The thing about stepping out into the unknown is: it’s unknown. What a revelation! This should have been obvious from the start, but it was so much easier to believe that a plan, even the barest of a sketch of a plan, would see me through faithfully to the end. “I will leave my job by x date. Move to temporary housing by y date. Be ready to leave by z date. Then, adventure commences.”
I didn’t take into account that God’s plans rarely work out the way we expect them to, especially when we’re trying to be the ones actually calling the shots. He already knows we’re going to do that, and He already knows all the twists and turns and detours we’re going to take, whether by His design or by our own tendency toward distraction. Adding “If God wills” to the end of my plans didn’t make them any less my own plans. It was a last attempt at creating a cushion of safety for myself.
As of now, my plan is still on track, but some aspects are moving more slowly than I planned. My expectation was that once the busyness of the December holidays was over, my motivation and passion for my mission would rocket me forward. Instead I find the winter doldrums and the overwhelming desire to nestle in with friends and blankets and tea.
Did I ever think that becoming a missionary would be easy? That it would be straightforward? I convinced myself that once I had made the leap of faith and said “Yes!” that circumstances would line up neatly, that I would get repeated, dramatic confirmations that yes, this is what God has in mind for me. I am doing His will! Those have come, but much more quietly than I anticipated. A generous offer of a place to stay for a few weeks if necessary. Unexpected gifts – not the monthly financial support I need, but still appreciated and valued: a new-to-me camera as an exciting (albeit overwhelming and mysterious) new companion for my adventures. Affirmation that what I’m doing is important when I start feeling doubt creep in. New friends and mentors to come alongside, to encourage and inspire.
Which detours are distractions, and which are legitimate paths to follow? This month I’ve felt a surge in my creativity after receiving some very good advice from a friend: to document this journey I’m on, thoroughly, even when it’s hard. The experiences I’m having are valuable and worth recording. I’ve taken the advice to heart, and the thing about writing more often is it leads to more writing, more often. I’m writing poetry again, and hearing snippets of stories flit through my mind. I’m falling in love with photography. I’m taking risks I wouldn’t have before, because I just don’t have time to sit around wondering “what if?” I’m also starting to realize “incredible” means exactly what it says: IN-credible. Things that just don’t make sense. I can’t predict them, and I certainly can’t dictate what they should be to God.
“Be patient,” is the phrase that keeps coming to mind when I stop my anxious thoughts long enough to pray and listen. Also, “You cannot serve God and money”, and “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” Can I believe that He will provide even when my own ability to carve a path for myself seems meager and weak? When I seem to be making no forward progress and maybe even going backwards? Can I trust that He will see me through all the blind alleys, dead ends, false starts, disappointments, and inevitable heartbreaks?
Yes. I can. I do. God, I believe that you are leading me still, even as I stumble and wonder if I’ve lost my way. You are the God who leads lost sheep home, and you are faithful even when I am not.
Eyes up, straight ahead. No time to look back.