“I told God I never wanted to do [Thing A],” practitioner of [Thing A] quipped wryly.
Why is this person so happy with their ministry? I thought to myself. Dear God, please don’t make me do things I hate.
I recall this scenario playing out a few times in my childhood, particularly during my time in YWAM.
It occurred to me recently that I am currently actively participating in or philosophically committed to a number of things that were anathema to me as a child. Happily. By choice.
I said I hardly wanted to move off the farm, that living in my rural town would be the closest I’d get to urban living. And I figured the only thing I learned during a two-week urban ministry experience was that I was not in any way meant for that kind of activity.
Now I live downtown by choice, look with disgust and scorn on suburbs, and love to vacation in densely populated cities. Formerly the country bumpkin, afraid to go anywhere, I’m now comfortable in areas of town others fear; I enjoy the shabby downtown mall and movie theatre that aren’t cool enough for the suburbanites and have instead become the village square for the city’s newcomers – both those from from the Global South and the Canadian North. It is a value to me that as a function of where I live and where I go, I encounter people who aren’t like me, people whose situation challenges me.
I said I didn’t know what kind of career I wanted as long as it wasn’t becoming a teacher. And I certainly didn’t like kids.
Now I am certified to teach ESL and I regularly volunteer with pre-teens at a homework club and in a school classroom. I eagerly take my nieces and nephews on special outings, and persistently steal other people’s babies at church.
Even in more banal ways, my old self has been turned on its head. I distinctly recall the terror of crossing the main street in my sleepy town, particularly the one time when there was actually a car to deal with and no crossing guards on duty. (Of course, my friend’s dad wouldn’t run me over, but it was still scary!) Now, it’s only at unfamiliar intersections or in new cities that I don’t boldly jaywalk across city streets – and even then sometimes.
Any of my high school classmates would laugh themselves silly if you called me athletic, yet my adult pastimes involve physical activity. Somehow, I'm looked upon as an alpha cyclist (though my ridiculous fall yesterday hearkens back to my klutzy childhood.) And I don’t dance! I maintained. The qualification I levied on that statement remains – no meaningless spontaneous gyration – but dancing has become my absolute favourite activity.
So I am encouraged. God is trustworthy. God is not capricious and vindictive, insisting we learn to like what he wants, but gentle and patient albeit perhaps a tad mischievous, leading us on journeys of learning, confounding expectations in the process.
I wonder what reversal is next.