Friday, March 20, 2015

"But I thought you were going to Africa...?"

Because I know it's the question running through everyone's brain when they are talking to me about my life and my "plans." And because I know it's the question most people are afraid to ask...

I figured I would just ask it and answer it for all of you who might have wanted to but haven't. So, why not just write a blog about it. That seems to be my way of coping these days.

Let me start by saying...
#1 It's a question that still pops in and out of my brain almost daily.

#2 For the record. If you've been wanting to ask...know for future reference that you can always ask. I live life better when I can talk it all through with lots of different people :)

Okay. Well now that I've opened that can of worms and they're slithering all over the table...let's do this!

Yes. I thought I was going to Africa also.
For like the past 13 years or so.
And this is the closest I've ever been to moving my life across the ocean.

I think I can explain my change in direction better by telling you someone else's story. I feel like it might give my own story and sudden change in direction some credibility.

This guy named Paul. You've probably heard of him. The story I want to reference is in Acts 27 and 28. Feel free to read along...and of course keep in mind this is Acts 27 and 28 according to Rachel.

Quick catch up in case you might be unfamiliar with this guy named Paul. He lived a couple of generations after Jesus had walked on the earth and died and been resurrected. He was known for being very high up among Jewish rulers and he led many of the searches for and executions of Christ followers. He was formerly known as Saul.


One day on his way to kill another Christian, God literally appeared to him in a bright light out of the sky and changed his entire life, and with it, his entire directional course. And from that moment on, Paul's life became a crazy journey based on trust and obedience and allowing God to lead him for His good and His purposes. I never really thought about it before, but Paul's journey with Jesus literally began with a major change in direction and plans.

From the very start of his ministry, Paul longed to go to Rome and declare the message of Jesus Christ to the important rulers and officials. He wanted to present this message to people very much like himself. It burned inside of him and he believed it to be a God given call. But, getting to Rome was not as quick or simple as he imagined it would be.

See. That's the thing about life with Jesus that we so often forget. Maybe early on we sense a call or a leading to a specific ministry or place. We look at maps and timelines through human eyes and logic. And also we forget that the call is a gift. Just like every other part of our lives, our calling belongs to God, it is simply a gift He has entrusted to us and allows us to be a part of. That also means that it is for him to decide how and when we get around to that purpose or place. If the calling is from Him, then He knows exactly what needs to be accomplished through us and when and who we need to become on the way to there. We don't always get to take the direct and logical route that we assume initially. And we should be thankful for that.

So, back to Paul. Paul feels led to Rome and so very early on he sets out to go there.

God had other places and people along the way for Paul. So many people who may have never known Him or experienced His love and truth had Paul not taken the long (VERY long) way to Rome. People who would not have been healed or set free, churches that would have never been founded, and character that Paul might never have gained if he would have taken his own route on his own time frame to Rome.

In Acts 27 and 28, we find Paul on yet another ship and yet again as a prisoner. Once again they are facing a storm at sea. The other men on the boat do not know Paul's God and of course are afraid for their lives and for their ship. Paul tries to tell them that this storm is from God and that what they need to do is let go of the steering wheel and trust God to get them through the storm and to wherever He needs them to be.

But the men on the ship, in their humanity, cannot seem to let go and relinquish control. They continue to try and steer through this storm while some try to escape from the ship and others hide away in fear.

My pastor has been preaching on this story for two weeks now. I can't stop rereading it and thinking through it and mostly applying it to my own life and situation.

He has been talking about discerning storms in our life. Are they from God or Satan, how can we tell, and what should we do once we realize what kind of storm we are in? If we find that the storm is from Satan in an attempt to get us out of God's will, then we should throw out our anchor and stand our ground trusting that the storm is meant to make us stronger and more determined to live out God's will. If the storm is from God, we should throw up the sails and pull in the anchors and trust that He is looking for us to let go of the steering and use the storm to guide us on His path to His destination. Either way, the storm is meant to keep us in God's will. Perhaps the storm has come to get us back into God's will or maybe it is meant to build our faith and trust in living out His will.

