I'm in the midst of one of those times.
Whatever "certainty" that we felt we had about our future was taken away this week. Our application to the mission board has been put on hold for at least a year. The circumstances and reasons have shaken me, and the uncertainty of our life has left me feeling overwhelmingly aimless.
I came to my blog today to read some of my own recent words. I've found that I tend to be the best person to talk some sense into me, so re-reading old journals (or, in this case, blog entries) is quite therapeutic. The first thing I saw on the homepage of the blog was that there was a new post in my "Blogs I'm Reading" section from a blog that I just started following about George Muller. It was titled "Something Better." It was a very short post that included this quote: "Our heavenly Father never takes anything from his children unless he means to give them something better." - George Muller
God has something better for us. What an encouragement to read!
I dove into my archives and started reading. Sure enough, many of my own words were incredibly fitting to my needs, especially from this post about surrender.
I have so many hopes and dreams and ideas of what my life should look like. But God has even better ideas and dreams. He has a better future for me than I could ever imagine. I cannot have both. I must give up my own and grasp the mystery of His.And later, in the same post:
A wise teacher recently said:
"Sometimes following God feels like death. You look at what He calls you to do and think, 'God, doing this will KILL me!!' But be assured, there is freedom and joy in following Him."
Yes, death. Surrendering my dreams and hopes and identity and love feels like death. God may be calling me to things that look very different than what I have in mind for my life. To follow feels like more than I can bear. It's one thing to follow God when you think you know what the future holds (but who really does?!?!). It's a whole 'nother thing to follow blindly, surrendering to whatever He may bring, wherever He may lead. To picture what I want least and love least and choose that even that would be ok, if it was where God had lead me.
And in that death and surrender is where I will find life. I must take up my cross, and the shame and torture that it brings, and follow Him. Yet His yolk is light, and I won't be burdened by it. It is easier to endure the death of surrender than to go my own way. What a joyful and true paradox that is! I have seen it to be true so many times in my life. May it be true again.I recently added a new "page" to the blog, titled, "Our Future." I started it in the following way:
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”
~James 4:13-15 (NLT)
Obviously, we don't have any real idea about what the future holds for us. But this page is an explanation of what we are planning for, with the expectation that God can do with us whatever He wants, whenever He wants.Isn't it amazing when God prepares us in advance for things, even when we don't even realize that He is doing it?
A little over three months ago, I wrote a post that I never published. Here it is, unedited from its original form.
We're not going to Rwanda.
The phrase came into my mind as though it was audible. I didn't feel emotional about it or question it. It was as indisputable and unemotional as though I had been told that there was going to be a full moon tonight. I heard it and was certain of it and knew that the there was no question about it.
Of course, I did question it. Well, what ARE we going to do then? No answer--except an inkling of a feeling like that question just really didn't matter. Like it was ultimately irrelevant. Should I say something to Luke? No answer. Except that it just didn't seem right to say anything. Well I have to say something eventually! If we aren't going, let's stop stressing about this application! No answer. Except, again, the feeling that it didn't matter. Like wondering where you are going to sit to eat, when in reality there is no food to eat--where you are going to sit is just not relevant.
It is simultaneously unsettling, yet very calm. No matter how much I try to analyze it or question it or make sense of it--I just feel this calm certainty. I really want to go to Rwanda. We just got an update today and I am excited about it. Two other families are moving there in the coming months and I am burning with jealousy for them. But we're not going to Rwanda. It's as simple as that.
I've felt this way on two other occasions. In both instances, I "heard" a simple sentence with long-reaching effects. Both times it was something that seemed less likely than its opposite. Both times it was completely true. Both times I couldn't fathom (in the moment) how or why it would be that way. Both times I felt this same calm certainty. Both times it came from nowhere--I wasn't thinking about it or anything, then BAM! I had a realization. Both times I just accepted it and told no one and waited to see how it would play out.
So here I am. Waiting. I have a thousand questions running through my head: Why would God so clearly lead us down this path, just to stop us for no reason in the middle. What about all of the people that have supported us to go last May? What about the team there that is expecting us to join them? And most of all, if we don't go to Rwanda, what ARE we going to do? All of our plans have hinged on that goal.
I feel unsettled and lost. But at the same time I don't. I am simply sure that this is what God has revealed to me. And when it so clearly comes from God, it is a lot easier to just sit back and watch Him work. It should be exciting. But this is so weird........At the time that I wrote this, I was very confused by it. There was no indication that we should back away from our plans for Rwanda. Although it felt certain that God was speaking to me, I was careful to not rest all of my expectations upon it. However, in the past month or so, there have been a number of things (that I'm not going to go into here and now, but most of them completely out of our control) that have been piling up and pushing us away from our original expectations about going to Rwanda. I did eventually tell Luke, when the first of the tangible circumstances arose that caused hesitation for us. We continued to press on in the application process because we felt like God hadn't yet told us to do otherwise.
But in light of the decision made about us this past week, we're back to square one. God, what do you want with us? Where do you want us? And while we're in the questioning mode, Why did you lead us so clearly in this direction just to halt it later? We really don't know what the future holds. God may still lead us toward missions, maybe even in Rwanda or a nearby country. God may be calling us to stay here in the states and do something entirely different. Or He may have something in store for us that we couldn't even fathom on our own.
God was clearly leading us on the path we have taken so far in preparing for Rwanda. In addition, God seems to have also been leading my thoughts in the past few months. And now current circumstances demand that we reevaluate our original plans. I have no idea how to reconcile those seemingly contradictory facts except by analogy:
When we were in Denver last month, Luke's aunt pointed to some mountains in the distance. She explained that the peaks that were one shade of color were only an hour away, but the peaks (seemingly in the same place) of a different color were at least three hours away! As I was picturing that, I realized that there was a valley (or hills) at least 100 miles wide between them, but from our point of view, they were right next to each other!
I wonder if God's leading has been similar to that. Maybe there is something in His plan for us that rests in the valley between the peaks. Maybe the best way to lead us over the first set of mountains and into that place was to pinpoint the peaks of the second mountains and tell us to go there. Now we've walked and we've followed and He is ready to adjust our direction and lead us on to where He wants us. Maybe Rwanda was just the second set of mountaintops in the distance, used by God to bring us into the valley that couldn't be seen from where we started.
Meanwhile, the valley is dark and confusing. We simply don't know where we are going. And yet again my own words come back to me: Following Jesus One Step at a Time...
God, give us the patience to follow You wherever You are leading us. Show us the next step and give us the strength to follow.