By Bethany Muyskens
As I walked onto the plane, I was dreading the next 12 hours of travel and the ensuing six weeks that I would be stuck in Mexico. I signed up for a Summer of Service 6 months earlier when I thought God was urging me to do so, but at this moment, I was convinced I had heard Him wrong. I passed up great opportunities at home because I had committed to serving in Jalapa, Mexico, home of the Jalapeño, where food poisoning is abundant and air conditioning is not.
The first two weeks I spent there were exceptionally hard. I neglected the beautiful culture I was surrounded by because I selfishly wanted to be back in Iowa. I listened to my prideful thoughts that said the American way of life was far superior to the Mexican lifestyle. I let my fear of falling in love with the place and then having to leave hinder me from fulfilling the reasons I felt the Spirit had called me to go there in the first place. Not to mention I was adjusting to new food, a new family, and speaking in a completely different language.
I found myself with a lot of free time and only my Bible and a book by Francis Chan, The Forgotten God, to entertain myself. I began to read the book along with the story of Acts, and I saw all the Spirit was responsible for. Almost every time the Spirit was referenced, He was accompanied by an action verb. I began to realize that the Spirit isn’t just a wispy ghost that occasionally visits and gives us goose bumps when we sing worship songs, or that we pray to for guidance when we decide which grad school to attend or who to date. The Spirit does things— He refines and teaches us. Most importantly, the Spirit is living and active in us, and when we choose to follow His leading, we become more like Christ.
The call to follow the Spirit isn’t for the faint of heart. Chan explains:
“The truth is that the Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn’t normally want or choose to do. The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be. This often incredibly painful process strips you of selfishness, pride, and fear.”
The Spirit of the living God led Saul to give up his cushy life as a Pharisee to become a fugitive frequently imprisoned and fleeing for his life. The Spirit of the living God led my host dad to give up a job he loved practicing medicine in a well-respected emergency room to open a small clinic for the poor citizens of Jalapa. The moment I read that quote, I knew it was the Spirit that had called me to Mexico. Although it wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to do as I was boarding the plane, the Spirit led, refined, and taught me throughout my time there.
He transformed my selfish attitude into an attitude of service. Instead of longing to be back in Iowa, I longed to return to the mission each day to spend more time teaching the children about math and serving soya and fruit juice for lunch. He tore down my pride, and, instead of thinking American life was superior, I began to see what it was lacking and tried to implement aspects of the Mexican way of life into my daily routine. Finally, once He helped me realize I was letting the knowledge of leaving restrict the way I loved people, I began to love on everyone as much as possible despite knowing I was leaving in a few short weeks. Throughout this refining process, the Holy Spirit taught me how to listen for his call in my everyday life. I would feel an urge to speak to a patient, and soon we were talking about the Gospel. I felt like I should
eat lunch one day with a kid that had never been very friendly, and I listened as he told me about his shattered home life. I began to pray for the Spirit’s leading in the little decisions. Now, I receive daily reminders from the Spirit. Sometimes they take the form of thoughts that randomly pop into my head, other times the messages come through conversation with friends, or a scripture passage, but they never fail to challenge me to live like Christ.
I wish I could say that I always listen when the Spirit calls, but, despite my shortcomings, He continues to carve away at my selfishness, pride, and fear to shape me more into the person God made me to be. I just have to keep listening.