by sandi youngren
missionary to ecuador
Let’s take a quick look at others like me, in the Bible, holding their stunned heads and very reluctantly giving in to the stitches and that bandage ripping, while the Patient Doctor held our hands and coached us through it.
A baby is born when male babies were outlawed for the growing Hebrew race who were in captivity. Through miraculous events this male baby is saved from death and successfully hidden among reeds in the river. A true life Princess sees and pities the baby and takes him home and raises him as her own. He grows into a man. The strong Prince (Moses) sees an Egyptian beating a fellow Hebrew and murders the Egyptian. The next day, he tries to make peace between two Hebrew brothers and finds out they know he has murdered. Then he runs. Like a scared rabbit into the deep recesses of the desert, far away from the angry Pharaoh, the distrusting kinsmen, and I imagine, two brokenhearted mothers. When he is far from the maddening crowds, he marries and seems to be happily adjusted to the life of a simple and unhindered shepherd.
This is when God chooses to reveal Himself to Moses – many long and comfortable years later.
God: “Come, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Can you imagine Moses’ astonishment, fear, and possibly even anger? Well, I certainly can. I have Moses’ blood in my veins. I, like Moses, have said many things to God besides “Yes.”
Moses: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
God: “I will be with you…”
Moses: “They will ask me the name of who sent me. What shall I say to them?”
God: “I AM WHO I AM.”
Then God gives a very full and thundering whole paragraph-long explanation of who He is and what He is about to do and how He will do it.
Moses: “But, they will not believe me, or listen to me….”
God then begins to show Moses miracles that prove who He is and He bolsters Moses’ faith.
Did you get that? Moses was faithless.
He seems fairly content with his story ending in the desert with a wife and kids and a job. It was safe. It was most likely a comfy sweater that he had no intention of removing.
If you don’t already know the rest of the story, go and read it in the book of Exodus. God frees His people. He uses reluctant Moses to do so. God is the hero of the story, not Moses.
Once again, God’s people are oppressed. The Bible says that they “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian.” The Midianites made their life miserable and kept them from prospering in any way.
After seven years of this, God shows up to Gideon.
The account is a long one; I will shorthand it so that you see the picture, and get the point.
An Angel of the Lord: “The Lord is with you…”
Gideon: “If the Lord is with us, then why has He let this happen? But now the Lord has forsaken us…”
Angel of the Lord, who is now referred to as GOD: “Go…do I not send you?”
Gideon: “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Menasseh, and I am the least of my father’s house.”
God: “But I will be with you, and you will strike the Midianites as one man.”
Gideon: “Can you show me a sign that it is you that speak?”
If you don’t know the rest of the story, go read it in the book of Judges, starting in chapter 6. The next few chapters chronicle the constant stumbling and doubt of God’s chosen vessel, Gideon. God’s voice was true and reliable, and Gideon witnessed God’s faithful miracles in the process of setting His people free once again. God is the Hero of the story, not Gideon.
And then there’s JONAH. I think you have seen enough flannel graphs to know the story.
God: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it.”
Yep, a big fat blank. He must be even more introverted and insecure than I am, because the Bible doesn’t even record a word of response to God. Instead, it describes what Jonah did.
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
He fled. He packed it up and got some money together and thought he could outrun the call of God. Read the full story in the book of Jonah, but spoiler alert! God shows Himself faithful and Jonah ends up in the belly of a great fish, where he finally submits and prays:
Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’
the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah then obeys God, and goes to Nineveh. God is the Hero of the story, not Jonah.
I hope you are sensing a pattern here. This is my life. I wish I could say that I have given the willing “YES” to God when He has asked me to follow Him. I wish I could say that I haven’t resisted, argued, questioned, fled, complained, or at times wanted to die because it is so hard. But that’s not my story.
Why did I end up saying “YES?” Because my good and loving God demonstrated His patience and His faithfulness….despite my utter lack of both.
I have tried to escape and keep my comfy sweater on.
I have listed all my very convincing UNqualifications.
I have doubted, and faithlessly asked for signs.
I have run away and tried to bury myself in a sea of hiding.
God has pursued my weak heart and reminded me again and again that I am not the hero of my story. He is.
Back in Clovis, New Mexico (now 43 long years ago) I began to realize what saying “YES” was going to mean for me. A year or two after that “confession of calling,” we were released from the Air Force and went straight into full-time ministry. By that time I was 8 months pregnant with our first baby. We had purchased a cute little house and I had spent hours in the baby room painting, decorating, dreaming, and preparing for the little bundle to arrive. As we were about to transition, it became clear that we could not keep that house because our salary level dropped significantly to become “Youth and Music” minister in our church. I was devastated. We moved into a one-room sort-of-bachelor-pad at the church and he took on his first role of “Ministry.” Overnight, my life went from private to public. From hidden to seen. From not worth judging to meticulous judgement. My slightly hippie and “Jesus Freedom” faith was suddenly being attacked from all sides by a system that I didn’t understand, didn’t fit into, and did not agree with. “YES” meant sacrifice, spiritual growth, dependence on God, and a maturity that was far beyond my 20 years. It was right there that God began the deep and wonderful work in me that continued on through a life of my own calling: a commitment to a husband that was most definitely “called” to “The Ministry.”
I have said “Yes” because each and every painful step of the way has also been filled with a joy that perhaps few get to experience in their lives. It comes after hand to hand combat with God – the doubting, the complaining, the questioning, the fear, the bold suggestion that He find someone else who is more equipped, more outgoing, more talented, more “fit” for the task. It is the unexplained joyful confidence that comes when the God of paradox turns his gentle yet burning eyes upon you:
God: “I am with you.”
God: “I am with you.”
Me: “I can’t do it! Let me tell you why…”
God: “I am with you.”
I am like Moses, and Gideon, and Jonah. My life seems to rotate round and round again to the same conversation. God requires. I resist. God persists. I run, hide, rebel, doubt, question, pity myself, and point to others. God pursues. God provides faith. I humbly say “Yes” to the Hero of my story.
to be continued…
Sandi Youngren is CoFounder of Compassion Connection, a missions organization based in Ecuador. She travels and speaks at women’s conferences or gatherings and owns a cottage industry that supports help to women escaping sex trafficking. She also encourages women through her YouTube channel “The Truth Booth.” She says that her most treasured time is spent with her kids and grandkids, and she hopes for more of that in the future.
You can follow Sandi here: YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/c/TheTruthBooth IG: sandiyoungren also trth_booth