Last weekend I had the chance to see a truly amazing concert. But what made the night even better was the remarkable woman with whom I attended the concert. Frankly, one of my best Saturday nights all year. Great music, great messages, great company, and great conversation.
But that conversation was actually quite convicting.
On the way back to town, we started talking about common interests. Music, television shows, etc. Somehow we got on the topic of ministry and missions work. She told me about a trip to Costa Rica and explained how she'd like to do the same kind of work abroad in the future. Then came the question.
"Have you done any missions work?"
If I hadn't been driving 65 mph down the freeway, I'd likely have run and hid at that moment. But no, I had to face the question head on.
"I do some volunteer work with the Scouts, and I give my time to Habitat for Humanity when I can. I've had some opportunities to go abroad for missions work, but I haven't taken advantage of them and I feel a bit guilty about that."
Really, I do.
When I was growing up, my church youth group went to Mexico every year to work at an orphanage for the summer. And, every year, I turned down the invitation.
I college, my small group invited me to Africa for the summer to work in a school. The next year they invited me to South America. The next year to relief work in Asia. Again, I turned down every invitation.
After graduate school, I was invited to join a group of Habitat volunteers on a trip to Guatemala to build houses. You can probably guess, I turned down that invitation, too.
I could drop into a long conversation now as to my reasons for denying these opportunities. Plans with friends over the summer, family trips to Disneyland, needing to "be responsible" and work to pay off debt. But those are all excuses for why I didn't go.
The truth is, I was scared.
Until my grad school trip to Japan and China, I had never really been out of the country. Even then, I was terrified to be going on the trip. I was actually too scared to leave my hotel room a couple of days because I was so far out of my comfort zone.
Yes, me. I can give impromptu speeches in front of thousands of people. I can take on jobs for which I'm horribly under-qualified. I can approach anyone in just about any situation and offer help.
But when it comes to leaving the comfort and safety of home in order to help others, I'm too scared to do it.
Her question might have been uncomfortable, but it was also very compelling. It has me asking why I've been so scared and working out what I can do to move past that fear.
My prayer today isn't that I'll be met with these kinds of service opportunities in the future - I know that God will present me with problems He knows I need to do. Instead, my prayer is for the courage to accept these challenges and go where I'm needed. Not without fear, but with the strength it takes to act in the presence of fear.