GUEST AUTHOR: Ashley Stromenberg
IMAGE: Me, second from left, “not liking” my new friends very much.
One of my favourite things to do is to sit alone, watching TV, with a glass of wine. I could very happily live alone (especially if I had a dog) and don’t feel the need to keep the conversation going on a long car ride. I’m very happy to be a part time hermit, and though you may not think it, pretty much all personality tests score me as an introvert (I’m an INFJ if you’re into that). Somewhere along the line though, I fell into a trap of cynicism and a general dislike of people who weren’t already my friends (maybe because I worked in customer service? Who knows).
A couple of years ago, a smart and very handsome speaker (visit his website HERE) challenged our group to pick a fruit of the spirit to meditate on and grow in for the New Year. I quite foolishly picked patience that year (that’s another story), but since then, I have picked a word or quality that I want to grow in each following New Year. Without fail, God has always taken me up on the challenge to help push me in that area.
SIDE TANGENT: Praying to be a more “patient” person, for example, doesn’t just zap you and make you more patient; it gives you opportunity after opportunity to struggle through how to be patient. Like, I could pray for abs, but I know that the only way I’m going to get abs is if I do the hard work of eating healthy and doing a bajillion planks. Whether you want to be fit, or you want to learn piano, or you want to be a more patient person, or more generous, or more kind, or whatever – it takes work to get there. And God is more than happy to be your trainer who is going to make you do it over and over and over, and although it might feel like you’re dying, you’re actually getting stronger.
This year’s word was invest. Vague, yes, and not necessarily a fruit of the spirit, but I wanted to be more intentional about investing in the things in my life – the main one being investing in relationships. God got excited about that one because He plunked me in a job where it is literally in the job description to invest in people. Not only did God want me to invest in the friendships I already had with people I already I liked, but He wanted me to get out of my boat and invest in people I don’t know how to connect with. He wanted/wants me to invest in at risk youth (abroad and right in my backyard). He wants me to invest in young people as they serve as ministry workers around the world; giving me a job where I am training, mentoring, and sending these brave young souls out into our broken world. He wants me to invest in my church; the people around me that are so easy to ignore because they are familiar, but that are now actively becoming an integral piece of my ministry through their partnership. He wants me to invest in both friends that do and don’t know Him, growing together in a community that genuinely loves each other. He wants me to invest in myself, and my relationship with Him. People, do not ask God to challenge or grow you in something if you do not want to be challenged or grow because He will 110% follow through on that invitation.
A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend Youth For Christ’s Summer Institute (SI) training for new staff across Canada. YFC in Canada has a ton of superb leaders that make this training top notch, so SI is open to YFC staff from around the world that may not have access to this kind of training in their own countries. As part of YFC Canada’s Global Engagement Team, part of my role over the 10 days was to befriend, learn from, share with, and lead this year’s international participants. These four (shown in the image above) reminded me the power of investing in people (make sure you sign up for my monthly YFC newsletter – and actually read it – to hear more about these individuals and other cool stories from my job). These guys (and gal) reminded me that there is a world outside of my own. That there are inspiring people doing inspiring things, that may not be flashy but are definitely worth investing in.
Guys, people are important. God’s whole plan and design for everything is centered on people. The beautiful and the ugly, the messy and the broken, the easy to befriend and the ones that stretch your comfort zone. All people. Every people. Every person in every people group in every nation, to take a page out of YFC’s book. I’ve been digging the Message translation of the Bible recently because it just cuts me to pieces, but look what it says in 1 Corinthians 10:17; “Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness – Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in Him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; He raises us to what He is.” Jesus is in each of us, raising us up to be better versions of ourselves, and bringing us all together in Him. God’s plan is for people, all people, to be together in Him. So how can I not want to be with people?
Now don’t get me wrong, God is not saying I can’t be an introvert if I want to be a part of His kingdom. But He is saying that I need to invest in building relationships with all people because that’s what His kingdom looks like: our many-ness becoming one-ness. So find your crew, your squad, the people God has brought into your life (the ones you like AND the ones you don’t), and get your hands dirty.
PS: If you’re looking to invest in me, and enable me to invest in young people around the world, you can click here to find out more about partnering with me in my ministry with Youth For Christ Canada.