Paul had discerned that the storm they were in was from God. He realized that they were on one path and clearly God needed to intervene in a big way to change their course and direction. But, because they didn't understand that, they were fighting it. Rather than giving into the storm and the wind and the waves and allowing it to carry them, they fought against it and in their weak efforts attempt to keep steering the ship in the direction they want to go (despite Paul's several warnings against this.) Eventually they are forced to throw things over. Really important things like cargo and tackle and food and even lifeboats.

Now this is the part of the story that really gets to me. Had these men listened to Paul and trusted God in the beginning, they probably could have held onto more of their things. They may have had to let go of less. But, because they refused to trust God and let go of control, the storm raged on and they had to throw over more things in order to stay afloat and survive.

The point being, God was going to keep them in that storm until they finally learned how to trust Him and only Him.

He will do the same with us. I can assure you.

I went through and made a list of all of the things these men had to throw over throughout the duration of the storm. First it was the cargo. Then the tackle. A while later after some men tried to escape, Paul made them cut away all the lifeboats. Finally they ate and after they were full they decided to throw over all the food. Then it was the anchors. Everything essential to that ship. Every piece of equipment and basic means of survival they threw into the sea.

And after all of that, they threw up the sails and just let the wind carry them. Because what else could they do?

Chapter 27 ends like this...
" The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way, everyone reached land in safety."
And 28 begins like this...
"Once safely on shore."

The truth is, God doesn't like leaving His children in the middle of crazy, intense, scary storms. It's hard for Him to watch. But more than that, He doesn't want to see them rely on anything more than Him or other than Him and He doesn't want to see His children become anything less than He's created them to be or accomplish anything but what He's put in them to accomplish.

So, if that means leaving them in a storm until they learn to throw out everything they are trusting other than Him and to bring them to a place where they will finally just throw up the sails and let go of the steering wheel and allow Him to guide the ship...then He will.

And THAT'S how they get out of the storm and arrive on land safely.

Sometimes they float in on pieces of the ship that has been broken apart. Sometimes they  arrive at land that is unintended and unfamiliar. But always they arrive safely when they have allowed God to take over.

Once they arrived on land safely, literally carried the rest of the way on the broken up remains of their life, they found an island with people who were kind and welcoming and who gave them everything they needed. Paul faced another near death experience, and walked away untouched. Why was this so? Because they had allowed God to take them where He needed them to be and they were exactly in His will. When we are in the center of God's will, there's nothing that can hurt us or take us out of it.

And what's even crazier, after they spend some time on this island, Paul heals everyone who needs healed in the name of Jesus, and the people in return give them everything they need to continue their journey (including a ship) Paul then makes his way to Rome.

This is just one story in the many that make up Paul's life testimony and journey with Jesus. Based on this account alone, what if Paul had taken his own route on his own timeline to Rome? An entire island of people not to mention a ship full of prisoners would not have come to be healed and free and know the name and saving power of Jesus Christ. And of course Paul would not have experienced the growth that comes in learning to trust and obey Jesus in all circumstances.

So...I thought I was going to Africa.
It's the first calling Jesus put in my heart. I am sure of it. I have felt it deep in my heart and soul for as long as I can remember. It's become a part of who I am. I have prepared and longed to go there and watched my desire to love people on that continent grow through the years. So, I made plans to go. Because I truly believed it was where Jesus was leading.
And it was.
I don't believe I got it wrong.
I don't believe that Paul did either.
I believe that it's all about obedience. Moving in whatever direction we feel the Spirit lead no matter how far out of the way it seems or how much it doesn't make sense to us and especially other people.

For Paul, God placed Rome in his heart to get him out and moving in that direction. Paul didn't hear wrong or do wrong to head in that direction. But Paul was also faithful to keep his eyes and his heart open for changes in direction along the way even if they seemed completely off course.

