The year is complete. This crazy idea to teach a special English program in China for a year… it’s finished. We held our little graduation ceremony for the Access English Micro-scholarship Program as our summer camp finished, and I bid a tearful farewell to my students with cries of, “I’ll see you again!” I’m preparing to leave , and meanwhile have no lessons to prepare or activities to plan. I can’t believe it’s over. Like every experience, it feels like I’ve been here forever, and also that the time has flown by. I feel so comfortable here at the school, here in this little village; this place is such a part of me now. I’ve experienced so much, learned so much, taught so much, and been given so much. This is a huge chapter in my life – perhaps one of the biggest thus far – and I’m currently writing the last page of it.
I’ve honestly been thinking about writing this post for months. I’ve seen something beautiful that God’s been doing, but I wanted to wait until this last week to finally share it. If you’ve been following along with this blog, you know that I’ve learned so many different theological truths, principles, parallels, and other aspects of who God is. But when I look back over the year, there is one big theme that stands out. Let me explain.
I have been in a constant learning curve regarding prayer. Prayer is an unbelievable, almost unjustifiable privilege that has continually awed me. The idea that we can actually speak and think and be heard… how can that be? The thought that God listens to us, and has promised to listen, is astounding. And because of that, it’s not an idea that comes naturally. I had to go back to the basics.
Prayer was not always the way it is now. Pre-Jesus, we know that there was an entire sacrificial system put in place to bring people into contact with God, even very briefly. Humans had no right to be in the presence of God, and that privilege was conditionally based on the ability of humans to be holy like God is, an impossible goal. But God Himself changed everything in sending Jesus. Jesus became our righteousness. Jesus became our mediator and strong defense. Jesus became our justifier before the throne. Jesus became our advocate. Jesus is the guarantor of a new and better covenant that promises us full acceptance.
We’ve heard these truths before, but sometimes they don’t stick. For me, it was a struggle to really believe that I was guaranteed the ear of God. For weeks and months of my time here in China, I had to walk myself through the gospel over and over again to really believe that I’m not walking on eggshells before God. Because of Jesus, the Father now treasures and welcomes me, even when I’m praying for wrong or unwise things. Salvation means permanent, unconditional open arms and ears of a Father who loves me through grace. And that unconditionality leads to an unchanging confidence and peace.
Ultimately, this verse sums up perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned this year: “In [Him] we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” ~Ephesians
Access. The fact that I have access to God, and that He wants me to use it – that has been the most important lesson I’ve learned this year. And I still remember the day I realized this. I remember because I was struck so suddenly with how crazy God’s poignancy and planning is. Because of all the words to identify this most important principle of my year, it’s also the name of my program.
Every day, I’ve talked about the “Access Program.” I am the “Access Teacher.” I have t-shirts with the “Access” name on them. To everyone else, it’s just the name of an English program. But to me, it’s a constant reminder of the One whose ear is ready, the One who truly wants to speak to me and with me. There has been a small piece of paper on my desk most of this year that reads 1 John, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." He hears us!
It’snow, and I will end this post simply. This year has been life-changing, and it has all been beautifully wrapped up in one word: