Today I announced publicly for the first time that in less than three months, I will be moving to South America for two and half years to do mission work. I have been in the application process for over two months, and I just returned from spending several days in Kansas City interviewing for this position. Today I told my bosses at both jobs and my coworkers. I talked to my apartment complex and put in my notice. I started the process of looking for someone to take over my lease. With only a month left in Nashville, the time has finally come, and oh my goodness, I think I have to give reality some credit.
It’s like I keep swerving in and out of this reality. One moment, I am making lists and figuring out what all needs to be done. Literally the next minute I wonder if I’ve been dreaming and I go back through my emails to make sure I’m not going crazy. Because it is all happening so fast, there is virtually no time to stop and think. I have to hit the ground running, and the life that I had before is simply gone. Part of me absolutely loves the adventure; another part of me wants to sit down and cry.
I’m not a materialistic person, and although stuff doesn’t matter to me much in general, I’m finding that it is still difficult to go through everything I own and start a preliminary sweep of all the things I won’t be keeping anymore. I have to save only the things that have lifelong value and that store well. I have to consider what little I can fit in a suitcase. There’s something about this autonomy that I have fought to have that is so hard to give up. In many ways it feels like I’m taking a step backward. I didn’t realize that things like this would be so difficult. In the past when I have done missions, not only did I not have this much stuff, but I also knew I would probably be coming back soon. I didn’t have to consider what would last for several years in a storage unit until some unknown point in time when I might return.
Then there’s all the details that need to work out that really require God. Most of those things include financial impossibilities. Moving is expensive. Breaking a lease is expensive. Sending out support letters requires stamps, and that gets expensive really fast. God must seriously be testing my faith, because I only have about $500 in my savings account. I have literally no idea how I’m going to make it. I have no clue how I’m going to transport the things I’m going to keep all the way back to Nebraska. So far, it’s just me, and I can’t drive my car and another vehicle. I don’t have money to rent a truck anyway. God probably really likes times like this, when there is every reason in the world to fall flat on my face. All I can see is the ground approaching quickly.
Be careful what you pray for. I could pray for a lot of things that don’t matter, and it’s easy to accept when they don’t come to be. I have found in my life that it’s a lot easier to deal with negatively answered prayers than positively answered prayers. It is the moment I pray for patience that I find myself stuck in traffic. I pray for courage, and God allows me to have health problems that lead me into deep waters. I pray that God will give me strength, and things only grow more challenging. I prayed to have a strong faith and reliance on God, and here He has responded with something that is so enormous and terrifying. I feel like David standing in front of Goliath when all the soldiers around me have fallen trembling to the ground. This is a moment of decision: I could shrink down too, giving in, declining this opportunity, and settling once more into a life that is comfortable and safe. Or I could stay true to what I know is God’s will. It seems like the answer would be obvious. I have discovered in this that I have never experienced anything that has tested my obedience and faith more.
Before you decide that following Jesus is all rainbows and butterflies, count the cost. One aspect of doing God’s will that most Christians are aware of but none are totally prepared for is the spiritual warfare. I have had my share of warfare in the past, but I have entered an entirely new dimension of battle now. God has made it incredibly clear to me that this program is His will for the next step in my journey, and the Devil has been street fighting. You always know it by the timing. I will have a wonderful moment or even a wonderful day where it seems like the light from the sun is coming straight from heaven. Then, like clockwork, a rock comes from nowhere and smashes into your head. Discouragement and doubt can be triggered by comments from many different sources such as friends, family, and even other Christians that we deeply admire. It only takes a phrase…a simple reminder…and your heart falls down. This reminder triggers past experiences, relationships, and failures. Satan drills into your head, “See, you’re such a failure! You couldn’t even do that. How in the world do you think you could possibly do this new thing that God has asked of you? You’ll never make it. You’re weak.” You play the comparison game. You are tempted to throw it all away and opt to hide in a hole for the rest of your life. It sounds dramatic, but I think a few people know exactly what I’m talking about right now.
Reading the story of David and Goliath, I am fascinated by this bizarre faith that David portrays when he boldly says, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day, the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head…All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands (1 Samuel 17:45-46a, 47).”
As children in Sunday School, we are taught from this story that we should be brave, and we focus on the slingshot and the stone. However, what stands out to me now more than ever is David’s boldness to stand before his towering enemy and narrate to him what the next and last few moments of his life are going to look like. He proclaimed the outcome before he even knew if God would come through or not. In the next moment, that little pebble could have bounced off Goliath’s forehead and Goliath in turn could have crushed David in the presence of all those people. Now that’s not a story to tell in Sunday School. What did David have that would possess him to be so bold in the face of such an impossibility?
How much courage would it take for me to look the Devil in the face right now and tell him that I come against him in the name of the Lord Almighty and that I will cut off his head? The key to David’s courage and hopefully mine lies in the statement that follows: “…it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s…” What David is saying is that we operate in a different reality than God does. We see problems as only having specific solutions, much like the Israelites and Philistines believed that swords and spears won battles. However, this battle is not ours and it is certainly not the Devil’s. The battle is the Lord’s. He has already conquered. He has already won. To Him belongs the victory. This is His stage and His drama. This is His moment, and He is calling us…He is calling me right now…to step out on the stage in His boldness.
Following Jesus is not easy. In fact, I think it is the hardest thing one could ever do. There are so many other paths in my life that I could take that would be so much easier. However, I would be missing out on so much of what God is doing in the world. Complacency is not the life I’ve decided on. I want to be on the front lines with a clear view of what’s going on. I want to be in the midst of the advancement of the Kingdom of God. I want to not only fight Goliath, but I want to cut off his head. I’ll lay down my dreams of rainbows and butterflies for the treasure that’s in store…