I was 23, and still fairly new to full time-full time youth ministry. I was by no means naive or dumb; I just had a lot of zeal.
It was the same type of zeal that came out when hurricane Katrina came and a group of us freshman thought we could just drive down to Houston and save all those evacuees. A belief in a great big God, a great big calling, and not a lot of logic or wisdom.
Anyway, back to Huntsville, Alabama at age 23… It was a crazy crazy week. Three of my students (who were siblings) had lost their father to cancer. We were trying to get ready for a worship service where the youth band was playing with the main worship team. We had practices scheduled for 3 evenings in a row. Yeah, if you know me,…I can not play an instrument to save my life, but due to there needing to be a bridge of a presence to help the adults communicate with the students and the students communicate effectively with the adults…there I sat. Listening to one more round of Glory to God or whatever Steve Fee worship song was popular at the time.
We got done with practice, and as we went to leave the main building to go back to the youth building… low and behold a monsoon had come upon us. It was raining cats and dogs. We all made a mad dash to the youth building; the guys shoving their guitars under their shirts as shields. After locking up, I ran to my little car, got in and started out on my short 5 minute drive home. Right before my entrance of my apartments was a BP gas station. I saw that I needed gas… I was down to 1/4 of a tank. My parents always said to not let it get below half…I thought, “I can just fill up in the morning on the way to work.” I don’t remember what happened after that…It doesn’t really matter.
However, the next morning I woke up, and there were tornado warnings. I remember going into the office for a worship planning meeting and funeral meeting. They told us to go home after that because of the tornado warnings. I spoke with my mom, she told me to get cash if I didn’t have any, make sure I had food, flash lights, candles, had my phone charged, gas,… you know all the stuff moms tell you to get in that kind of weather. I remember rolling my eyes and thinking that I would be back at church that night for band practice. No sweat. I didn’t understand why everyone was freaking out over a little rain and dark clouds. So, you can probably guess what happened… I didn’t get cash. I didn’t fill up on gas. I didn’t get food. I didn’t charge my phone and computer. I didn’t get batteries. I didn’t even officially cancel band practice until 6:30pm when they quit showing regular programing on tv.
Tornados blew through Alabama leaving Tuscaloosa a mess. Huntsville with out power. The Tennessee Valley Power lines were cut. So I sat alone, with 30% battery left on my phone, no gas, some frozen dinners, a couple small candles, and $5. No freaking joke. So dumb (Yes, parents I am admitting it). I was just plain unprepared, and it wasn’t because I hadn’t been warned.
Thankfully, I had a wonderful family away from my family that took me in and let me stay with them for the first 3 days (Thanks Kluka’s!). Then, my dad, worried and irritated, got in his car with a can of gas and came down to Huntsville and got me since the gas stations weren’t pumping. I drove back with him to Nashville to spend the remainder of the disaster-cation. My situation wasn’t bad at all. There were tons of families who lost their homes, lives,… I just could of avoided the situation I was in if I had just taken some time to prepare.
How many times does God say to prepare for something? When He tells us to prepare for something, sometimes we doubt, but really and truly it is his divine grace trying to prepare us. I have had Him tell me to get my house in order, not knowing why. So I have gone about getting things in order, cleaned, purging of things I don’t need, and then only 3 months later be called to move. He has told me to get my finances in order. So then I could give. He has told me to rest and soak Him up,…and then only a season later I am using all that energy pouring into others in ministry, speaking, serving, or traveling. The thing is there is a preparation process. You must listen when He tells you to prepare…and then make haste preparing.
I am doing a study on Gideon with some girls in our young adult group. We are on week 4 of our study. There is always one day of the study that I end up spending the most time on during the week because the Lord is speaking to me in it. This past week, day 3 got me. It is a story that I remember hearing in Sunday school. It is the part of Gideon’s story where he is about to go into battle with the Midianites. He has an army of 32,000 and the Midianites have an army of 135,000. Gideon was already outnumbered. Then God says (in the Caroline version), “Ok, to prepare for this battle we have to weed out some people.” Which, if I was Gideon, I would of been like, “Excuse me?? Weed out?” Gideon, is nicer than I am apparently. He just listens and obeys.
In life when God tells you to prepare or weed out…you have to obey like Gideon did. Our shows, music, jokes, activities, how we spend our time, can all be good, but can also be twisted and cause harm. Sometimes it feels like it is on every side. That is why God puts people in your life as your “army” if you will. Those 3 or 5 people who you call upon for joys and sadness. People you really do life with week to week. Who is in that “army” matters. The peoples character matters. If you don’t prepare and make sure it is the right people then it could make the battles much much worse than they need to be…just like my tornado storm situation. Also, it is much more difficult to weed out your army in the middle of a battle. So, you might as well go on and examen it now before the battles.
Here is what God’s preparation strategy was for Gideon:
God first says to ask anyone who is afraid to leave. I can get behind that. Having struggled with fear in the past, I get how it can poison something. Fear of the enemy. Fear of failure. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown. Fears from past experiences. Fear can spread like wildfire. Fear can distract people. Also, if his army was fearful, it meant that either they didn’t trust God to do and be who He said He was, OR they didn’t trust Gideon’s relationship with the Lord. Which, the Lord already said He was coating the judges with His spirit…just like He does us with His Holy Spirit now.
This caused me to examen my own life. I mean I know that the bondage of fear is gone from my life. From time to time I feel it rise up, but because I am prepared for that I immediately combat it with truth. It made me think, God did not want people surrounding Gideon if they were fearful. I am so thankful that a year and a half ago when I was overcome with fear over my health that those who are in my “army” didn’t just succumb to it…they spoke truth in love. They were not fearful.
I have to admit…because I have no tolerance for fear in my own life, I have very little tolerance for people who are in fear. I see my old self in them. I kind of want to take them by the shoulders and shake them and say “Snap out of it! God has got this. Whatever you are fearful of, God has your best interest in mind. No. Matter. What.” However, I can’t do that. Whether it is that they are afraid of the calling God has on their life. Fear of stepping out in faith. Fear of walking out their faith even when it is hard. Who has time for fear? It matters who surrounds you. You want people in battle with you who cast out fear. I want people surrounding me personally who are not fearful, even when things don’t make sense. If you are in the bondage of fear. Talk to me…talk to God… it is no way to live.
The second part of God’s preparation strategy is to get rid of anyone that took their eyes off of the horizon when eating. Ok, this one is a little more tricky to decipher. However, I totally get God’s point. Would you rather have someone on your team who is exhausted from keeping watch and just wearily gorges themselves on a meal? Or would you want someone who knows the battle is near so they keep a close watch even while they eat. Again, it’s good. The people you surround yourself with should not just only be living out happy little Christian lives, but the ones in your inner circle need to keep watch. I love having friends that I know have my back… they don’t mind calling me out if they see a judgmental spirit in me or if they have a bad feeling about a situation or person. You want people on your team who have a watchful eye.
It is important to rearrange those in your inner circle before the battles begin… otherwise, when the battles come…you may be poisoned with fear or get hurt due to an unwatchful eye.
Don’t wait until you are in the midst of the storm or battle to prepare. Get your “army” in order now. Prepare now.