Trust and Obey: Lessons from Dr. Johnson

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26

The more time I spend here, the more this place becomes my home. I truly love my life here, and am so grateful I get to do the work I do. I have found God here more than at any other point in my life. In these nine months, He has revealed Himself to me, challenged me, and broken me, all in the midst of still pouring out His unconditional love for me. If I am being completely honest, these months have been some of the hardest, yet most beautiful, in my entire walk with God. Before I came here, I would have told you I had God figured out, but now I know I am only beginning to truly understand God’s character and the relationship He wants with me.

Since I first became a Christian so many years ago, I have been trying to somehow make myself worthy to stand in God’s presence. I thought if I read my Bible daily, went to church regularly, prayed everyday, insert any other spiritual discipline here, that I could please God. The achiever in me looked at all the things I had “accomplished” for Him and thought “God, do you see all that I am doing for you. Are you pleased with me?” In the midst of always trying to achieve, I always seemed to still feel restless, unworthy, and unfulfilled.  Even here in the first few months when my work was slow, I struggled with God, wondering why He brought me all the way to Uganda if I wasn’t going to accomplish anything of value.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to truly follow God. I have come to realize how selfish I have been. In trying to please God and make myself worthy by doing things for Him, I have made our relationship about me, rather than Him. I have been so focused on doings things for His kingdom, I have missed possibly one of the sweetest truths about God’s nature: He first and foremost wants a relationship with us. It’s so simple at times it doesn’t even make sense in my brain.

But Jesus’s commandment is that simple: Follow Me.

Jesus didn’t initially say to the disciples come build my kingdom, heal people, and cast out demons. Yes the disciples were eventually called to do all of those things, but first Jesus wanted a relationship with them. He wanted to be with them, teaching and allowing them to come to know Him. It isn’t until later that he sends them out into the world to begin to build His kingdom by proclaiming the good news and healing the sick.

These sweet truths from the Gospel have been echoed in the book I’ve been studying. In Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby talks about the importance of loving and knowing God first, saying, “Your relationship with God must come first. Out of your walk with God, He accomplishes His plans for our world.” My relationship with God has been completely backwards. In trying to twist myself into worthiness for Him, I have missed the sweet freedom that comes with truly knowing and being with Him.

Over these last few months my friend, Dr. Johnson, has been on my mind. When I think of what it looks like to know and love God well, he immediately comes to mind. I only had the privilege of knowing him for about a year, but I am only just beginning to realize all He taught me in those days I spent with him. I consider every moment we spent together a gift.  He lived a life of immense faith and service to the Lord. A WWII veteran, he served his country well. A missionary doctor in Kenya for 14 years, we connected over our love for this continent and our desire to serve God here. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, he was loved and admired by many. He had one of the sweetest and kindest voices I have ever heard. His prayers were eloquent and beautiful, filled with so much love and passion for the Lord, you at times felt almost as if you were interrupting a personal moment between the two of them. I consider it a great honor and blessing to have been mentioned in his prayers each night, and cherish the evenings I sat with him and my grandmother at the fish camp in our town talking about God, Africa, and life.  Dr. Johnson went home to be with the Lord after 99 full and beautiful years on this earth just weeks before I moved here.

After spending five minutes with Dr. Johnson, you knew one thing…he truly loved the Lord. It was out of that relationship with Him that he did everything in his life.  His life was characterized by strong trust and quiet obedience. I want my relationship with God to look like that, I want to know God so deeply, love Him so much, that nothing else matters. Lauren Daigle’s song “Rebel Heart” so beautifully puts all the things I have been feeling recently into words:

Help me lay the renegade to rest
Turn the stone inside me back to flesh
And hold me ’til my best defenses fall
And watch this rebel heart surrender all

My prayer is that I reach a point, like my sweet friend, where I have no will of my own. Strong trust and quiet obedience, not achievements…that’s what I want. My stubborn heart still has a long way to go, but how beautiful and fulfilling would it be to be so completely surrendered to God, to have such a strong relationship with Him, that He and His will is all that I desire. Can you imagine…

One thought on “Trust and Obey: Lessons from Dr. Johnson

  1. So full of wisdom at such a young age. I too desire a relationship like He had with David and for Him to feel the same way about me_ oner after His own heart..
    So very proud of you and now understand how Paul viewed Timothy . I consider myself fortunate to have been one of your SS teachers and Acteens leader during some of your formative years. Now the student has become the teacher. My heart is SO full.


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