By Meg McDonald
I like being in control. I have high expectations for myself and others, and I don’t see many reasons for things to be less than perfect. Sometimes this is a good thing— it keeps me disciplined, motivated, and organized. At other times, it robs my peace and my ability to be fully present in the moment. It can also prevent my ability to let others take charge or learn from experiences of “failure.” However, mission trips have really helped me to let go of this need to always be in control. They’ve allowed me to build trust in my team members and their ability to do things well, even if it would be different than I would do it.
I’ve been on quite a few mission trips in the past four years. Each one has shaped me and pushed me to grow in my relationship with God, myself, and others. Each one leaves a unique charism behind that shapes how I live my day-to-day life. The day after I graduated college, I co-led a mission trip to Douglas, Arizona. My team and I worked in Loretto Catholic School helping the teachers and ministering to the families of Douglas. I think each of my team members would say we felt like we were served more than we served. The hospitality of the Douglas community was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. I felt like family there.
Most of the trip went so smoothly. My co-lead and I were so blessed with an amazing team and very few hiccups. Something that made this mission so unique was the very clear presence of the Holy Spirit. Any time something went “wrong,” it became clear it was simply the Spirit re-directing us to something better. It was a mission of learning to surrender control and to simply serve and love as well as I could. There was no place and no room for perfectionism because the Holy Spirit never let us falter.
There was a particular moment towards the end of mission where Isaac, my co-lead, and I were driving from one place to another. We were trying to put a lunch order for the whole team through Subway online.
You see, the Subway app did not work. We were struggling to get these orders in. We had to customize each one, and it took forever. When we finally got about seven orders in, the app informed us the cart was full, and we’d have to close out this order and start another. Not a huge deal, but we then learned we had put the wrong pick-up location, and if we changed it, the whole cart would be cleared. Already frustrated as it was, we were at our limit with this. We could have easily let this become a big deal, but we didn’t. We kinda just looked at one another decided it was what it was and put the stupid phone away. As soon as we did this, we started noticing the breathtaking view around us. The Arizonan terrain was absolutely beautiful! We spent the rest of the ride enjoying great conversation, listening to music with the other people in the car, and just being present in the moment. During this time, we thought we were supposed to be putting in a lunch order, but we weren’t, and the Spirit wasn’t afraid to tell us that. And this my friends, is how God works in our lives.
He doesn’t barge in and flip us upside down (most of the time). We have a gentle God. He is constantly and gently inviting us to trust Him more. The Spirit wants to be in our lives. All it takes is our invitation for Him to come in and make life easier. He gives us the gifts, charisms, and perspective we need to be vessels of His good work. We can serve so well when we let the Spirit work. When we submit ourselves to the Spirit, it doesn’t matter what we can or cannot do. God knows our weaknesses and He isn’t afraid of them. The Spirit moves in our lives and He works when we can’t. The best part is He chooses to work through us. God doesn’t need us, but He wants us. On this mission, I learned to not miss out on the goodness God has in store for me because I think I know better. It is a beautiful lesson. “Come Holy Spirit.”