“Go to university, get a degree, get a job, settle down.”
This is the instruction most people in the West are given as they finish high school. It’s sound advice which very often leads to a successful, abundant life. Even many who take a gap year to explore the world end up following this same pattern. I was no different. I was determined to graduate from university with a degree and use it to launch me into a lifetime of pursuing my dreams and passions. So, after I finished high school and was accepted into a prestigious university close to home, I figured I was set for a few years at least.
God had other plans.
I knew of YWAM because friends and family had been involved in it, and I always liked the idea of missions, but there wasn’t any room for it in my own plans. I wanted the degree, the public credibility, the independence of “uni life”. I was even okay with eating two-minute noodles for three years and throwing that silly-looking hat up in the air at the end of it in celebration. That was my understanding of what “success” looked like. At least, that’s what I’d grown up believing, whether my parents instilled it in me or not.
I had been a Christian for a number of years already, so I’d heard Jeremiah 29:11 countless times (“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord…”), but when I was considering what to do once I graduated high school, I didn’t even think to consult God and ask him what his plans were. I decided what to do based on my own perceptions and social expectations.
University was fun; I learnt a lot and met some people who became really close friends. Half a semester in, however, God spoke to me very clearly:
“I didn’t call you to get a degree- I called you to make a difference.”
I was suddenly aware that I hadn’t arrived at university by God’s direction at all. He told me that he really wanted me to fully submit to him and serve in missions by taking a Discipleship Training School with YWAM. In hindsight, I can see that God was teaching me the lesson of Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
I finished my first year of university and deferred the next, in case God wanted me to go back and complete my degree, then did a DTS from February until August, 2013. During the course, my life was completely transformed. I discovered so much more about God, his dreams for my life, and who I was created to be. He gave me new plans that were quite different from my original ones and began to show me how to go about fulfilling them.
At the end of my DTS, I was a new creation; the old had gone, the new had come!
I was ready to tackle what lay ahead of me, and I wasn’t afraid to deviate from the “typical” path I had initially set out on. I may not have had all the steps laid out, but at least I knew where God wanted me to be, and this time, I decided to listen.
By Ryan Winslade
YWAM Newcastle Staff