My high school years became a time of basking in God’s love. Primarily because of my Dad’s equipping me for ministry.
During my time of being bullied, Dad had encouraged me that God was growing me through my difficulties. He was right. But it was NOT fun. I had obeyed him but had not been basking in God’s love.
Dad told me so many stories of Bible characters and other Christians growing through persecution that I started to wonder if that was the main way God worked. I remember asking Dad if trials were the only times God grew his children quickly.
His answer stuck with me–Christians grow most dramatically in their relationship with Jesus Christ both 1) during great difficulties and 2) during times of intense ministry.
In junior high I experienced the first kind of growth. During high school I experienced the second. The principle is the same.
Both kinds of spiritual growth require unprecedented reliance on Jesus.
I needed to talk to Jesus regularly–telling him how needy I was–in order to grow closer to him.
Feeling persecuted or panicky inspires most of us to pray. The same panic can come from jumping into a new ministry we do not feel prepared for. It can spur us to pray moment by moment.
The ministry my dad showed me God was calling me to in my high school was simple:
Tell people about Jesus. Consistently.
Attending a public high school was a huge bonus for me in learning the practice of talking about Jesus to those who didn’t know him. Modular scheduling–which allowed students huge amounts of unscheduled “study time”–was another huge bonus in the opportunities it allowed me.
But developing that practice took time and was scary–always.
Eventually, after consistently talking to people about my faith and seeing so many new friends come to know Jesus, I began to see time alone at a table with a new acquaintance as a divine appointment. It was a time to talk to her about Jesus.
But it was still scary. Always. So I developed the habit of prayer.
Melanie Redd puts it so well: “Praying boldly boots me out of that stale place of religious habit into authentic connection with You.” She is so right. When we are in a scary situation and hoping that we choose the right words, prayer can be the only life preserver we see.
And praying for help in daily situations allows us to see that God’s love for us transcends boundaries of place and time. God answers those prayers and affirms our relationship with him. He allows us to bask in his love. I’m convinced this is the principle that allows Paul to tell us “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11).
Feeling completely loved and affirmed by God can make us feel as though we are floating on a lake in the sunshine on an unsinkable inner-tube.
The crazy thing is that we are always completely loved and affirmed by God. We just often don’t feel it.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8: 38-39 NIV]