Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
It’s been approximately 1.5 weeks since I’ve been home from Patmos, the four month intensive discipleship program I went to in California, and I’m still at a loss for words. I could say everything and nothing and it still wouldn’t be sufficient enough to give glory to God for the things He’s done the last 16 weeks.
Coming home has felt like waking up from a life changing dream. I feel like Patmos went by so fast that I never left home, but everything about me: my perspective, my thoughts, my behavior, my disciplines, have grown and expanded. It’s the strangest thing!
As I mentioned above, summing up 16 weeks of madness into a blog post that you will actually read in its entirety is darn near impossible so I thought I’d do a little Q/A type format instead of writing a book…
Q: What is Patmos?
A: Patmos is a program committed to teaching and equipping followers of Jesus to be willing to go anywhere and do anything for the sake of the gospel. This is done through classroom studies, team and individual challenges, service projects, evangelism, and a host of other things. Patmos challenges you physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally for the purpose of change; change into a radical disciple of Jesus Christ.
Q: What was the biggest thing you learned at Patmos?
A: This question alone could use an entire book to answer, but to keep it short: fear and the safety of the Lord. I came to Patmos with no idea that I was a fearful person. In fact, I thought I was quite the opposite: confident, brave, unashamed. Early on in the program, however, God began opening my eyes to the reality that fear controlled me and held me back from the great things He had prepared for me (Ephesians 2:10). I even feared how much fear I had! If you read the first update I sent out while at Patmos, I explain this more in depth, but the beauty of this fear is the truth that God meets me with. He is my safety. My comfort. My rock. I’ve never felt more secure and confident than I do now, when I’m spending time in His presence. I have truly come to believe that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Another huge thing I learned about is just being still before the Lord. I’m a go-getter. I have an all or nothing, type A personality. I often say, “Don’t think, just do!” When channeled in a healthy way, these can be great characteristics… however, they also cause me to miss out on such sweet, quiet, intimate time with Jesus. One of our teachers put it this way, “Don’t run so fast after Jesus that you completely miss Him in the pursuit.” I totally do this, though! I think that because I’m in a bunch of ministry and serving at church and praying and reading the Bible and this and that and everything under the sun I must be “good.” But we’re saved by grace through faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). I’ve finally come to this place of peace and contentment in just being still with God. No distractions. Not doing things for Him. Just talking with Him, spending extended time in His word, listening to Him. This lesson alone is life changing. This is also a lesson that has brought me immense joy, and I wrote more about it in one of my updates during Patmos.
Q: Why did you have to go?
A: Because I’m a sinner! I dare not ever get to a place where I think I’ve “made it” or I’m “mature enough” in my Christian faith. No way! The gospel isn’t just the door way into a saving faith, it’s also the truth that guides our daily sanctification. The process of becoming more like Jesus, day by day. Moment by moment. Second Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from GLORY TO GLORY, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” The Lord knew I needed Patmos, because He desires me to be in a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him, and this was a means to pursuing this lifelong ambition.
Q: What was the hardest thing about Patmos?
A: I love this question because the hardest things are also where I experienced the most amount of God’s grace. His grace makes the hardest things also the best lessons. Seeing how weak and sinful I really am over and over was a definite challenge. If you were to ask any who knows me, “strong” would likely be a word they would use to describe me. Honestly, I often found my identity in not just being the physically strong chick but also the friend who never cried and always had it together. I thought that these characteristics were what made me strong, but it turns out it was all a mask for how weak I truly am. For goodness sake, my tattoo says, “when I am WEAK, then I am strong.” I didn’t fully understand this until coming to Patmos, when I became weak in every way possible.
At times I felt like I was having an identity crisis, because I could no longer muscle through. I had no choice but to rely on the Lord’s strength. It was in my weakest moments, both physically and spiritually, when I quit trying to go it on my own and surrendered all to the Lord, that I felt the most sustained. He took, and continues to take, me to places I never could’ve gotten on my own. He pushes me beyond my limits and gives me the strength to press on. It’s incredible and can only happen by the power of His Spirit.
A simple reminder and prayer that sums up what I learned in regards to all this is, “Lord, I can’t but You can.”
Q: What was the best thing about Patmos?
A: Four months. Nothing but Jesus. When else in my life will I ever only have to worry about spending time with Him? That’s maybe an obvious answer, but now that I’m back home and don’t have that luxury I realize even more how precious those 16 weeks were with Him.
Q: What are you going to do now that Patmos is over?
A: The million dollar question! This used to drive me into a frantic quest to figure it out, but as my trust in the Lord continues to increase this question makes me giggle as I shrug my shoulders and reply, “God only knows.” As of right now, I will be returning to the University of Minnesota-Duluth this January to keep working on my degree in Exercise Science. The Lord has really grown my heart for cross cultural ministry, so while I’m there I’ll be on the leadership team with Cru, the campus ministry I’m a part of, as well as looking for more opportunities to engage in cultures different than my own.
While at Patmos, we took some time to seek the Lord in our next steps and the primary thing He spoke to me was probably my least favorite response: “Wait.” Preceding this command, I realized that our God is all about redemption. Before Patmos He gave me the same instruction, and I certainly did not wait well. I barely read my Bible, rarely prayed, and skipped church more than I went. He’s giving me another opportunity to redeem this, not because I have to “do good” to be accepted in His sight, but because He desires an abundant and joyful life for me. So, I’m not entirely sure what’s in store but I have dream and goals I’m praying through!
After I graduate I’d love to spend some time overseas in East Asia, where the Lord rocked my world and gave me a renewed passion for reaching the globe with the gospel. I’m also super excited about working with inner city kids, and my long term dream is to open a gym in the inner city as a way to minister to kids. Crazy, right? This girl, who loves to hunt, fish, and get muddy wants to do ministry in the city? God has a wild way of working and the crazy ability to changing our hearts. CLEARLY! So, I’ll catch up with you in a few months or years to letcha know what all pans out from all this!
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”