Wednesday, July 27, 2011

apart from Me, you can do nothing...

I am sitting in my dorm here at Bluefield College after being blown away ONCE AGAIN by Him…and it’s prompting me to write. The past week-and-a-half has been an amazing experience at Impact Virginia camps. Impact travels around the state of Virginia each summer putting on service camps for junior high and high school students. My good friend, Dana Jorgensen, asked this past spring if I would be willing to speak for a couple of weeks of Impact this summer…and my immediate thought was that he meant I would come and maybe speak at a session or two….nope… I would be the one and only speaker for the camp, so I would be teaching each and every night. This was not something I had ever done before. My “speaking engagements” in the past have been to groups of 20-40 students, most of whom I know personally. This was going to be standing in front of 150 – 200 kids (and adults) who don’t know a thing about me.

That’s when the fears and the lies started sweeping in. I was hit with just about every one in the book:

  • What if they don’t like me? They’ll be stuck with me for a whole week!
  • What if I’m boring and I look out and everyone’s asleep?
  • What if I try to crack jokes and no one laughs?
  • There are so many speakers better than me that could do this.
  • I can’t communicate to a large group in a way that would be inspiring.
  • Why would they ask me?!
  • I’m not equipped enough.
  • I’m not wise enough.
  • I’m going to get on stage and freeze up.

Yeah…and that was only the beginning of them. Lie after lie and fear after fear. I very reluctantly took them to God and He did what He does best and just started squashing those lies and those fears with His truth.

First of all, “you’re worried about what they will think of you?!” That’s when I received a swift kick in the rear with Isaiah 26:8 that says “Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts”. This has nothing to do with Melanie or Melanie’s name. I realized that if those students left camp not remembering my name, but remembering the name of Jesus, that was going to be victory. This was so much bigger than me.

So on to lie #2…”you don’t think you’re equipped or wise enough to do this? You’re right! In and of your own power, you don’t have the ability to do this.” And then, the next kick in the rear: 1 Cor. 1:27 – “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”

He reminded me that this has everything to do with Him, His power, His name, His glory…and nothing to do with my own. So…I had no excuses left or reasons to say no. I agreed to do this, with a mixture of excitement, anticipation, and anxiety. (Not gonna lie…as I was driving to Virginia a week-and-a-half ago, I actually had a vision pop in my head of me getting on stage and literally freezing up and having to just walk off stage.)

Fast-forward a week and a half and I have just been floored by the way God works. I had to learn a lesson early on in this experience. On the first night of the first week, I had a short session that was mainly just me introducing myself and the theme for the week…it actually went pretty well and I was feeling good about things. I got laughter to my jokes and felt like I received a warm welcome. So going into the second night (which was really our first official teaching session), I was feeling pretty confident. Problem: I was feeling confident in myself.

So I get up to speak the second night and I’m feelin’ good. I think it was a total subconscious thing, because I don’t believe I would have been able to verbalize this to anyone, but I just had this “I-got-this” attitude happening and I think I said a short prayer right before I got on stage, but I was feeling pretty good in and of myself. There was no desperation for God or the Holy Spirit’s work that night.

So the teaching begins that night and I’m telling you…I was NOT feeling it. I felt like nothing was really sinking in, the room felt empty of power, and I just felt like I was talking to a wall. I didn’t experience any of that feeling when you know that He is working and speaking through you. It was discouraging…and it brought me to my knees in my room that night. I would find out (over a week later) that the session that night actually went well and was impactful, but it’s almost as if God would not allow me to experience it. I had gone in with a self-reliant attitude that night, and thankfully God did not allow me to get away with that.

I realized how very foolish it was of me to go in thinking “I got this…”. Did I not remember the

lessons He had taught me coming into this?! This was bigger than me. I was going to need His presence and His power with me every step of the way and in every word that came out of my mouth. God took me to John 15 and reminded me that it was not just a good idea, but it was vital for me to stay connected to the vine, because “APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING”.

Every night since then, I have found time before the worship session to go away by myself and just get on my face before Him, begging and pleading for Him to work and to move and to change hearts and to pour out His Spirit on that room…to do all of the things that I cannot do. And I feel like He’s just been showing off ever since. He has been taking the little scraps that I’ve been offering to Him every night and working in ways that literally cannot be described outside of Him.

It’s honestly been a little difficult accepting the words of encouragement and the praise and the thanks from the people at the camps – the “what-you-said-really-impacted-me” type statements – because every part of me just wants to grab these people by the shoulders and be like, “I’m telling you. The words may have come out of my mouth, but I have NO power in and of myself. Those words were HIS to YOU and that was the Spirit of GOD impacting you and inspiring you and changing you.” The reality is that I can’t exactly do that to everyone who comes up to me, because I think I would start freaking everyone out around here. But I just want to shout from the rooftops that I cannot do anything outside of Him…I am literally nothing in my own power.

Last week, there was a man (a grown man, mind you…not a student) who came up to me late Tuesday night (long after the worship session) and handed me a two-page document and asked me to read it and give me his thoughts. He said he hadn’t written anything in probably 10 years, but was inspired to write, because God had moved in him that night. It was his testimony – a testimony that ended with “tonight, sitting on the back row and listening to Melanie speak, I realized what my purpose was…” I could do nothing in that moment but just fall on my face and praise Jesus. He ended up sharing his testimony with the whole camp later that week.

Now we’re at a new location and last night after the worship session, one of the older students here asked if he could share his testimony at some point. So this morning, he got up in front of the 200 students and adults and shared about how his mother had died last year from cancer and how He had run away from God, but this spring, God brought Him back. He then said that “It was last night, listening to you speak (pointing at me) that I realized why I’m here and what my purpose is…” And I could do nothing but just utter with my lips, “Praise Christ”.

This is not the stuff that can be manufactured by man. I do not have the ability to change hearts. I don’t even have the ability to change my own heart! God. God alone. He alone can change hearts. He alone can take lives and turn them around.

It’s crazy, because the more I am seeing Him move and the more fruit I am witnessing, the more desperate I am for Him. It’s another one of those amazing paradoxes. He fully satisfies the thirsty, but always leaves them thirsty for more. I am so thankful that He brought me to my knees last Monday night, reminding me that I am nothing and can do nothing apart from Him. It makes me wonder why I don’t go into every single day with this desperation for Him to move. I wonder how much more we would all experience of Him and how much of a difference He would make in our worlds through us if we chose to walk in His power every single day. I wonder…

At the end of our days and at the end of our lives, may there be nothing left to say, but “Praise Christ”!