Guest Post: Courtney Ann Kust
I am continually encouraged by my friends on a daily basis, so it only makes sense they would have the opportunity to encourage my readers as well. This is Courtney, and she is one of my closest friends and the best gift. She attended Hope College with me and now works at the school as an assistant basketball coach and events coordinator. I'm honored she would share her story, and therefore, His story. Love you, CK!
At the age of 27, I had never seen a mountain range before. I’d never seen something so massive that it made me feel so small. From the moment we landed in Anchorage, the mountains instantly took my breath away. Donald Miller writes in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, “I wondered at all this exposition God had created, as though it were an invitation to an epic so grand it might match the scenery. The mountains themselves call us into a greater story.” I didn’t know what that meant until I arrived in Alaska. Each place we visited was more beautiful than the next. I didn’t want to stop looking out at creation in fear that I would miss something. My favorite view: when the sun beamed out through a break in the clouds and reflected so brightly off the peaks of snowy, white mountain tops you couldn’t help but smile. On our drive to the small town of Sutton, one of our home bases for the next two weeks, we were told the story of a conversation between a woman and some students on the trip the previous year. They asked her, “Does the beauty of Alaska ever get old?” Her response: “It doesn’t get old, but sometimes, I get so busy that I forget to look up.” And right then and there, we had found our trip motto. Don’t forget to look up. Keep your eyes up.
When I said I would help co-lead a May Term trip to Alaska with seventeen Hope College students for two weeks, I had no idea what was in store for me. I had led trips before and I always thought it was cool to see how God worked in the lives of the students. But hear me when I say the students, not me. I’m the leader. I’m supposed to have it all together, right? But I had absolutely no idea what God had in store for me.
I needed this trip way more than I thought I did. Last week, Anna (hey girl, thanks for letting me write on your blog!) sent me an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs, and the guest, Curtis Zackery, said something that really hit home with me. He said, “I pray I’m not doing a bunch of Jesus stuff without Jesus.” And when I looked back at the six months before Alaska, I could relate to that. I felt like I was doing a bunch of Jesus stuff without Jesus. Yes, I was a Christian but I was in this season of drifting. I read Christian books and devotionals, but I hardly opened my Bible. I gave “Christian advice”, but I didn’t take it myself. I said I had a relationship with Jesus, but I rarely spent actual time in prayer. I said I was seeking a Christian community, but I hadn’t gone to church in over six months. I said I valued what Jesus had to say about me, but I wasn’t spending enough time with Him to actually know. And honestly, I can’t tell you why. My best guess is that I thought my relationship with God was good enough. Or maybe, I thought that if I really let Him in, if I really told Him what was on my mind, if I really trusted Him, I would have to own up to my feelings of unworthiness. You see, to be honest, I’m the type of person that looks like I have it all together. I have a great job, I am super close with my family, I live in a cute apartment right by the beach, I have a handful of really great friends and honestly, I have seen a lot of success in my life. Yet, deep down, I’ve struggled with feeling worthy. I couldn’t own up to that, so I held God at a distance. I said, “I’m good, God. I believe in You. I believe Jesus died for me. I live a good life. I make good decisions. We’re good!” Ha! Who am I to tell God anything?! Let alone that our relationship was good enough?! Again, I needed this trip way more than I thought I did.
So, let me ask you a question. What does it imply when we have our eyes down? To me, the first thing I think of is, “I’m too busy. Don’t interrupt me. I’m hustling, I’m striving, I’m focused. I have things to get done and my to do list isn’t getting any smaller! I’m too busy for you. I’m too busy even for me. And ultimately, I’m too busy for God.” When our eyes are down, we can’t see others and others can’t see us. We start to hide things. We show all the people around us that we have it all together, but deep down, we are yearning for more. Because when my eyes are down, people can’t look into my eyes and truly see me.
So, the whole trip, we went around saying, “Eyes Up!” We said it when we were distracted on our phones. We said it when we were driving between towns and didn’t want each other to miss out on the beautiful landscape. We said it in moments of encouragement when we were so close to the top of Mt. Baldy and wanted our tired and weary friends to keep looking toward that final peak for hope. “Eyes Up” became our anthem. Our motto.
I think by keeping my eyes up, I was able to see a lot of other things. I was able to see beautiful, bold, courageous 21-year old’s share their hearts and allow God to actively work in them. I was able to see encouragement and joy in its purest form. I was able to see true, genuine affirmation. I started to see the promises of God in my life. I started to see that I am so worthy and any voices telling me otherwise are of the devil.
I learned that “good enough” isn’t always good enough. Because why have good enough when you can have great? It was like God was Will Smith in the movie, Hitch, asking me, “What if fine isn’t good enough? What if I want extraordinary?” I learned that God wants extraordinary.
Since Alaska, I learned how to seek after God before anything else in this world. I see and hear God singing over me. And most importantly, I see that this story of my life isn’t even about me. It’s about God. This isn’t my story. It’s His.
And to think, all I had to do was keep my eyes up.