Connor Stubblefield is a leader in C&YA and is heavily involved in Friends of Internationals. She is also a member of Temple Worship. Connor spends some time in this post reflecting on this last season of her life where her plans for her future have been repeatedly challenged and how God is faithful to reveal his absolute sufficiency in times of confusion.
he had made his desires my own desires.
My breakthrough moment was in the Independence Palace in Saigon, Vietnam. Staring into a beautiful courtyard garden, I came to terms in a simple and direct way with the idea that this life - the 70 odd years on this earth and the pleasures and pains within - was just an ineffably small blip on the timeline of eternity. The focus of all life is the throne of God, and the immenseness of God is in such contrast to the smallness of our own lives. The pleasures of this world and the things of this world, consumed by my own lusts, were not as enticing as they had been one year earlier, and I understood just how completely my life was Christ’s life, how unimportant my kingdom was and how important Christ’s kingdom was, and how he had made his desires my own desires.
But how had God moved my heart to that place of surrender in such a moment of awareness? An outward change is as easy as a new aesthetic: new clothes, new shoes, new hair, new city. However, an inward change (in the positive sense, at least), is something only God can produce. Such a sudden change of thinking in such a clear flash was the product of a long process that God had begun on my heart, and one in which he still holds me.
...what if God is worth pursuing more than the things of this world?
For five years, I had slaved over the idea of becoming a doctor (or a famous musician - whichever came first), and for the first part of those five years, I desired God to bless me as I pursued myself. Fast forward to 2014, when I was uprooted with a heavy upheaval from KU to UMKC and landed at Midtown Baptist Temple. I was discipled, I was invested in, and I was grown. As all of this happened, I started to think: what if God is worth pursuing more than the things of this world? What if I followed him first? I tried to do this, and God began to perfect my process by reminding me that it was grace through faith and not works that could ever please him. But my heart was still, unknowingly, worshipping at two different altars: God’s and my own.
Deuteronomy 6:14-15 “Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.”
God is a jealous God, and he had every right to throw down those altars for me, but what he did instead was much more powerful and lasting: he took me on a slow journey of teaching me how to tear them down myself.
As I applied to medical school, God brought a very peculiar passage to my attention: in Judges 7, God tells Gideon that he is the one to go against the Midianites and rescue Israel from their hands. However, what he had to do first was tear down the altar to Baal and sacrifice bulls to God upon the remnants. Connor, God said, I need you to tear down that hideous altar to medical school that you have erected in pride before you can do anything else.
That was a fine and good message to hear from God, and I desired to tear down that altar, but the issue was that I didn’t quite know how to do that. Being the gracious and loving Father that he is, God stepped forward and said, I’ll help you do that.
I wanted to come forth as gold...
Thus began the time of waiting. I sent in my primary applications, but only to schools that were near Living Faith Fellowship churches. I denied the long-held and prideful dreams of attending some posh school on the East Coast. I kissed these dreams goodbye, knowing that walking away from the fellowship in which God had placed me in 2014 was to return back to the dark and hazy depression of spirit I had left behind. Then, I received invitation to fill out a secondary application, but only from one school. It seemed that KUMED was my only option. God had put all on the line. My only “hope,” as I saw it, was tied up to the favor that I found with one school. My future lay in the balance. My happiness, my security, my talents and abilities...in my eyes, all balanced precariously on a single thread.
Every time I asked God to tell me whether or not medical school was what he wanted me to do, the answer was always “wait.” Never a yes, never a no. Just wait. As I read the Word, the theme of “wait” seemed to be written in bold letters wherever I read. As someone who has always been impatient, ambitious, and plan-oriented, this was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I knew God was trying my heart, refining it, and reshaping it. I wanted that altar to be gone. I wanted to follow him and please him. I wanted to give all to him, but there was some mortification of the flesh that needed to happen first.
Job 23:10 “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
I wanted to come forth as gold, with all of the impurities melted out.
I was invited for an interview, which meant that I was in the top percentage of the applicants. I showed up, talked a lot, and then waited some more. Next came a letter in the mail, and with joyful expectation, I opened it, knowing for certain that I was finally to receive my yes or no. Instead, it said wait...list. Not only that, but I was number 36, which was the highest number that they had ever called off the waitlist. This was when God began to question me about my faith. From Hebrews I learned that, in order to wait, I needed to stop what I was doing and rest in the promises of God.
Hebrews 4:10-11 “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”
If God didn’t want me to go to medical school, it would make sense that he had some other desire for me. In the time of uncertainty, I began to cling to the promises of God. And, just as God provided so many examples of waiting in the Word, it seemed that every passage that I read had a promise for me to lay hold of in faith. The one that stuck with me the most, however simple, was:
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
I’m sitting still and knowing that He is God, and that I am not.
My lease ended, and I had to move out of my apartment because KUMED would require me to live in Kansas if I were accepted. I packed all of my earthly belongings into cardboard boxes (which later became destroyed by basement flooding), packed my suitcases, and left the country for a missions trip, not knowing to what I would return in one month’s time.
While I was in Vietnam, the numbers on the waitlist jumped up and up. Suddenly, it was possible for me to be accepted. Soon I received a message from my family that I had been accepted, and I excused myself to quietly weep, lying prostrate on the damp, cockroach-laden floor of the hotel bathroom. Thank you, Lord. I have your answer, and it is yes. Then KUMED told me via email that I had not yet been accepted, and that I was still the next person to be called. My family had misunderstood. Lord, where is my heart? Let it come forth as gold.
The last days in Hong Kong, I clung to the images around me, to the unfamiliar smells and sounds that had become so familiar. I was in a foul mood, and I realized that it was because I had thought that I would be able to go home knowing every part of God’s plan. But I didn’t. It was all as unknown as when I left, and I was still waiting for the promise that God would lead me.
I came home and waited, my belongings still packed in the basement of my parents house, wearing the same clothes that I had unpacked from my suitcases. I waited and waited and waited.
And then the semester started at KUMED, and the waitlist closed.
I cried that night, feeling more pained about having to answer my friends’ questions the next few days, the images of my family’s careful expressions as they waited for me to respond to the closed door. My weeping wasn’t so much an expression of sadness as a release of pressure and a gesture of finality. And so I wept, and I felt a bit melted the next day, but my sadness soon stopped, because I remembered Proverbs 3:5-6, as well as:
Isaiah 26:3-4 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength:”
Now I am back to waiting. The opportunity to reapply was still, just barely, open to me, and so I took it. I’m finding a job. I’m keeping things simple. I’m sitting still and knowing that He is God, and that I am not.
The peace in my heart testifies that God helped me to tear down that altar to my pride, myself, and to my own plans. I’ll be darned if I know what’s next, but I do know that God is leading me even now. Isn’t that what he’s promised, and aren’t his promises true? I rejoice in this time of hardship, because God spoke to me, and God moved all around me, and God changed me into a completely different person than I was before. I don’t know if it’s medical school or something else, but what I do know is that all that matters is that I spend the time God has given me for his kingdom.