Called to Stand

“Class, I want you to answer a couple questions about yourself, so that all of us can hear. What is your intended major, and what do you want to do vocationally when you graduate?” my professor asks.
I started attending dual enrollment community college classes during the spring semester of my freshman year in high school, so I’m used to these sorts of questions. I understand that it’s solely meant to help my professor gain context about me. But nonetheless, the questions are intimidating. What do I want to reveal about myself to this class?
God showed me who I was created to be when I was very little. In fact, I connect with the story of the prophet Jeremiah because he was given a challenging calling at a young age. When I was 6, I was called to be a missionary to Africa. And the calling that I was given wasn’t a “someday” sort of calling, it was immediate. Even while I was very young, God told me that it was time for me to speak the words that He needed me to speak, just like He instructed Jeremiah to prophesy. So, I did.
God called to build a playground in Swaziland for my 7th birthday. And so, I did. I invited my family and friends to a big birthday party and requested that they donate to the playground rather than giving me presents. I decided to be like Jeremiah. I obeyed, spoke up, and was bold in chasing my calling. God provided some very special resources through that birthday party. The money that was raised was sent with a team of missionaries; they built the playground at a children’s home.
When I was 11, God gave me the wild idea to present to my elementary school. I had a dream to raise money to build a well for a community in Sierra Leone so that children could attend school instead of walking miles every day to find clean water. So, I did. In the course of two weeks, we raised $4000 and built a well.
When I was 14, God urged me to be His hands and feet in Uganda. He told me it was my time to go and share the Gospel, rather than simply being the means for others to do so. “Arise and go, there I will announce my words to you” (Jeremiah 18:12). So, I did. I left my family for the entire month of December and spent Christmas telling Ugandan children about Jesus, who was born to love and to save them.
When I was 15, God called me to partner with Compassion International, go to Kenya, and have my heart broken for what breaks His. So, I did. I went to Kenya and I saw children who lived in conditions that made my heart cry out.
Thinking back on all my experiences, I wonder why I was bolder to answer at 6 years old than I am now, nearly an adult. I ask myself, “Have I changed?” Back then, I suppose I was less fearful of rejection. I was eager to tell everyone about how Jesus led my life and I don’t ever recall feeling scared about sharing my calling. What changed? Why do I fight the urge to hide now, 11 years more “mature”.
In answering the professor’s questions, I could tell the class that I’m undecided. Surely that wouldn’t cause any harm. I mean, who is going to remember me after class is dismissed? Outside of this class, I don’t exist to any of these peers. By answering that way, I’d avoid their judgment and their questions and could remain the unremarkable girl that sat in the back row. And even though I’m scared of it, I’m not surprised by the questions. In fact, I’ve gotten them in almost every class I’ve taken. And I must confess, I have pulled the easy card before and not taken a stand. But today, something convicts me to answer truthfully.
My peers answer the professor’s questions, listing majors like “Business” and “Psychology” and “Accounting”. To me, they sound unexciting yet understandable and secure. And while it might be easy and thoughtless for my classmates to answer the questions, it doesn’t feel easy for me. I sit in my seat, knowing who I’m called to be, but I fight the urge to hide from the possible judgment that could come from answering honestly.
My major deals with a topic that many community college students reject: the topic of Christ. In a culture where “everyone is accepted”, being a Christian at a liberal community college feels unacceptable. And even where Christianity is welcome, when I tell people who I was made to be I usually receive blank stares and questions like “But what do you want to be when you actually grow up? Like, when you have a real job?”
When I’m on the missions field in Africa, I’m not afraid of the stereotypes. But here I am, sitting in a classroom, and the professor’s questions is intimidating to answer. And it’s not at all that I’m on the fence about it. I’ve actually known who I want to be for 11 years now, but still, answering the questions make me fearful. Fearful of judgement. Fearful of questioning. Fearful of being pushed away because I know who I am and take a stand for what I believe in. Telling others about my calling feels personal; it feels like a detail to be given in trust.
I’m scared of being stereotyped because I don’t want to be seen as the kind of Christian who gets in people’s faces. I don’t parade down streets holding signs that say “REPENT OR PERISH”. I don’t judge the girl in a mini skirt and I don’t flinch when I hear a curse word. I’m a go-to-church-every-Sunday, praise-Jesus, dance-during-worship, and love-the-orphan type of Christian. And still, regardless of all that, I am fearful of being pushed away because of how Christians are generally stereotyped.
I know that this seems to be a horribly ironic situation. I’m not afraid to travel to continents thousands of miles away from the comforts of home, spend time immersed in unknown cultures, and talk about Christ. Nonetheless, I am afraid of my own peers, in a classroom, here in a free country. It’s a tension I fight daily.
I again remember God’s words to Jeremiah. God strengthened Jeremiah by saying, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:7-8). The Lord is with me to strengthen and deliver me. Being a champion for Christ begins with telling others who I am created to be and how I have found purpose for my life within my calling. And as frightening as that is, I know that I can’t go to the nations and share the gospel, if I can’t even sit in a community college class and make a stand for who I am. Being a messenger for Christ is a real job. It’s a real calling and it’s one to be proud of.
My professor interrupts my thoughts, “Christianna, tell us about yourself.” I feel all the eyes in the room turn to me. It’s my turn to share.
“Well, I’m Christianna. My major is Christian Global Studies. And I’m CALLED to be a missionary.”
I am afraid, but I say it anyways.

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