For me, God gave me the go for Africa a year ago because He needed to get me up and moving again. I was comfortable in Seattle...too comfortable. I was beginning to take root and trust my good paying, stable job a little too much. So, he challenged me to pursue that original call He had placed in my heart. I did so with joy and passion as He opened doors for me to walk through. Then there was a relationship. One that I was sure to seek Him in and pray through daily. This brought on another change in direction. The challenge to obey and put my calling and my dream on hold for another person. The question of whether or not I could serve Him in a less adventurous place. Then there was a break up. A devastating blow that I could not understand. Why would He bring something and throw me off my course just to take it away and leave me confused and hurt and broken. Then I went to Mexico to clear my head. I don't even know why I chose Mexico. I have friends in a lot of other places that I could have chose to visit. But Mexico came to my head and my heart instantly and so I went. With no plans and no agenda but to be and to heal and to gain perspective and hopefully hear from Jesus again.
I ended up substitute teaching in a school. The idea to return and teach in that school was presented to me.
I had other plans. I was going to Africa.
I was still steering the ship.

I came home and decided not to pray about direction for a while, but instead to just spend time with Jesus and allow Him to do in my heart whatever He needed to without me pestering Him with a million questions. What were the next steps? I needed to stop being a backseat driver and really let Him lead. And here felt like the wilderness (see several above blog posts) Here felt lonely and quiet and sometimes unbearable. Not because there aren't great people here and not because it's an awful place, but because here was my dessert; my storm. Here is where God needed to leave me so He could strip me until I would finally let go of the steering wheel, let go of everything, and put every ounce of trust in Him alone.
Every day I had to throw more things overboard.
Every day I still do.
My need for control
My need to plan
My insistence on understanding
My timelines
My idea of how things should go
My maps
My fear of looking foolish
People's expectations

And after a while here, after a lot of letting go and putting things on an alter day after day after day, I eventually stopped picking them up again and eventually I came to the place where nothing else mattered. I stopped asking why and where and when and just filled the silence telling Him I trusted Him and I just wanted to obey.
And after all of that letting go...SO much letting go, He showed me.
And I am going to get there on the wrecked and broken pieces of my life. That's the only way I am going to arrive safely. But once I do, nothing will be able to stop the purposes and plans He's set in motion.

You can imagine I was perplexed. I honestly just thought that here was a time out. I thought that I had done a whole lot of hearing wrong last year and He just brought me home to help me recover and learn how to hear His voice again and then get me "back on track."
Instead He showed me that the way I was seeing things was really wrong. I had an awful perspective on all of it.
I hadn't heard wrong. In fact, I had seen Him at every point. I had asked Him about all of it and prayed that He would open and close doors as I walked with Him the best I could. So He did. Because He is good and faithful. In my human, perfectionistic perspective, I assumed that because I was not headed to Africa and my relationship had failed that I had heard Him wrong and pursued things that were not of Him. What He was trying to show me is that He had simply changed my direction a few times along the way because He writes the course.
It's not that Africa is wrong. It's not even that I heard wrong all those years ago and he's trying to show me it's never been Africa. It's not that that relationship was outside of His will. It's just that He gave the call and that means He gets to plan the trip. I don't get a say in the detours along the way because He knows best how to get me where He's called me and How to make me who He's created me to be on the way and also who He needs me to encounter on the journey. He also gets to set the timelines.

So yes, I thought I was going to Africa.
I still do.
The only thing that's changed is my heart and my perspective.
I do still believe that I will end up in Africa.
I will end up in Africa when He decides and I will get there by following the course He sets before me.
It is not my job to make a map and it is not my job to set a timeline.
It is simply my job to obey and to move or stay still whenever I sense the Spirit speaking to me. And to trust that when I am faithful to trust Him with each step, He will be faithful to get me where He has called me. After all, the saying goes, "God wants us to get where we are going more than we want us to get there." -I don't know who said that but it wasn't me

GINOMAI: To become; it came to pass; to be made of miracles

This is the root of my life. I am only here because my parents and a lot of people who loved them prayed continuously for them to have a child and because they had faith that refused to believe God would not answer. My very life has been born out of prayer and faith...I am made of miracles. It came to pass that God gave my parents a baby girl and it has been so for my entire life.
This is no different. This is made of miracles, God's provision and grace and loving kindness leading the way.

"Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the one who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason-a life of knowing Him who calls us to go." 
-Oswald Chambers

All that to say, I thought I was moving to probably did too.
But now I am moving to Mexico.

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