Going back to Over-the-Rhine (OTR) for the second year in a row, one of the first thoughts to cross my mind was “I feel old”. My body was worn out from a mere 5-hour drive – my arms felt sore. After the first evening worship, I was thoroughly exhausted and I was rolled up in my sleeping bag by 9:30 PM. It was time for bed. Ministry could wait until the following morning..
During our time through the School of Evangelism, I would come to realize that it was not just my body that felt old. More frightening was the reality that my heart felt old. During our times of worship, as I surveyed the passion and youthfulness of the other missionaries, I was made aware of the brittleness of my heart. Quite often, worship felt routine. I had lost a sense of joy and freshness in worship.
It was there that I prayed “Lord, help me. Change me”.
As the School of Evangelism came to a close, we were issued a challenge – to never stop dreaming, to never lose vision for His Kingdom. Slowly, but surely, I felt the cobwebs surrounding my heart begin to disappear. I realized that I had stopped dreaming. This, in effect, had grown my heart cold. Perhaps I had been disappointed one too many times. Perhaps I had resigned myself to the reality of practicality and lost the will to dream. Whatever the case, I had lost the joy that comes with dreaming.
As I wrestled through this, I found myself asking how? How does church continue to have hope for the lost? Given the visible brokenness they see and encounter each day, how can they so joyfully persevere? Do they not see the reality of sin around them? But the more time I spent time with this church, the more I observed their fervent prayers for revival, I realized what fueled them. It was not that they were blind to these things. In fact, they saw its dangers more than anyone else. Yet, through it all, they saw Christ that much more clearly. They saw what Christ could do in their community. They believed in the marvelous ways that the Gospel could transform the lives of people. And it was to that hope they so tightly clung. They refused to take their eyes off of Jesus – the one who restores and redeems. This truth was so evident in the ways they pursued each soul, in the ways they interceded for their city. He was their anchor.
Even now, back in Chicago, it’s a lesson that has returned with me. But many times, I’ve found the conviction starting to wane. As I wrestle through spreadsheets for 8 (often more) hours each day, as I complete each reading and writing assignment for class, I so easily lose sight of this, of Him. It’s there that I need a reminder of the spiritual reality around me. It’s there that I need to remember the Gospel that seemed so precious in our 9 days at OTR.
And so, for the past month, my prayer has simply been:
Lord, teach me to be a kingdom dreamer. Lord, may I never take my eyes off of Jesus.