I was raised in a traditional, small-town church. The congregation sat in pews and our pastor stood behind a pulpit. The choir wore robes, and service was always over before noon. There were no raised hands during worship, mainly because we were singing hymns and accompanied by an organ.
Every once in a while, though, we got all crazy and sang a song that wasn’t in the hymnal. Well, it was in the hymnal, but it was photocopied and taped into the front cover.
Oh, how I loved those few non-hymnal songs! When we sang them, I didn’t do anything crazy like tap my foot, although I did dare to close my eyes. And I’ll never forget the feeling that would sweep over me as we sang one in particular.
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
Each time we sang that song, I belted it out, meaning every word. Standing there, in my small church in my small town, I vowed to go wherever God would send me.
Later, I remember going to a weekend retreat during college. After jumping around and bobbing my head and – once again – singing at the top of my lungs in the worship service, another song hit me with that same question I’d heard back in my hometown: Will you follow me?
I sat down, dropped my head to my knees and said, “YES. I will go wherever you want me to go.”
Today, there’s a song I hear fairly often on the radio. It’s called Follow You, and its words take me right back to that folding chair in a gymnasium, right back to that well-worn wooden pew.
All my needs You have supplied
When I was dead You gave me life
So how could I not give it away so freely?
And I´ll follow You into the homes of the broken
Follow You into the world
Meet the needs for the poor and the needy God
Follow You into the world
But what happens when God doesn’t call you to the ends of the world? What happens when He calls you to stay right where you are? What happens when He says no, it’s not time for you to go?
Since singing those first promises as a young teenager, I’ve been begging God to send me. I’ve been promising Him that I will go anywhere. I’ve looked – over and over – for the opportunity to go, to serve, to follow.
I’m ready to jump.
My bags are packed.
I’ve learned (or, more accurately, tried to learn) to hold on loosely.
I’m ready to go.
But for two decades, all I’ve heard is NO.
I say, “God, I will go to that huge college for you!”
And He says, “No. This small one will do just fine.”
I say, “God, I will tell the world about this disease and raise money to find a cure.”
And He says, “No. This isn’t your fight.”
I say, “God, I will move across the country to fulfill my purpose and serve You!”
And He says, “No. You belong right here.”
I say, “God, please let me go on a mission trip, start a church, work for a ministry. I want to help. I want to tell people. I want to go.”
And He says, “No.”
I’m not going to lie to you. It’s hard. It’s hard to stay when I really want to go. It’s hard to breathe deep and settle in when I’m ready to run. It’s hard to understand why right here is more important than out there.
But I’m slowly (so very slowly) learning that for me, for now, right here IS my mission. It IS my calling. He IS sending me, and I CAN follow Him. Even without a jungle or a moving van full of boxes or a passport full of stamps, He has called me. And I can serve Him by staying. I can follow Him right here.
Have you been called to stay for now? How are you following the Lord, right here, right now?
[Here I Am, Lord was written by Daniel L. Schutte. You can hear it sung with a choir and organ – much like it was at my church – here. Follow You is a song by Leeland, featuring Brandon Heath.]