myMISSION Collegiate Blog

Lessons from around Dinner Tables

I’m usually confused when I see hospitality listed as one of the spiritual gifts. The others seem more tied to spirituality and ministry. The gifts of discernment, encouragement, and leadership are so obviously linked with the Holy Spirit and the daily Christian walk that the gift of hospitality, for me, seems only distantly related.

The idea of outstanding hospitality in our global culture is so foreign that I have stopped expecting it from others and even stopped focusing on it myself. It was only on a short trip to Ireland that I learned hospitality means something more than simply maintaining a house.

Over the course of a week while studying abroad, 2 friends and I took a road trip through the Irish countryside and then ended up in Dublin for a few days. Overall, the Irish people were welcoming and kind enough, but we were not expecting the hospitality we received.

Self-Editing and the Struggle for Authenticity

I’m a peer writing tutor at my university. Students will come to the writing center for feedback about papers, essays, and even the occasional creative writing piece. I love this job . . . every day at work is a new one with new challenges and individuals. I love people, I love words, and I love being able to help.

Sometimes, however, this impulse to edit creeps its way into the rest of my life. I am often tempted to look at others and their actions, and, in the same way that I would correct their grammar, I highlight their poor choices and suggest what changes they should make. This “life editing” is not new and not something that is unique to me. It is a daily struggle of which I am acutely aware.

The Original Storyteller

As an English major, my life is inundated with stories. From the beginning to the end of each semester, I can read anything from historical nonfiction, such as The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, to English Victorian gothic fiction, such as Wuthering Heights. In many ways, I’ve always understood that our lives are rooted in the stories we know and tell. Stories shape who we are and how we relate to others.

London, Listening, and Counter-Cultural Living

If we are going to make changes in our culture, we have to live counter-culturally. A mentor of mine often repeats these simple, wise words. Opportunities to live in a way that challenges our culture are easy to find in college. By choosing to make godly decisions in the midst of the temptations and challenges students face almost daily, counter-cultural and cultural living can seem as starkly different as black and white.

Then, suddenly, something happens that rips you away from your comfortable student bubble. You could graduate, transfer colleges, or even simply realize that you don’t know your university as well as you thought you did. If you’re like me, you can study abroad for a semester in London and realize just how little you really understand about other cultures. I no longer have the luxury of simply living against the status quo. I first have to identify differences between England and my home that do not reflect God and then live against the flow. In new places, though, not getting caught up in the flow is hard to do.

A Lack of Skill

I have a really bad habit of doing a quick self-assessment of my skills whenever the Lord gives me an opportunity to share the gospel.

For example, I see someone sitting alone in the cafeteria and the Spirit starts tugging. I immediately think, “Great! I’m really good at starting conversations and I can tell funny stories. This will be easy.” Or someone will tell me a struggle they’re going through and I get excited because of all my “knowledge” on the subject.

I became aware of this bad habit one day while working at a summer camp. My camp director asked me if I would spend my free time in the gym. Normally I spent my free time close to the snack canteen, bonding with middle school girls over card games and frozen soft drinks, and I wasn’t too excited to try something new.

Especially when that something new was the gym.

I’m 5’1, and my basketball days ended in about middle school. I had absolutely no skills in order to be effective in this area. But even so, I made my way to the gym and prayed that the Lord would use my time in the gym.

Better than Nothing

Sometimes in college it’s easy to have the “better than nothing” attitude. It’s a familiar story: You have weeks and weeks to work on a paper but somehow it only gets started 10 hours before the actual due date. Is it the best paper? Nope. But hey, it’s better than nothing.

If I’m being honest, this “better than nothing” attitude has bled over into my relationship with Christ. It’s affected my time with Him and trying to live on mission.

A quick devotion on my phone right before I doze off to sleep at night has become routine because it’s better than not doing a quiet time. Smiling at those people the Spirit tugs on my heart for has become a replacement for actually talking to them because it’s better than just ignoring them. Promising to pray for people that don’t know Jesus has taken the place of actually sharing the gospel because it’s better than nothing.

When did I become so OK with choosing between better and nothing? And when did I begin to believe that those were my only two options?

My Own Little World

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost walked into someone or tripped on a sidewalk because I was looking down at my phone. In fact, there have been multiple days where I’ve walked across campus to get to class in a crowd of people, but I didn’t see any of them because I was so fixated on my phone or lost in my own thoughts.

Even though my eyes were open, I failed to see others.

Between texting friends and scrolling through Instagram, I get so caught up in my own little world and become oblivious to the one around me. With my head down, I let my world consist of my schedule, my friends, and my interests, with very little time for anything else.

But how can I live on mission for Christ when I can’t even see the ones He’s called me to serve? How can God open my eyes to the needs of the world if I refuse to look up from my own?

Just Being Present

During my freshman year, I went on a missions trip with my church over spring break to Haiti. As I prepared, my team leader, Matt, called me to discuss the logistics and clarify any of my questions. I remember immediately asking, “What does the schedule during the trip look like?” Matt casually replied that we didn’t have a schedule because our main job was to be with the children at the orphanage.

No schedule, no to-do lists, just being.

Uh, excuse me? I signed up for a missions trip. In my mind, this should involve a lot of doing. I was ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus and do some serious serving in Haiti. I didn’t understand how being present with the children equated to the missions part of a missions trip. I wanted to be doing. And just being present did not feel like missions to me.

A few weeks later, my team finally arrived in Haiti. As I surveyed my surroundings at the orphanage, my first impulse was to look around and see what I could do. I saw so many needs and things that could be done. But then I remembered—be intentionally present.

Mission: Involvement

Get involved.

This was my mission going into my freshman year. I can remember everyone telling me the college experience is what you make it, so I was determined to give it everything I had by getting involved in anything I could. I just knew that “involvement” was the key to having a successful college career.

So when the very first week of college arrived, I hit the ground running with my mission. I registered for a full load of classes, signed up for student government, pledged a sorority, joined a small group, volunteered, and planned on attending multiple campus ministry services throughout the week. My schedule was packed, and I was pumped for the amazing college life I was about to experience through all of my involvement. Mission accomplished.

Or so I thought.

Although my schedule left very little time to be alone, I felt incredibly lonely. The positions I held were draining and I wasn’t passionate about any of them. Despite the multiple Bible studies and worship services throughout the week, I felt spiritually parched and useless to God. Somehow, my mission failed.

A Taste of Boldness

A few semesters ago, I befriended two Chinese students in one of my classes. We could not be more different, but we had great conversations and I was able to begin to share my faith. When they suggested I experience authentic Chinese cuisine to celebrate the end of class, I was eager to continue our conversations while doing something I love: eating.

A few days later, I prayed continuously as I drove to the restaurant, asking for boldness to share the gospel clearly. By the time I arrived, I still didn’t feel the boldness I had prayed for, but I felt comforted by the smell of fried rice. Unfortunately, this feeling quickly vanished when my friends met me and said, “We already ordered for you!”

Soon an array of dishes came and covered our table, revealing various kinds of meat and organs. I looked at the table and felt like a contestant on Fear Factor. But then the Spirit reminded me to pray. I asked if I could bless the food, and then the conversation flowed naturally as I shared my faith and put unidentifiable meats on my plate.

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