It has been 26 days since I returned from Australia, and I feel like I am just now being able to adequately communicate what I learned and what the Lord did this summer. I haven’t gone a day without being asked those two questions, and I’m happy to say my answers have gotten significantly better and less awkward. Fitting ten weeks into a few sentences isn’t exactly realistic nor preferable, but having been back for almost a month now, it is evident what big moments my heart has clung to and the truths I continue to fall back on. Keeping you and your possible attention span in mind, here are the first two of ten lessons/truths I’ll cover throughout this next month.
1. God loves surprises.
A few years ago, as a group at my church in San Antonio prayed for an upcoming youth event, I heard my youth minister ask God to surprise us. Since that evening, that has been a common prayer of mine. It’s fun to look back on events or programs or trips and marvel at the ways God inserted a few surprises along the way. I signed up to go to Australia with very few expectations, so the list of surprises this summer is endless, but one of my favorites is how God used children to teach me.
Anyone who knows me well knows children are neither my specialty nor my passion. There is a reason I have never babysat in all my twenty years of living among many young families at church. So, when my teammate and I were told we were going to be teaching religious education every Tuesday for four 3rd grade classes, fear was definitely present.
Upon being asked by a child if I was a student from Japan during my first day of teaching, I knew this was going to be better than anticipated. What I loved the most about the kids was their joy.There is something so much more genuine about a child’s joy, and I quickly understood why Jesus hung around them so much. There’s rarely a deep reason for their smiles–they’re just happy. It’s almost lunchtime. They’re happy. They just finished lunch. They’re happy. The Americans sound funny. They’re happy. I trip. They’re happy.
And though that happiness can be flipped to anger in a matter of .5 seconds, their joy is refreshing, and it’s incredibly contagious. Big problems become small when you spend enough time with a child.
2. Joy stems from gratitude.
Though Australia gave me zero reasons to be ungrateful, the devil is brilliant at giving us reasons to dwell in a pit of negativity. When I found myself getting caught up in frustrating situations beyond my control, the only way to fight the swarms of negativity or anger or frustration or bitterness wanting to nest in the pit of my stomach was to stop and say, “thank you, Lord”. It may sound dumb or cheesy, but situations like that are one of the only things guaranteed and promised from God. Trials will come. Discipline will come, but the Lord also promises comfort and peace and strength as we rely on Him in those times. There is joy to find in knowing that “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” is coming as we walk into unattractive situations with our all-powerful God. As long as I kept saying thank you, I was continuing to be overwhelmed by my overflowing cup.