Thursday, January 15, 2015

Daring to Fail

I wrote the following note during the summer of 2012. Care to take a trip down memory lane with me?

[“God wants to send us to dangerous places to do difficult things.” Mark Batterson  Wild Goose Chase
At the beginning of the year, Jeannie Roth (a Cadence missionary and old friend), gave me the book, Wild Goose Chase, by Mark Batterson.  At the time, I was struggling with making a decision about the direction of my future. Mark Batterson’s book dealt with understanding and following the Holy Spirit’s guidance to obey God’s will.  I felt trapped between trying to obey God and having the faith to dare to obey what he actually wanted me to do. Neither my friend nor I understood at the time how this book would travel with me through the adventure that, so far, has been the greatest of my lifetime.
To start the year, I had been facing constant struggle and grief in my heart about whether to continue working a secular job or to pursue full-time ministry. It has been my heart’s desire for several years to be in youth ministry. I became a volunteer youth leader at my home church shortly after graduating Bible college 6 years ago. However, the division of my time and attention between work and ministry was a constant source of frustration.  As the demands to develop a career and gain further training at work built, I became faced with this problem: my growth as an employee required training that was completely opposite the strengths God had given me to develop. There was no option available within the workplace to grow as I felt God desired.
I took a trip to see family and visit some friends whose counsel I have always known to be godly and wise. It became clear after that journey that I had stayed long enough in my current employment and proved myself faithful. I knew leaving my workplace meant losing consistent, reliable income; I was also leaving an employer who had always cared about my needs. I will never have another opportunity like that again. However, I knew that God was closing the door at my current workplace. It was time to let go of the security and wait for the next opportunity.
I have since been on a roller coaster of ministry development and opportunities to share my faith and my story of God’s faithfulness.  I left my job in May. As I was preparing for unemployment, my home church offered to hire me as a part-time assistant to the pastoral staff. I mainly serve under the associate pastor who is responsible for both the children and youth ministries. My duties vary almost as widely as his areas of administration. I have taken the opportunity of fewer work constraints to travel on two mission trips. My first trip was with a group of youth, college students, and adults from our church. I traveled with 14 team members to San Jose, Costa Rica. We spent 8 days constructing a chicken coop, witnessing, and playing with children from an area daycare. Upon returning, my family traveled to South Dakota to visit my brother and his wife in their new home. The month of July has been full of preparations for Vacation Bible School; I have assisted our associate pastor as director.  The preparations were interrupted only by a week-long youth camp in Durango. I was able to participate as youth leader, chaperone, and family group leader-Bible teacher. VBS began immediately after camp. One week later, I am on a train traveling through the German countryside to Berlin to participate in a conversational English camp that exposes teenagers in Germany to the power and reality of a relationship with Christ.
Each of these opportunities has given me challenges, deepened my faith, and forced me to depend on God’s faithfulness. A couple years ago, I was diagnosed with Celiac’s disease which requires me to completely avoid gluten, primarily found in wheat. Eating on the road, much less in another country, is a daring feat. It is hard to trust the safety of your health, through your stomach, to people who may not understand or even speak the same language. God understands and has guarded me from any severe reactions should I have eaten wheat unknowingly.  God has also blessed my travels with many opportunities to tell of his greatness and his faithful love. I have had deep conversations with teenagers and adults, members of my mission team, complete strangers, and young believers from Deer Park, TX.

If anyone should ask whether I have been following God’s will, I cannot say with certainty that every decision I have made in the last six months followed God’s will. I do not think perfect obedience is what we are to obtain yet. It is obedience that demonstrates we know God. The Bible teaches that we must know God through the ways he has revealed himself, the Bible and his Son, Jesus Christ. Yet, how often do we see in the Bible point blank instructions about what the future holds? No one has read in the pages of Scripture, “thou shalt take this job opportunity” or “thou shalt marry __________.”  I believe it is how we obey the revealed will of God amidst the changing circumstances or decisions which have not been so clearly revealed that demonstrates obedience. In Hebrews 11, the men and women recorded are recognized for their obedience to what they knew God told them to do and their faith in who they knew God to be. It was the faith they had in God’s character, his faithful covenant love, that gave them confidence to risk so much in obedience to his will.

I will not be so bold to say that I have been demonstrating the faith these renowned men and women had. But I will not exclude myself from seeking to obey what I know about God-his character and purpose-in the effort to please him with my obedience.  I have relied on the knowledge that he will give me the strength, health, and courage to do what he commands me to do. I also have taken daring steps forward to advance the glory of his name and his kingdom because I know that is his purpose for the church on earth. How can I refuse to be part of such an adventure?

Mark Batterson writes that “More often than not, the will of God will involve a daring decision that seems unsafe or even insane.” I have wondered if I am insane many times throughout the summer. If this is insanity, you may want to find an institution to commit me to. Until someone comes to take me away, I commit myself to the care of a God who is powerful enough to sustain the earth and everything in it. I pray that this journey grows in me a desire to constantly live on the edge of insanity. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  Paul also writes of himself and his companions in 2 Corinthians 5:13-15 “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and rose again on their behalf.” If God sent his Son to die as a living demonstration of his foolish, extravagant, lavish love for us, why not live a life that mirrors his insanity? I want to show love to those he loved and that might look just as crazy.

One of the adventures God has introduced into my life this summer has been through a man who may someday soon become my husband. God is only beginning to show me the amount of grace and love he is pouring out on me through this relationship. I don’t know if it is God’s will that I marry this man. I know that if I do, the journey of loving and being loved by God is going to become a whole new learning experience. I am thankful for the crowd of witnesses who have walked this road before me. They have a lot of wisdom to share!]

It is a strange experience to look back on the thoughts and questions we had years ago. I am grateful for the faithfulness of God as I look back and see his protection and leading in those years. He is the same God today. Even now, married to "this man" and following God's direction to serve him as a full-time missionary, I am choosing to trust and daring to step out in faith that God remains faithful.