“Oh, dear Lord, I’m going to China.”
I’ve never prayed aloud in front of hundreds of people, and I don’t think anyone heard me that night, but there I stood in the spotlight, center stage, while the masses stood around me clapping, congratulating me because I was going to China.
Let me explain.
You see, I’ve always ridden shotgun. I’m the navigator, the sidekick, the tagalong, the best friend, the listener, the confidant, the kid sister who never had a big brother (or a big sister, for that matter). I’ve always played Ed McMahan to Johnny Carson or Ethel to Lucy or Barney to Andy.
So when my dear friend asked me to go on a short road trip to Chattanooga, it didn’t take me long to climb into the passenger seat, ready for a ride. It didn’t matter where we were going. I’m always ready for adventure.
Turns out my friend had done a lot of soul searching, a whole lot of praying, and she felt God was calling her to be missionary—in China. I hadn’t seen this coming, but if God was calling her, I certainly wasn’t going to hold her back. But first she had to travel to Chattanooga for a meeting that explained the process of overseas ministry.
I’m a great support. I’m not such a great navigator. Anyone who knows me knows I have a little bit of trouble, a lot of trouble, with my Ralphs and my Looeys. I confuse my rights and my lefts. But despite my inability to read a map, we made it there on time.
I expected a small gathering, but the place was packed! Being a people watcher, I eyeballed every person in the place. They all looked surprisingly normal to me. But despite their mundane appearances, I still managed to find myself drifting away, tuning out the speakers and imagining what it would be to go on an adventure.
I recall the speaker saying something about people being called to the mission field. My friend stood up. I was genuinely excited for her. I was proud of her. I applauded.
Then the speaker said something about how not all of us are called but all of us can help.
“Well, yeah. “
Again I drifted away and started thinking about what he said.
“So what if I can’t get on an airplane? So what if I have a fear of heights, uh, a fear of falling from heights, especially mile in the sky heights? God can use me right here on good old American soil. I can still help—from the passenger seat. Right?”
I know I heard the man speak to those of us who were willing to help. I know he told us to stand up. So I stood up. And then the man addressed the audience.
“Ladies and gentlemen, these people that you see standing before us are the next group of missionaries who are going to China. Let’s all give them a round of applause for their willingness to listen to the Lord and to obey His call.”
I looked around me. Everyone was cheering wildly. I was standing. They were screaming for me and the other handful of people in the room. I tried to slink back into my chair and under the table without anyone seeing. But I knew the truth. God saw.
Did God trick me? Was this his way of sending me to China? Let me tell you something. They haven’t built a bridge there yet, and I don’t ride boats. I can’t fly, and I can’t swim. I wasn’t going. I just hadn’t figured out a way to tell God.
I spent the next several years dodging God and dodging airplanes. I panicked every time we had a Lottie Moon Christmas offering at church. I think I gave extra just so that God would extend my time here in the states. My friends weren’t so helpful when I confided my fears.
“Just be thankful you’re not going to Africa. You might be living in a hut.”
It took me several years to figure out that maybe God isn’t planning to send me to China, but even if He is, I think now I’m willing to go—wherever.
I’ve always been consumed by fear. As I said, I’ve always ridden shotgun. I’ve always let someone else make the decisions in my life—mainly out of fear.
But I’ve decided that as I begin my new writing adventure that I’m not going to let fear be a factor. I’m getting out of the passenger seat and moving over to the driver’s side. I’m taking control.
(Okay, before you stop me, I know, I know. God is supposed to be in the driver’s seat. But I’m trying to create an extended metaphor here. Indulge me.)
Day in, day out, I hear people, old and young, talk about how circumstances in their lives keep them from being who they want to be. I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t want to live with regrets. I don’t want fear to dictate my life. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to follow my dreams.
I believe God has planted the desire to write in my heart, and if He wants me to get on an airplane or to negotiate traffic in downtown Nashville or to speak to an audience—or to go to China, then I say let’s roll with it.
So, goodbye riding shotgun. I’m moving over. And yeah, I know one of you can’t wait to say it, so I’m going to beat you to the punch—I may be in the driver’s seat now, but I have to let Jesus take the wheel. (Groan. Bada boom.)
Yeah, yeah. I’ve already handed Him the keys.