God says that before we were born, he knew us. From as far back as I have memories, I have always been drawn to the loaner on the sideline, the friendless with a small personality, the ugly hairless puppy, the rebel that everyone has given up on. The “one” has always captured my attention and captivated my heart. God designs each of us on purpose for a purpose and mine has always been a pursuit of the difficult and the undesirable, the weak and intrinsically lost, and some who have just fallen off the path. Much of the time I have longed to be known by the 99, but the wanderers are the ones who truly captivate me. They have depth and gifting and value that gets hidden behind the distance they keep.
As a kid I would get put in groups at church with those who used to be labeled as “bus kids.” They were typically a rough bunch. A rag tag group that didn’t have parents who would bring them. I wasn’t a bus kid. I’d been in church my whole life, driven and sometimes even dragged by my parents. I had friends who were like me, from Christian homes with devoted parents. Most of them formed cliques and barley spoke to anyone outside of their own group. I always got placed with the others and I didn’t always stay willingly. I remember a student pastor telling my mom that he put me there because he knew he could count on me to be a bridge from one group to another. He knew I would be kind in both directions. Little did I know that more depth existed on the outside of who I thought I wanted to be with than it did on the inside with the many. I needed the lessons these “outsiders” had to teach more than they needed me.
I remember being angry because I felt forced into an uncomfortable place, but little did I know that God was molding me into who he already knew I was. Erwin McManus said, “The God of light insists on traveling into dark places; the God of peace continuously involves Himself in the wars of men; the God who is good engages the depth of human evil…To follow Jesus is to enter the unknown, to relinquish security, and to exchange certainty for confidence in Him.” This is no small thing. I have always struggled to maintain my confidence in him. I have always wrestled with an obedience that lacks confidence. I still struggle here.
I confess, I don’t always love my design. I don’t always delight in what he has made me to do. Often I lose the zeal behind my call and thank goodness that’s where he brings in the encouragers. I spent some time with interns at student camp this Summer. Many were fresh in every way. Fresh out of school. Fresh out of their parent’s homes. Fresh into their calling and looking at ministry with brand new eyes. There is something both dangerous and wonderful, wild and valuable about the greenness of ministry interns.
The last night of camp we were dealing with a rough situation. The intern who was in the middle of the situation called for help. After hours of talking and making phone calls and weighing out circumstances and pooling resources, a group of us sat down to discuss how to handle what we were facing. As this sweet and salty intern explained the situation, she said something that washed over me like fresh rain in a dessert wasteland. She looked into our tired eyes with tears bubbling out of her own and asked, “Who’s going to go after the one? God tells us to love the one, not just the 99. We have to go after that one!” She finished with, “I know I’m not a youth pastor or a girl’s minister or a counselor, I’m just an intern, but my heart knows that we have to do something to reach this one.”
What we had that she didn’t was a lot of experience and wisdom which, on its own gets tired and calculated. What she had that we didn’t was a fresh and fierce passion. This small warrior standing in front of me was not “just an intern.” She was everything that I had forgotten to be. She was going to fight until the rescue mission for that one little sheep was complete. And she did exactly that.
Don’t hear what I’m not saying. We have to use wisdom and we did. We have to be calculated and we were. But all of those tools at work without the focus on why we do what we do, produces tired works from tired dry souls.
It takes every single one of us to complete the mission God has placed before us. It takes the beginner (Timothy) and the seasoned (Paul). It takes the one made for the masses and the one called to seek out the one. It takes truth communicated with love and it takes passion driving the why behind what we do. It takes every single skill set God designed us for. For me, it took a tiny little intern with a heart the size of heaven to remind me of the passion behind my call. It took her tears for one broken sheep to wet my dry and tired heart.
It takes all of us and every particular skill he has given us to march out into the darkness and be a beacon of light. “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” Luke 15:7.