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February 6, 2014
March 21, 2024

Water in the Desert

“O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;

My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,

In a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Psalm 63:1

Bethany Tsui recognizes herself in Psalm 63:1. She feels the hot sand fill her shoes and wrap around her toes, pelting her skin any time a breeze stirs. But she is no David. She’s Bethany, and she has little thirst or yearning. She only is conscious of her apathy—a dryness and soul-weariness that is directed toward both herself and her spiritual disciplines.

God helps her to walk in obedience, despite the heat, sand, and glaring sunlight.

Bethany opens the front door and heads out to meet Rosalyn, a student she’s discipling at the University of Texas. Thoughts of being “worthless and of no value” pester her on her way. But competing words—words of scripture—flit across her memory, reminding her that her usefulness and adequacy are not from herself but from God. On the days when the dryness and weariness are almost more than she can bear, the words comfort her, as do the routine and accountability of meeting weekly with Rosalyn. She knows she would fall headlong into a sand dune without either of those things.

She and Rosalyn are studying the Bible regularly, but they’re doing something new—she and Rosalyn converse with UT students about God once per week. Sometimes the conversations go well; sometimes they don’t. This week is the final one for these focused conversations, and Bethany already is planning what they’ll do in upcoming weeks. As she and Rosalyn start to leave campus, they see a girl approach. Bethany and Rosalyn don’t say anything to each other, but they both know they have to speak with her.

The girl, Megan, is gentle and soft-spoken, and genuinely desires answers. She is so frustrated by all of her questions that all she wants is for someone to talk with her and to help her find answers. Bethany sees that Megan, like her, is in a sort of desert, and that she needs guidance to find water and food that will satisfy her thirst and hunger.

The three girls part ways, but visit again the following week. Bethany and Rosalyn happen (Bethany smiles for the lack of a better word, as she knows there are no coincidences) to find Megan while she’s on her lunch break at work. They talk about the Gospel some more, yet Bethany knows it isn’t enough. She doesn’t hear a voice or see a neon flashing sign, but she senses she is being called to be a part of Megan’s life, so she takes another step of obedience. She asks Megan to study the Bible with her. Megan replies, “Yes! I want to know Jesus.”

For the next three months, Bethany and Megan work their way through Luke, John, and part of Romans. Bethany watches Megan transform week by week, and Megan eventually professes her faith in the Gospel. She struggles with that decision; she wonders whether belief is worth the cost and whether she can surrender. She turns to Bethany and asks, “Is it worth it? Shouldn’t I know more before making a decision?”

Bethany answers, “It’s good to know things, but you’ll never really know. It’s a step of faith.”

Megan feels a protest rise and fall from her lips. She knows Bethany’s story. She’s seen Bethany struggle with doubts, apathy, and emotional depression, and knows that what Bethany says is true. She can never know the truth without taking that step of faith.

Megan takes the step, but still questions if the Christian life is worth the cost. Bethany has an answer to her question. She knows that if Megan comes to her Missional Community group, she’ll get to meet with real Christians—not the ones she has met in the past who always seem to have the perfect hair and perfect house and perfect lives—but the ones who spend time in the desert, the ones who are honest and vulnerable with each other. Megan will meet these people, and will understand that she isn’t alone with her doubts and fears. She’ll experience the comfort of being with others who struggle as she does, and the beauty of community and fellowship with other believers. Through them, she’ll continue to learn of the One who sympathizes with her weaknesses.

Eventually, Megan moves on from life with Bethany and Bethany’s MC, but she continues to take steps of obedience: she gets baptized. She sends Bethany a photo of the baptism, and it’s accompanied by the words “You were right!” Bethany laughs when she reads the message. Prior to her moving away, Bethany stated that Megan would be the next one baptized.

Bethany, too, moves forward. Her apathy falls away in the midst of ministering to Megan. She realizes that walking with Megan—sharing food and water while in desert—has revitalized her own walk with Jesus. “He brought both of us together when we needed each other,” she says.

Bethany also becomes a co-leader of her MC, and her time with Megan impacts how she’ll lead. She wants the people in her MC to “experience this sort of joy. I want a desire to disciple others to grow in them.” It isn’t a desire borne from a wish to be less apathetic, although that may be part of it. It’s a desire rooted in the truth that, if she isn’t loving God and others, she isn’t fulfilling her purpose.

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