If I could describe the past few days and what God has been doing in my heart, I would describe it like this: I am falling so madly in love with Jesus. I have stepped into something that I would never have dreamed on my own was the desire of my heart, but God who knows me better than I know myself would not give up on me and pursued me until I finally chose to obey. I don’t know why my heart so often wants to fight the very thing that would give me life; why I would run away from the very thing that would bring me fulfillment. It seems that nearly every time I come to God in prayer, I have to fight off the initial feelings that I don’t want to be there. Once that battle is won and I step into God’s presence, I am forever changed. Every day.
God has been reminding me lately that He has had His hand on the story of my life since the beginning. He has been taking me through all the many moments of struggle, disappointment, fear, and failure and showing me how He is my Redeemer. For example, just a couple days ago we sang “Trading My Sorrows” in one of our meetings, and the second verse never hit me until just then: “I’m trading my sickness, I’m trading my pain, I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.” I remembered in that moment the nine years of illness I struggled with that seemed to dominate my life. Even though there are elements of this illness that I still live with, my God of mercy saw me through it all. He walked with me through the darkness, held me through the nights when the pain was more than I could bear, wiped away my tears when I fell apart, and helped me to stand. Looking back over that long season, I remember more than I can put into words those moments and years when He was so faithful, when He was the only One I had. He was the only One who understood. Singing that song, I could truly say that now, as I move forward as a missionary in Peru and later in Ecuador that I am trading all of those things: the darkness, the pain, the tears, and the fear for the joy of the Lord. I am laying them down at His feet. I will forever trust Him.
I remember that day in Ecuador when I gave up my calling to be a missionary. I hated who I was. I had nothing to offer the King of Kings. Then He invaded my world. He rushed in like a hurricane. He swept me off my feet and showed me a love like no other. He proved His desire for me in spite of all that I believed made me unworthy. I found that it is truly His love alone that makes me worthy. As much as I wish I could exaggerate this story, there are no words to describe how Divine this redemption was. From that moment forward, there has been no question: I am His and I will follow.
Yesterday we had a discipleship class with some Peruvians who are training to be leaders. We walked through the salvation message and talked about how Jesus is the only way and through accepting Him, we become His children are being made new. A truth hit me as we talked about the verse “the old has gone, the new has come”. God convicted me once again of the box that I had not only put Him in, but that I had also put myself in. He told me that He desires to do so much through my life, but I must be willing to completely leave behind my insecurity, fear, and understanding. He wants to transform me.
I have been reading in Joshua lately, and it has been striking to me at this point. God told Joshua over and over again, “Do not be afraid” “Be strong and courageous” “Be very strong and courageous”. This is the message that God has so often had to speak to my heart, and one that He does not need to speak to those who are naturally strong and courageous but to those of us who by nature are fearful people. Our God chooses the least likely to do the greatest things. Yesterday, the verse from Joshua 3:7 jumped off the page into my journal: “The Lord told Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses.’” This statement immediately precedes the great and miraculous crossing of the Jordan River. A great part of me wants to run away. A great part of me wants more than anything to beg God to send someone else; to tell Him that I don’t want to put myself out there that far. There is a lot at stake in those deep waters. Why can’t I be a simple follower? Why must God call me of all people to be a leader?
We watched a video of Francis Chan the other day. Though I had seen it before, every time I see this illustration, it rocks my world. He is standing on a balance beam and talking about the difficult things that he has been through and how he is tempted to desire a safe life, far away from anything that could possible injure or disable. He said that so many Christians bend down and hold onto the beam with all they have, hoping that nothing will ever touch them. Then when the end of their lives comes and they slip quietly off the balance beam into the presence of God, no amount of bowing can make God say, “Well done!” What is a judge to do with an Olympic gymnast who mounts the balance beam, bends down and straddles it until the end of the routine, and dismounts to bow proudly before him? Although getting on the balance beam and doing flips and twirls may be dangerous and may possibly cause me to fall sometimes, I want a routine that makes my Father proud. I want to experience all that there is in seeking to be close to Him, and that will without a doubt cause me to take some serious risks. However, it is so worth it.
Without a doubt the best and most comforting thing about moving to Peru has been the time that I have spent in prayer in His presence. He is with me always. Psalm 139: 7-12 says, “I can never escape from Your Spirit! I can never get away from Your presence! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the grave, You are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from You. To You the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to You.” No matter where I am, He is with me. No matter where He calls me, He is going with me. When I sit down to spend time with Him, I am reminded that God not only was there in my past, but He is here in my present and my future as well. I need only to trust Him with today; with this moment. Whatever fears I have about whatever it is that God has asked me to do, I must learn to say in this moment, “I desire what pleases You, Lord.” I long only for His smile. I long only for his warm, “Well, done!”
So I move forward in faith that this Love that has brought me safely thus far will lead me the rest of the way. I trust that if He has called me to be a leader in His Kingdom that He will be my Help. I make my home in no other place but wherever His Spirit draws me. I read all that happens around me through the “normal lens” of the activity of the Spirit. Lest I ever forget, I pray that He might remind me that His mercies are new every morning. I rejoice in every new miracle like it is the first one I have ever seen. I never get used to watching God’s hand at work. I have felt His hand throughout my life and have seen from where He has taken me. I know this great grace and I long that others will know it as well. So I pray; we pray that the Holy Spirit rain would fall from heaven on us and those we are with. Lord, make Yourself known to these people You love so much! And may we always be waiting in expectation of all that You are going to do!