**This is a guest post from a good friend of mine, Dan Jackson. Dan will be contributing to the blog on a regular basis. Dan is a great young man with a heart for God and a message to spread. I pray his words touch your heart and, wherever you find yourself, give you a chance for reflection, thankfulness, and, if necessary, strength to change. To be all God wants you to be.**
This is my first entry, and as such I feel like what I’m about to ramble on about would be rather pointless if I didn’t do some sort of introduction. My name is Daniel Jackson, and I’ve been a blogger over at www.ceolmahrgael.blogspot.com for around six years. Over the past few years, I’ve been trying, at times almost too hard, to discern God’s call on my life. I graduated from college in May of 2010, and immediately began trying to figure out what my next step was. When I wasn’t sure, I figured more school was in order. I spent a year in education classes—that was a bust. Teaching isn’t my thing. I have the utmost respect for those who are called to the profession, but that isn’t me. I also had the opportunity to go on a short term mission trip to the Dominican Republic in 2010. While there, I began to get some kind of sense that ministry was where I needed to go.
Since then, I’ve spent all of my time and energy focusing on going to Seminary. That was the be-all, end-all that needed to happen. I can’t serve the Lord outside of the Church or working on professional ministry, right? I returned to the Dominican Republic this past February, where I felt my call not only affirmed, but almost fine tuned. I felt called to a life of missions. As such, I planned my seminary education accordingly. Over the past few months, however, various things in my home church life coupled with what I’ve experienced while serving God abroad have really left me in quite a predicament. I felt this immense pressure to always do what I was “supposed” to do. I was living under that burden so much that I completely lost sight of the Son and grew deaf to His voice. I realized that I was deaf to Him in a moment that seemed like it was too late: while working at a Christian camp. It terrified me. What was I doing? What was I doing wrong? I didn’t know. I had no idea what God wanted me to do, or how He could use someone like me to effectively minister. I tried my hardest to shrug it off, while at the same time becoming so engrossed in things that I felt like I couldn’t live without: relationships, religion, saying the right things, looking the part, and leading worship. It slowly started killing me.
In what I assumed to be a headlong pursuit of God and His will in my life, I also allowed the expectations of this world and those in it to run my life. I’m quickly approaching my twenty-fourth birthday, and it hit me for the first time ever: I didn’t know how to live life the way I wanted. Not even that—I didn’t know how to follow what God wanted. Chaos ensued in my heart. Earlier this year, I was let go from my position of youth director at my church. I don’t believe it was handled well, and as such I was left angry, hurt, and bitter. I didn’t want to be those things, but I couldn’t help but wonder “if they’ll do this to one of their own, no wonder people don’t want to come to Church.” Cynicism reigned supreme in my life. Mixing cynicism, expectations of others, and not knowing where I was going was a definite recipe for disaster.
I was supposed to actually move down to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary this coming Sunday. As of this morning, I’m not going. So many things have led to that decision. Last night, when I realized that the money situation wasn’t feasible, I finally allowed myself to let go of it. After the initial let-go, things started coming to my attention. I’m in no way ready for Seminary right now—and it took God slamming the door in my face to realize it. This isn’t the first time in my life that I’ve had this happen. There is so much in my life that I’ve allowed to have dominion over my heart that the term “out of fellowship” doesn’t even begin to cover it. I was living a lie. The smiling, pastor in training, seminary-bound worship leader Dan was a farce. I’d become the very thing I claimed to despise—a Christian Atheist; a follower of a set of religious rules and guidelines. I’d become something I vowed never to be: a label. The inside was governed by jealousy, rage, lust, self-hatred, mistrust of God…the list could go on. Those few things alone shame me. There wasn’t any love—certainly not the love I should have for the Christ who saved me. I figured that all of the negativity I’d allowed to cloud my view of the Church would evaporate when I went to seminary. Truth is…it would have made it worse. My heart was set on a destructive path. I was going to fully transform into what Jesus tells us not to: a whitewashed tomb. I look great on the outside, but the inside is rotten.
During my breakdown last night, I cried out with what little energy I had left to Jesus. I’m not really one for dramatics, but I had no hope left. Thankfully, He heard my cry (okay, sobs). I felt the presence of our Lord for the first time in months. What does that feel like, you ask? Peace. Love. Calm in spite of chaotic circumstances. The past was just that—the past. The aforementioned sins were counted as no more. I’m looking at this divine intervention in my life as a second chance. Well, maybe not a second chance; more like a five-thousandth chance. I lose count. The point is that our God is true to His promises. One of those promises is that He’ll never leave us nor forsake us, no matter the circumstance. I was convinced with all of my heart that I was on the right path, and regardless of how I felt inside, I was going to serve God and others. My spiritual health wasn’t a concern to me, when it clearly should have been.
The point of this long-winded introduction is to show that there is nobody too far gone, too screwed up, too “wrong” or deemed “less than” for God and His love to reach. People may look at me and say “you don’t know me; you don’t know what I’ve done.” To that, I say I’m no different. God’s love isn’t exclusive. There is more love and grace in His little finger than all that this world could offer. And for that, I am SO thankful. Tony Campolo once said “I’m not who I was, I’m not yet who I’m supposed to be—but I’m on my way.” It’s just that. Forgiveness and salvation in Christ isn’t just a magic pill or spell that we say to be transformed. It is a daily renewal; sometimes hourly. His mercies are new every morning. His love never ceases, never fades, never wanes.
The only label we should be concerned with is the one that says “Child of God.” That label covers everything that we think will remove us from His presence. Over the coming months as I reevaluate where God wants me to be, I’ll daily be striving to live in, not up to, that label. A child of the King. Will you?