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Sep14MonOr, how God makes me restless then finally says, “Go.” September 14, 2020 By Natalie Williams
(Above) Brian and Natalie Williams, with their children Cormick (left), Malcolm (middle), and Joshua (right)
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A year and a half ago, I boarded a plane on Christmas Day, praying for a resolution to a desire that had been growing in my heart for 16 years.
I didn’t get the answers I was looking for on that trip to St. Louis, Missouri. They would come in a much more surprising way a month later.
Looking back, I realize that this has always been the way God has affirmed my calling to ministry: he births a desire in my heart, feeds it until I can’t stand the restlessness and then, months later, finally releases me to pursue it.
The first time, I was 14 years old. My dad had just died, and my church’s children’s pastor asked me to join a small ministry team headed to one of our denominational camps for a week. In the end, I spent most of the summer there, and my shy, grieving, hungry heart soaked up the opportunity to see all the things I loved most—connecting with people, music, storytelling—used in service for God.
At the end of the summer, I cried out to God, “Why can’t I always do this?”
And the still, small voice of God spoke clearly to my waiting heart, “You can.”
My first experience of The Salvation Army was at camp, too. I was in Grade 11. I needed a summer job, and my mother’s friend, Captain Lori-Ann Mitchell, suggested Jackson’s Point Camp. My mother and I had recently affirmed that as I got older, it was not necessarily a given that her church be my church.
By the end of the summer, I found myself asking God whether I could join The Salvation Army year-round. God’s answer, which I took as “no” at the time, was a deep conviction that he had placed me where I was for a reason.
When I disembarked in St. Louis on Boxing Day, my brain was foggy with travel weariness, but my spirit was alert. I was there to work at Urbana, a missions conference designed for university students to explore how God was calling them to serve.
Back home, my husband, Brian, was starting to fill out his application for the Candidates Fellowship, the first step toward Salvation Army officership. I had come to this conference to work, but I knew it was the perfect place to ask God if I was also called to be an Army officer.
God did not give me a straight answer, but he did speak to me clearly, affirming that the desires and restlessness I had been feeling for several months were from him, and I formally began the journey to officership.
Shaping My Heart
People seem to get a little tripped up when we talk about how God’s will interacts with our desires. On the one hand, “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). But there’s also the command, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
I have been reminded over and over in this journey that when we are living in light of the largeness of God’s kingdom, when we are committed to his glory above our own, his spirit shapes our desires. Reading through the rest of Psalm 37, it is clear that a life in obedience to God shapes desires within us that serve a kingdom much more spacious than any we might attempt to build for ourselves.
For our family, it meant reflecting on all the ways that God has formed our desires as we have filled out the mountain of paperwork in preparation for attending the College for Officer Training in Winnipeg this fall. So much of this process has been an answer to prayer as we have been empowered to do ministry together and to serve in a local church setting without losing touch with the ways serving the vulnerable is a declaration of God’s kingdom.
As I reflect on my sense of calling, I realize that over the years the primary question in my heart has shifted. As a teenager, I wondered, What does God want me to do with my life? But now I find myself much more interested in knowing this: “How is God shaping my heart for his kingdom?”
Follow Natalie’s journey at unfortunatelyjacob.wordpress.com