Now, I wasnt stretched as I leaned up a ladder to try to hand someone a new can of paint.
I wasnt stretched as I was sprawled across my noisy air mattress every night.
I wasnt stretched as I worshipped God in the worship services and sang new songs.
I wasnt stretched as I endured 105 degree temperatures, in blue jeans.
I wasnt even stretched when I took showers in close proximity to 5 total strangers, with only a thin curtain betweem us, and some sort of six-inch black bug laying in the drain, which looked like it was moving each time the water droplets would hit it.
Nope - God didnt stretch me by asking me to endure different, and sometimes, uncomfortable, living and working conditions.
He stretched me, in my faith, and in my willingness to do whatever He asked.
You see, several years ago, I went through a big stretching season. In fact, I felt stretched thin. God had called me to be a speaker and writer, neither of which was in my life plan, and it felt way out of my comfort zone. It was a huge stretch for me to take that first step of obedience, but after nearly five years of speaking at womens events and weekend retreats, it has become more of a comfort zone for me, than a stretch.
Trust me when I say that I still pray earnestly before every event I speak at, asking God to remove my butterflies and allow people to hear His message, and not see me at all. And I always feel blessed to share Gods message of hope and love... however, I do not always feel "stretched", because it has become more comfortable for me now.
So I think God decided, in His infinite wisdom, that it was time to stretch me again. To stretch me into a position that felt a little awkward, that seemed beyond my abilities, and that was way out of my comfort zone.
He stretched me by calling me to true evangelizing.
Repairing homes for people in need was the outreach of the mission trip - but the primary goal was to reach people with the Gospel of Christ - to share the gospel with the homeowners, and the people that were in our paths. Now I love to share Gods message at events and meet and greet and pray with all the ladies in attendance, but this was a whole different ballgame.
The expectation of being required and expected to go door to door, sharing the gospel with total strangers, who might slam the door in your face, curse at you, or worse, made me feel a little weak in the knees.
So as sweat beads were breaking out on my forehead, I began to have a little conversation with myself in my head, asking questions like......"why can I stand on a stage in front of countless amounts of people, and share Gods Word with no worries?" ; "why can I pray with people whom I dont know, and feel God leading my words?"; "why I am so worried about sharing the Gospel all of the sudden?"; "what if.....?"
In that little conversation with myself, and with God, God finally helped me grasp the only logical answer that existed for my questions - which was simply that sharing Gods Word in this particular manner was out of my comfort zone - and that was EXACTLY why God called me to do it.
I could have easily sent my team down the street without me, or stood in the shadows as these teens who were bold and excited about sharing Christ knocked on doors. But God had laid a burning conviction on my heart, that even though I was hesitant and fearful and did not know what to expect - the time had to come for me to do some stretching.
Our little caravan of people walked down the street, in a neighborhood that has probably made the news before, with anything but good news - but I trusted God to protect us, and He did, and more. As a result, I learned that real Christian growth takes place when we are out of our comfort zones - or at least expand our comfort zones to make room for something new that Christ wants to do in us, and through us.
So on the streets of Norfolk, my newfound friends (all teens on fire for Christ), and I, walked hesitantly up the sidewalk of a mans home, as he stared at us cautiously from his front steps. We introduced ourselves, and began to make small talk with this elderly man, who soon had a very welcoming smile. We learned his name was Woffard, and we explained to him why we were there and asked if he had anything we could pray about for him. He asked for prayer for his 2 sons who were in prison, and expressed his desire for them to know Jesus and turn their lives around. He also proudly shared that his grandson who was standing beside him, had given his life to Jesus that very day. Ironic? I think not. :)
We stood on the steps, in the hot uncomfortable sun, in a circle, hand in a hand with a complete stranger, but a brother in Christ, and prayed for him and his family. He thanked us, and we went on our way.
As the afternoon wore on, we shared a quick message with a young white girl, who just had a baby a few days earlier, and had 2 little wide-eyed boys sitting on the couch in diapers.
We prayed with an elderly man who was sitting on his porch in a wheelchair, waiting on someone to pick him up for his chemo treatments.
We prayed for an African American family sitting on their porch, with little kids running around in the yard, who were excited to know that someone could help them with home repairs in the future at no costs to them. And after a minute or so of saying they didnt need any prayer, they soon opened up, and welcomed the opportunity for us to pray with them.
We prayed with two Hispanic ladies, found sitting on dilapidated lawn chairs in the hottest part of the day, smoking, holding their cats, and reading the newspaper; looking at us with inquisitive eyes about why we were approaching them. We engaged in friendly conversation, and soon they expressed their desire for prayer, and shared some prayer concerns with us about their families. We held hands around them, and prayed.
We prayed with an elderly man named Clyde, wearing a bright green shirt as he sat on his front porch people watching, We discovered that he loved the Lord, and was excited to have someone pray for him. He held our hands and smiled the biggest toothless grin you have ever seen.
By the end of the 2nd day of evangelizing, all that stretching had made me much more limber. I wondered if our brief little visits had planted any seeds for Christ. I wondered if the families would watch the CD's we had given them, and open the pages of the New Testaments that we left in their hands. I wonder how God will use our stretching, to glorify Him.
I was so excited about how I had seen God use just a few words from total strangers to lift someones spirits. In some instances, I was saddened to see the people who rejected the opportunity to hear Gods message, and denied that they even needed prayer at all.
But I learned a great lesson last week, not just about helping others in the name of Christ, but about being Christ, even if it feels uncomfortable. I was reminded about how things were not comfortable for Jesus at all, but that didnt deter Him from reaching out to people who needed to know that there Was, and Is, a Savior.
But most of all - I realized that all that stretching was really great exercise, and that instead of feeling sore and uncomfortable, I felt uplifted, renewed, reenergized in my desire to share Christ with everyone I meet, and more flexible than ever before.
In fact, I can honestly say, that stretching has never felt so good, and I am so thankful that God called me out of my comfort zone - once again.
You know, I dont think that God really ever wants us to get too comfortable. And when we start feeling comfortable in what He has called us to do, that is probably a sure sign that it is time for some serious stretching.
How is God calling you to stretch today?