April 16, 2019
The #MyWheaton blog shares first-person stories from Wheaton students and alumni.
Rest and Obedience in Mexico City
Will Davidson ’19 is a history major from Fort Wayne, Indiana. In this MyWheaton blog post, Will reflects on his BreakAway Ministries (BAM) spring break trip to Mexico City through the Office of Christian Outreach (OCO).
Over spring break, I had the chance to go on a BreakAway trip to Mexico City through Wheaton’s Office of Christian Outreach, where I work part-time.
Going into the trip, I was exhausted from an incredibly busy first half of my final semester as an undergrad. Busyness has become the norm for me at this point; in my six semesters of college, I’ve taken fewer than 17 credits in one of them, not to mention extracurricular activities that I’ve been involved in. I took as many dual credit classes as I could in high school and a couple of online classes last summer in order to be able to save time and money by graduating a year early. In general, being a college student has proven to be extremely demanding, forcing me to pack lots of things into a little amount of time.
Not only was my life rather hectic heading into Mexico, but I had a lot of things on my mind about my future—thinking about what to do this summer between graduating and starting grad school; trying to get a jump start on big assignments for B quad; figuring out my housing situation for next year as a grad student at Wheaton; getting ready for a big practicum that I have for the first 5 weeks of B quad—the list went on and on. It was in the midst of this hustle and bustle that I came to Mexico City.
In short, it was a remarkable week. My team and I spent time tutoring indigenous Mexican niños and renovating a Christian hostel, where we had great conversations with backpackers who came from all over the world. It was an amazing week of meeting new people, exploring and learning about Mexico and its rich history, eating an inordinate amount of tacos, downing horchatas and jugos, and hanging out with the rest of the Wheaton team.
Not only did I get the chance to serve and make memories in Mexico, but I felt the Lord speak to me in a few key ways. He revealed to me my own mistaken perspective that I assume towards my activities and my life. It hit me hard when we first met Cynthia, a Wheaton alumna who several years ago founded the hostel that we served at, Warm Heart Community Hostel in Mexico City.
Once we arrived, she sat us down and shared the purpose of the hostel. She talked about how Warm Heart is designed to be a safe place where seekers and backpackers can come to live in an authentic community and to have conversations about real life, including the nitty-gritty like religion, meaning, etc. Even though it’s officially a Christian hostel that has Bible verses scrawled on the walls and regular times of prayer, it’s open to anyone, and there are several people staying there who have not come to faith in Christ.
Cynthia loves the Lord and has a passion for talking about Him, but she made it clear that she does not spend every waking moment hammering her beliefs into others who don’t share them. She believes much more in the Holy Spirit working through the power of stories—telling your own testimony and listening to others’ life experiences. She recognizes that it’s God who saves people, not us.
My initial reaction was to reject what she was saying, to reason that if we don’t try our best to persuade people to turn to Jesus, then we’re not doing our best to make disciples. But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with her. When we try to formulate an airtight apologetic argument, often times it’s with the implicit assumption that it’s up to us to make a good case for Christ, that we are in many ways the savior. This comes off as arrogant, and it tends to make people tune you out. On the other hand, when we simply tell others the story of what Jesus has done in us and how good He is while trusting God to move and produce the growth, people are usually much more receptive. There’s nothing wrong at all with apologetics, but she stressed the need to approach these conversations depending on the Holy Spirit, not ourselves.
Cynthia also emphasized that God calls us to obedience from a place of rest and security with Him as His beloved children. When we obey the Lord, we aren’t earning brownie points with Him; we are simply accepting His incredible invitation for us to take part in His plan. God could save people without our help, yet He extends the offer to each of His sons and daughters to be used as His ambassadors in His redemptive work.
This ultimately reminded me that God does not need me; He doesn’t need you either. I think that’s a message that Wheaton students, in particular, need to hear. He isn’t dependent on anything or anyone else besides Himself. When we sleep at night, the world keeps spinning. God is still moving and working. He doesn’t need our works, but He calls us to deep, personal fellowship and commitment to Him because He loves us and wants to make us whole.
Another enlightening moment on the trip came during an activity we did at the hostel. Cynthia told us to partner up, and she proceeded to instruct us to literally stare into our partner’s eyes for an indefinite amount of time. It ended up being 14 minutes.
It was not easy. It made me want to squirm. I even partnered up with a buddy of mine, but it was still awkward. After reflecting on the experience, I realized that it made me uncomfortable because I’m a pragmatic person; I often feel the need to have a specific reason and intent for what I do. I prize productivity and efficiency, so it makes me uneasy and restless when I feel that I’m not doing anything worthwhile. I didn’t see any productive value in staring into another dude’s eyes for 14 minutes straight—but that’s a person created in God’s image, which makes it a valuable activity. The Lord taught me through this experience that, while there is certainly a time for productivity, there is also a time for simply being still—simply being and appreciating it. There is power in hitting the pause button and recognizing that we are human beings, not human doings.
In many Christian circles, and at Wheaton in particular, busyness is a virtue. We complain (or brag?) to others about all the things we have on our plate, and we live under the assumption that the significance of our lives is dependent on how much we do and how well we perform. We’re involved in classes, jobs, sports, clubs, bible studies, volunteering at church, visiting friends on the weekends—you name it. We usually live like we need to do in order to be. This experience reminded me that the basis of God’s love for us is not based on how much we can accomplish for Him. The basis of God’s love for us is that we are His masterpieces who matter and have value simply because we exist. I continually need to remind myself to let who I am determine what I do, not the other way around.
In Mexico, it hit home that Jesus calls us to live our lives from a place of rest; we are not the saviors - He is. He calls us to faithfulness, not perfectionism, which I have always struggled with. The problem with perfectionism is that you and I don’t give God room to show up in our lives because we are essentially trying to be our own savior. Jesus calls us to partner with Him because of the love that He has already irrevocably lavished on us. He has sealed us, and our failures could never overpower His love.
We are called to be faithful in our responsibilities and activities, whatever they are. By all means, we should be zealous and passionate. We should pursue excellence. We are called to this standard, as a matter of fact. But what I was reminded of in a profound way in Mexico is that we do it all from a place of rest in the Lord, knowing that the work is done. The pressure is off of you and me because Jesus paid it all, and His power is at work in us, making us more beautiful, more like Jesus every day.