My parents first met at a mobile dental clinic in Davis, when my dad was in dental school and my mom was getting ready to go to dental hygiene school. Such was the beginning of me growing up in a dental family. When I was in high school, I started working for my dad over the summer and saw how he had a really, really good situation. Four day work weeks. No boss. Vacation whenever you want. Plenty of money coming in. So what kid wouldn’t be drawn to pursue a career with such benefits especially when he would eventually be able to take over his dad’s dental practice in Saratoga?
I was driven in high school to do well, so I could get into a good university, study Biochemistry and prepare for dental school and eventually a comfortable life. At the same time, I was exploring God a little bit, going to church youth group on Sundays and camp over the summer. It’s a long story to be told later, but God wooed me and I half-reluctantly gave my life to Him and began calling myself a Christian when I was seventeen.
Now, not everything changed right away for me. Making the decision to follow Christ didn’t automatically change my life, but merely was the starting gun that set me on a course of discovery, learning little by little what it meant to follow Him. I still applied to all colleges as a biochemistry or biology major with the mindset that I would do dentistry eventually. I still wanted to make a lot of money and live a comfortable life. The only difference was that I was bringing Jesus along for the ride. God was my co-pilot.
It took me some time to discover God is nobody’s co-pilot and we all better go sit back in coach and strap up because He’s flying this plane and He’s gonna be doing barrel roles. This is what I learned over the course of my time at Cal Poly. Through my involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ there, I began to hear stories about what He was doing in East Asia told by missionaries sent from my school. I heard how they had to speak in code and worship God in whispers in fear of the communist government deporting them and arresting their national students. I learned why this country had to be code-named “East Asia.” But I also learned how hungry people were for the gospel there and how hundreds and hundreds of people were becoming multiplying disciples of Christ. My heart was changing. Jesus was disrupting my life.
So I changed majors, switching to Psychology, but knowing that I could still get a biology minor to fulfill the pre-requisites for dental school. I was telling God “Okay I’ll make this little change for You” but wasn’t really getting what He had for me yet. It wasn’t until later in college that I understood the heart that He was giving me for people, to make an impact on their lives and to bring the gospel to transform them and their communities. I was also discovering the seriousness of Jesus’ statement that “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). He was telling me to follow Him and not look back. To do it without a “plan B”. So I gave up my plan of going into dentistry, though the path to releasing my grip of my future was yet much longer and more circuitous than I had expected.
It’s amazing to look back and see what doors that decision has opened up for me, just six years later. If I hadn’t given up my plans of doing dentistry, I probably wouldn’t have gone to El Salvador for two transformational years as a missionary out of college. I wouldn’t have been able to lead the people to Christ that I did there. I wouldn’t have gotten involved with Awakening here and met the friends and leaders that have continued to transform my life here. I wouldn’t be joining staff with Campus Crusade (now “Cru Global”) to send missionaries like myself to bring the gospel to places that desperately need it.
At the Awakening Retreat this past weekend, the speaker talked about “taking the jump.” Taking that risk to follow God and trust there’s good things for those who discard temporary worldly pleasures in the pursuit of living a life worth living. We want to look back at the end of our time on this earth and see what God did through us because we decided to take more risks. I’ve had the opportunity to see some of that played out in my life, but I want more. God tells us to live risky lives every day and I’m sure there will be a lot bigger risks He will ask me to make in the future. I’m just thankful He’s with me and inside of me through the Holy Spirit. Thank you Jesus. Let’s do this.
Author: Jeff Oleson