Today was.....insane. Absolutely insane. But in a totally awesome way!
I'm warning you now that I have slept approximately one hour since 4:00 yesterday afternoon, so this may or may not be a very detailed and clear post. Forgive me. If something is confusing, ask me.
Okay, so last night around midnight, I was just messing around on YouTube, and I decided to look at the list of videos that I have "liked" (and in YouTube terms, that means I gave it a thumbs up). It was a rather short list, and on it I noticed a video titled "I Am Second - Chris Plekenpol". Now, obviously, I know what the I Am Second series is all about (but I hadn't yet opened the I Am Second book that JD sent me), but I couldn't remember why I had liked this particular video.
So I watched it. And the story of how he found God in the middle of the Iraqi desert nearly brought me to tears. Afterwards, I felt this urge to Google him and see what I could find out about him, and as it turns out, he has a website because he is the pastor at a major church in Texas, so I clicked on the site. The very first thing that popped up was a box letting me know that if I needed someone to talk to or there was something I was struggling with, Chris would be happy to talk with me. My mind immediately went to last night's blog post and how I've been struggling with forgiving myself for things I know that God has already forgiven me for, so I left that and my email.
From then until about 6:00, I stayed up watching close to three dozen other I Am Second videos. Then I had to take a break until about 7:15 because of some breathing trouble, but once that was taken care of, I picked up the I Am Second book from JD...and proceeded to read all 238 pages in one sitting.
As soon as I put the book down around 10:15, I pulled up my email, and there was a response from Chris. He left his phone number and said to text him so we could work out a time to talk. Of course, I did right then, and he almost immediately replied, saying that I needed to give him 15 minutes and then he'd call me.
When he did call, he asked me to tell him my life story, so I did. All the way from my dad's death to my baptism to where I am today. This is the total God part of it all. What Chris said in response pegged a lot of details about my personality that he figured out simply from listening to me: how I love to take care of people, how I'm far too hard on myself, how I try too hard at everything, how I feel better when I have something to do. And I know it was the Lord speaking to me throughout it all, specifically when Chris emphatically said, "JUST STOP TRYING SO HARD. In fact, stop trying at all." He confronted me with the truth that all of this trying is doing absolutely nothing for or against God's perception of me. He recognized that when people tell you to just stop doing something, it's so much easier said than done.
My favorite part of the entire conversation was when he told me how to stop trying. He spoke of what I had told him about my baptism, the unspeakable joy that radiated from within me, the certainty that I felt of God's presence in that church, the excitement I felt at the realization that I was being brought into a full life with and because of Christ. Then, he gave me an assignment of sorts to think of ways that I can relive the joy, peace, and excitement that I felt that night by showing Christ's love to other people, and he told me to text him later
I spent basically all afternoon (aside from the one hour that I actually slept) thinking about it, and texted him a few things around dinner time. The biggest thing was to take 1 Peter 3 and apply it to my relationships with my family. There is a lot of resentment that's built up between us, and even though my passion for my faith is a source of tension, I have to be intentional about letting my actions shine Christ's love because words have gotten me nowhere. Several people have told me this many times before, including JD, and I heard them, but I was so angry that I didn't want to take the time to really try and do it. Now I am.
Another is to use my faith to minister to people I see that are grieving, not being shy about sharing the love of Jesus with them whether they know him or not. This reminds me of my One Word for 2012: warrior. I want to be the kind of warrior for Christ that seeks to make disciples of Jesus everywhere that I go.
I also want to continue sending thoughtful messages to my friends when I think of them because they have told me what a help and encouragement it is.
And the last thing I've come up with so far is to intentionally seek out opportunities to share my testimony with people because even though it sometimes makes me nervous, I've seen firsthand the kind of effect it's had on other people and their personal relationships with Jesus.
I'm sure I'll be thinking and praying about this "assignment" quite a bit in the days to come, so I'm sure more will come to me when I'm not so sleep-deprived. ;)
Seriously, though, y'all. This whole thing just blows my mind. It was completely God-orchestrated. Only God could take YouTube and a video to lead me to a conversation with a total stranger who would speak His Truth into my heart in a very real, compassionate, accessible way. It felt like I was talking to an old friend. And to be perfectly honest, my baptism is the only other night that I felt this certain of God's presence. I know for sure that God was using Chris to get my attention. (Another example of proof: Chris texted me later tonight and told me he'd been praying about me and feeling like it was really important that he tell me to exercise every day. I had never once mentioned to him my issues with my weight.)
Only God could put together a string of small little events and choices and turn them into one big picture that's this beautiful and unexpected. And it all happened in the span of like 11 hours!
Only God could orchestrate the collision of the lives of two complete strangers and use a conversation to reignite my burning, overwhelming passion to chase Jesus with everything I have. I am more determined than ever to surrender and let God change my heart towards my family, so I can just stop trying and show them Jesus without a single word. I am more determined than ever to make Him first in everything that I think, say, and do, so that He has the ultimate control He so rightly deserves. I am more determined than ever to honor Him.
This won't be the last you hear of my interactions with Chris Plekenpol. That much I know for sure.
To human eyes and human ears, it would like nothing more than a phone call. But the truth is that because of that phone call and that conversation, because of that God-directed collision, everything in my life has changed.