doing when He led me to throw in that white t-shirt. And He knew what He was doing when He brought back some painful childhood memories to share. His presence in that classroom was tangible as I prayed for the girls.
As I walked down the sidewalk to leave the school campus, I heard my name being called. I turned to see the Fifth-grade teacher with one of the girls trying to catch up to me. God knew this precious girl needed to hear the gospel that day. She needed to know that Jesus would be her rescuer and closest friend. She asked her teacher if she could speak to me privately and we slipped into a quiet room in the library to spend some life-changing moments.
God had an appointment for me that day that I almost missed. I’m thankful that He orchestrated the events of the day and taught me a much needed lesson. He will provide what is needed to accomplish His plan, whether it is what I had planned or not. He is always seeking out the neediest among us and sometimes the greatest work that’s on His agenda, is what is least expected.
Are you open to His opportunities today? Prayerful? Flexible? Surrendered? Ready?