As I finish up my short ebook (to be released on the 31st. Don’t forget to download it!) I am reminded of a very pivotal lesson I learned during my time in Singapore, back in 2006. Since this story fits into the timeline but not quite into the story of From Romantic to Realist: The Early Days of Gretch, I figured I would share it here. Hopefully it is as far-reaching for you as it has been for me.
Doing a tour in Singapore is hard for a wide-eyed missionary such as my 2006-self. It was my second overseas experience and I was rearing to share the gospel with anyone who would listen. The first tour I had done was in Australia, which was awesome, but there wasn’t much opportunity to share the good news with people who hadn’t heard it. I had decided that Singapore was going to be my big break into Christian valor. I had this image in my head of what a “real missionary” does. My limited experience with Christian Culture had taught me that missionaries go to other countries, meet hundreds of people who have never heard of Jesus, share the gospel with them all, then lead the lost to salvation in droves. With their vast array of knowledge of course.
Singapore, in my mind, would be a wealth of opportunity. I would have four whole weeks of meeting Buddhists, Ancestor worshipers, Free-thinkers, and sharing from stage about Jesus and what He had done in my life, convincing them all that they too should put their hope in the only One who saves. Boy was that naive…and arrogant.
Our weekdays were spent doing up to four concerts a day in high schools, colleges and universities around the country. We couldn’t talk about Jesus here though. We could only talk about our own life and allude to our “faith in something bigger”. These weekday performances were an effort to motivate our audiences to come to our weekend programs at a building in the heart of Singapore. It was there that we could officially share the gospel and talk to people about how much the God of the Bible loved them and wanted to be in relationship with them.
Toward the end of our four weeks, I had seen little action in the way of new people finding out about Jesus. I was fervently praying that the Lord would give me the opportunity to share with someone one-on-one and experience that moment with them when their life changes forever. And that’s when I met Willie.
Willie was about 10 years old and came from a family of Buddhists who were adamantly opposed to him hearing about Christianity. He had begged his parents to let him go to our concert after he saw us at his school, but they had refused their permission. Still, he risked retribution and came to our final weekend performance. While the rest of the team was busy setting up the stage and equipment, I had been bestowed the task of hanging out with Willie and finding small things for us to do together that would help prepare for that evening’s concert. I was elated to say the least. There was no question in my mind that the good Lord had placed Willie in my path because of my diligence in prayer, and that this was going to be my first “convert” to tell everyone about when I returned home. Thinking back on it now, I could not be more ashamed of my attitude. I was a whole six years younger than today. Let’s blame it on that so I can move on shall we.
The night was going so well with Willie. He is such a great kid. I couldn’t believe how many questions he had, and I couldn’t believe all the responses that were coming to me. You know how God told Moses he didn’t have to worry about what to say when he went to Pharaoh because God himself would give him words? Yeah, it was pretty clear that’s what was happening in my conversation with Willie. It was AWESOME!
After hours of talking throughout the day, it was time to start our concert and Willie was seated with the rest of the audience and I joined my team to begin our program. I could hardly focus because I knew what was coming during intermission. Intermission was when each team member had a small group of audience members to share a meal with, learn some Mandarin from, and eventually get into some serious conversation about whether they wanted to hear more about a relationship with the God we had been speaking of all night long.
I was ecstatic. I could see that Willie was sitting at the same table that had my trading card on it (yes, we had trading cards, and it was awesome) which meant, he was going to be in my group and we could finish our conversation from the rest of the day, and I could finally help him to the point of starting a new life with Christ, and this whole trip would be worth it!
What happened instead was a crucial moment in my own faith.
The moment it was announced that we, the band, would be joining the audience for the intermission, was the same moment the program volunteers realized that my table had too many people, so they randomly went up to Willie and asked him if he would mind going to my teammate Michelle’s table instead. That’s when everything started to unravel. I was so frustrated. Here I had prayed into this opportunity for weeks, poured my entire day into Willie…I was entitled to this! And now Michelle was probably going to enjoy the thrill of being part of someone’s life-changing moment.
Little did I know, while the Lord was preparing Willie’s heart to invite the King of the Universe to govern over the rest of his life, He was also setting my heart up for a moment of much needed correction.
Hours later, when intermission had finished, our program ended, and Michelle was gushing to our team about how Willie had been so excited to know Jesus and start a new life with him, my heart sunk to the pit of my stomach. But it wasn’t in jealousy or anger or bitterness, it was sudden awareness leading to humbleness.
It was the Holy Spirit inside me, with a merciful but firm voice saying, “Gretchen, contrary to popular belief, you don’t determine what part you have in someone else’s journey, or how I choose to use you in their life. Don’t be jealous because I’m good. Don’t be angry because I chose to use you to start conversation and I chose someone else to end it. Be humbled by the fact that I chose to use you at all”. It was this glorious moment where I became acutely aware that God’s story is so much bigger than my own. And my place in it is not to make a name for myself, but to point to the One who is infinitely good. What an honor it becomes to be used by Him in the smallest of ways. He doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need any of us to change hearts, or transform lives, or show how glorious He really is. He could do that through a million different mechanisms. But He lets us be part of His grand story, in order that we would see Him more, and be changed by Him more, and fall in love with Him more every day.
Glory to God that He would use my own immodesty to draw me closer to himself. He is so magnificent.