Words by Jared Ramos // Photograph by Caleb Qualls
"...they believe that when a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born - and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible." - Anne Lemott
Summer had ended, and the new school year was beginning. For the first time since I started college, I was walking into the year without any sort of position, title, or direction.
The summer had been restful, full of good times, and even better friends. It had given me plenty of time to think and pray about all of the things I wanted for the year.
I had a plan.
I knew my calling, and I had a well crafted map for getting to it. I had no intention of remaining adrift for very long.
I had spent the summer and the first few weeks of school repeating this line in prayer, “Not what I want, but what will bring You glory.”
It sounds good, right?
I wouldn’t realize this until later, but what I was actually saying was, “Not just what I want, but what will bring You glory.”
I had wrestled and grown a lot in the few months prior, but all of that still had not prepared me to accept the reality that both God getting glory and me getting everything I wanted might not happen.
I started the year feeling prepared and passionate. God had been growing a vision in me all summer, and I was ready to catalyze it!
Then, the opportunity for direction presented itself.
I opened myself up, put my vision out there...
and weathered the rejection.
I didn’t understand what God was doing. I didn’t know what He wanted or why He wasn’t using me. The harvest is plenty, and the workers are few? Well here I am, ready to work.
I am ready, aren’t I?
During the days that followed, I found myself asking, begging, for God to give me this calling or that one.
“I know how to do this calling.”
“I am good at that one.”
“I can do it.”
These were the things that I kept telling Him.
All the while, I could feel Him forming something in my mind. Something new. Something unknown. Out of the corner of my eye, it looked big and scary.
“Don’t lead me to the other thing.”
“Don’t make me look at it.”
I could see it there in the periphery of my mind - lingering, patiently waiting for my attention.
“I don’t want to look at that one, God.”
There I was; without a position, without direction, and without a willingness to look where God might be leading me.
Have you ever been there?
You find yourself in a place that no longer has room for you. You have to leave the familiar shore. You don’t get to sit in the sand and make castles, avoiding the inevitable. There are no bags to pack, because nothing on this island belongs to you. You carry only the memories you have made and the experiences that you have learned from. You have to get on a boat now and sail until you find a new shore.
The thought of doing that terrified me.
I pursued every other outlet because the alternative of setting sail was too frightening.
Slowly, I could feel God turning my attention to the periphery, leading me in that uncharted direction, but I was still too scared to leave the shore that I felt so comfortable on.
At the word of someone much wiser, I decided to write out my fears. In doing so, I realized that there really weren't as many as I thought.
Leaving the community/place that I have always known
Being left behind by those who get to stay there
What I learned:
God calls us to a community, but He can also call us away from that community
Positions and titles are not the same as security and peace
Praying and wishing are two very different things. God only calls us to do one of them
When God says to leave the shore, you have to leave the shore
When I stopped and took the time to be quiet, I realized that I had been doing things wrong.
I was so caught up in trying to serve God that I had forgotten to listen to Him.
Remember that thing lingering in the periphery?
Well, when I finally looked at it, it was confirmed to be big and scary. However, when I let it come out of the shadows of my own insecurities, I saw that it was also beautiful and exciting.
I have now come to understand that callings from God always fall somewhere amongst big, scary, beautiful, and exciting.
I realized that God had been refining a vision and passion within me, and I had been trying to apply it to all of these things that I was calling myself to.
We aren't called to comfortable. Easy is never a guarantee, and failure is definitely an option.
From these truths and out of the corner of my mind came Collective. It is the product of that vision and passion that God had been cultivating in me. Those two things produced a mission: Collective is an online platform that strives to reach and be a resource to students who do not yet know God, while creating an environment right for equipping those who do. The vision is for a singular source with the goal of pulling together information on churches, Christian organizations, and para-ministries in College Station and Bryan, while also providing stories and testimonies of the experiences of current students.
God has been faithful to this mission from the beginning, opening doors to resources and opportunities for connections and partnerships. He has amassed a team of people who are uniquely talented and passionate about the mission of Collective.
Our hope is to step boldly into a need that we see within our community and be faithful stewards of this leadership that God has provided us with.
Welcome to Collective.
Stay a while. Explore a little.
Hopefully, be inspired to look into areas of your own life and world that have needs for you to step boldly into.
Ask yourself these questions:
“What is God calling me to?”
“What is in the periphery of my own mind that I am refusing to look at?”
Turn your attention to those things.