Wasteland Kings

When people ask me about my recent trip to Ethiopia, I tell them about the two biggest lessons I learned from the trip. The first lesson was that I thrive when I’m working with other people towards a single goal. While that may sound obvious or odd for a writer, I found it to be a powerful truth.

Describing some of my day to day life will help explain the significance of this truth. I spend most of my days pursuing multiple goals without the help of others. There’s a few exceptions to that rule, but that’s the norm in my daily life.

Much of that comes from being a writer and volunteering in ways that for the most part don’t involve teams. To top things off, I have a tendency to believe success in writing and ministry depends on me. This false belief and my disconnected pursuit of multiple goals leaves me feeling outnumbered and lonely.

God used my trip to Ethiopia and my incredible team to show me the value of focusing my pursuits and seeing myself as a part of a team instead of a one man army. Outside of this trip, it would have been hard to learn this lesson. I didn’t have the time or energy to do any writing while in Ethiopia and our hotel’s miserable wifi made communication with the outside world impossible.

That meant I woke up every morning knowing I had one pursuit that day; make Jesus known through word and deed. The result of my single pursuit was a great deal of peace and a lightness of heart. I didn’t feel the weight of the world sitting on my shoulders because I knew the results didn’t rely on me.

Either God was going to work through me or not.

We have a tendency to tackle a project on our own and hope to complete it with our strength. I can’t count the number of times I’ve come up with a plan based solely on my abilities. Even when those plans work, I end up feeling a little anxious and discouraged because I doubt that my abilities will be enough for the next problem.

Pursuing the same goal with a team of people gave me a level of confidence that I’ve never experienced while writing or working on a solo project. My teammates gave me powerful encouragement and served as constant reminders that I wasn’t alone in the fight. Their words of encouragement and presence by my side brought me back to the truth time and time again that success did not depend upon my efforts.

There’s a difference between knowing a theological truth in your head and experiencing it in your life. My team was a great reflection of the Holy Spirit and His work through them helped convince me of His constant presence in my life. I cannot write words that fully express my gratitude for helping me learn this lesson.

I can pray and hope that I do not forget it though, because it is a powerful truth.

This brings me to the tricky question of how do I apply this truth now that I’m back home in Dallas. I’m still a writer and I don’t plan on quitting any of my current volunteer commitments. I’ve thought about this for a couple of days and I think the answer comes from a combination of humility, attitude, and perspective.

When it comes to writing, I can change my perspective on getting feedback from others. In the past, I saw feedback as a performance rating of my ability as a writer. The truth is that people who give me feedback are my teammates in my pursuit of writing.

They’re comments, critiques, and suggestions can help me remind that my success doesn’t depend on my own efforts. This will require humility and giving up on my attempts to write in order to make my own name great.

As for my volunteering, I can drop the lone wolf attitude that pervades much of my thinking when I serve. Asking for other’s opinions and letting them take the lead will also help in the battle against my pride and remind me that I’m not alone. While these ideas may take a good deal of discipline, I’m confident the pay off will be more than worth it.

In order to focus my pursuits, I have to start looking at everything as an opportunity to glorify God and make Him known to others. If everything has the same foundational goal, my efforts will feel more unified and it will be easier to apply God’s truth. He is ready and willing to help; I just have to open my hand and let Him lead me.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NASB

My time in Ethiopia brought to light the fact that God knows what I need much better than I do. Before this trip, it was difficult to ask for help or admit that I needed more people in my life. If this was the only lesson I walked away with, it would’ve been worth it.

What has God been teaching you recently? Do you feel alone in your daily pursuits? Do you believe that your success depends on God?

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One Life
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Matthew Rial