"When I was a kid, my parents told me I was going to be a missionary."
I was the kid who prayed every night for her unsaved friends. I was the fastest at locating Bible verses and the best at memorizing them. I loved reading books about missionaries and their dramatic lives: George Muller who relied on praying for God’s provision to feed a houseful of orphans, Jim Elliot and his martyrdom at the hands of the tribespeople to whom he brought the gospel, Jacob DeShazer and his radical conversion while a prisoner of war to the people he would later serve. I consumed stories about martyrs and thought about the day I might be called to give up my life for my faith.
So when God startled me awake last spring with the whisper, YWAM, it sort of made sense: after all, it was Youth With A Mission, the very organization whose books I had devoured as a kid, one of the biggest missionary organizations in the world. But it mostly didn’t make sense. Because I wasn’t that kid anymore. I had become, in many ways, oppositional to Christianity and what it stood for. I loved Jesus and I believed God was good, but I was wounded and confused by the way I saw Christianity represented in the world around me. In my own life, I had struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder that was fueled by religious anxiety and eventually turned into bouts of depression. For me, Christianity had been an added weight on an already-suffering mind, and so I stopped trusting other Christians, blaming them for my pain.
"For me, Christianity had been an added weight on an already-suffering mind, and so I stopped trusting other Christians, blaming them for my pain."
This distrust and hurt held me back during the first half of Discipleship Training School, as much as I wanted to participate. I struggled to form friendships, to join in worship, or to read my Bible. I was uncertain about these people who built their ministry entirely on the basis of hearing God when I had seen that misused before. Could I really trust these people who said they heard God? Deep down, I think what I was really wondering was this: Did I really believe God had been faithful to me and would be faithful to me in spite of what I’d been through? Could I trust him enough to step into the life of faith I believed he had called me to?
What I saw at YWAM Orlando began to stir up in me what had felt dead for so long. People would hear from the Lord and pray out what he said over a situation or a friend. They talked about being best friends with the Holy Spirit, about staying aware to what he wanted to do in a given moment. They had crazy stories of God’s provision and healing and protection, the kinds of stories I had read about as a kid. I had seen then that there was so much more for our lives, and I was seeing it again, now, at a time when I was no longer sure that the more was for me.
I saw people praying passionately for other nations and going to the most dangerous and poor places in the world. I saw two healings, one of an injury and one of a severe dietary restriction caused by illness. I saw people willing to talk about the hard stuff and prepared to take in anyone from any walk of life. I saw heartfelt repentance followed by radical forgiveness and encouragement and prayer. I saw people who believed that God had never wanted any of that suffering for my life, people who were willing to go with me to those uncomfortable places, people who would listen and pray and believe in healing for my heart and my mind.
The people around me were living the more, living lives characterized by a profound belief in the goodness of God. Seeing that stirred up in me a reminder of the life I had always wanted, the life I had always felt deep down was meant for me. To have that life for myself, I would need to let down the defenses I had put up out of bitterness and hurt. I would need to learn to walk in faith again, to believe in the goodness and power of God. It was uncomfortable, but without the discomfort, I could never have that life I so deeply craved and the purpose I longed to fulfill.
"The people around me were living the more, living lives characterized by a profound belief in the goodness of God."
God walked with me in this process of healing the hurt places in my heart. I began hearing the Lord for myself, tentatively at first, and then with more confidence. He showed me he was willing to give me as much time as I needed to learn how to worship again, how to pray again, how to believe in his power and goodness again. He gently pointed out the places I didn’t believe he was good, both in my theology and in my experience. I began to know him as a God who was fighting for me, who was cheering me on in my stumbling efforts and completely okay with the days that I wasn’t ready or able to worship. Worship, especially, was a wounded area in my heart, but he brought healing through the Resound worship elective and the daily Spirit-led worship at YWAM Orlando. I began to see his heart, his goodness, and his faithfulness in worship, and by the last week of DTS I was able to join in singing wholeheartedly every morning. Since then, worship has been a source of joy and encouragement for me, instead of a place of distrust and hurt.
The life I want, the life I feel I was created to have, is on the other side of discomfort. There were many, many days at DTS where all I could think about was going home, where I didn’t want to talk to anyone, where I cried to my parents, my leaders, my friends. But I stayed because I knew God had asked me to be there. And on the days where I felt I couldn’t handle it, I knew God was okay with that, and so I stepped back enough to take a breath--and stepped back in when I was ready.
Why did I continue to choose the discomfort? Because I knew there was more for my life than what I had. There was more than the anxiety, more than being a mental illness blogger, more than holding everyone from the church at an arm’s length. I felt deep down that God had called me to make an impact, to spread his love to people who felt unlovable. I desired to know and to serve a God who was fully good, fully loving, who was personal and close.
"There was more than the anxiety, more than being a mental illness blogger, more than holding everyone from the church at an arm’s length. I felt deep down that God had called me to make an impact, to spread his love to people who felt unlovable."
Through my life I have held onto one thing above all else: a fully good God who loves me. That fully good God met me this summer, gently getting rid of the lies I believed about him through the distorted lens of my experience, and healing the places in my heart that were hurting and afraid. He helped me break through the bitterness and hurt and fear that were holding me back from the full life he has called me to live.
I don’t know if I will be a missionary or a YWAM lifer. I don’t know if I will preach the gospel in the slums of South Africa or the deserts of the Middle East. But the passion and purpose God placed on my life from the beginning has been stirred up again: to love others well and to see revival in the hearts of the people he formed with great love and intention and desire. I am choosing to live the more, even when it means pressing into discomfort, because I know the good God who is walking with me, so patiently, so gently, so kindly. And I know that the things he desires for my life are so much better than I could ever imagine.
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Tori Margaret | YWAM Orlando Alumni
Tori joined us for her University DTS lecture phase summer of 2017.
We highly recommend visiting her personal blog where she writes from her heart about faith and mental illness: www.boldbrightbeautiful.com