It was almost a decade ago when God began the work in our hearts that would lead to our leaving everything we know behind, and moving to a foreign country on the other side of the world.
Just so you know, this was not a lifelong dream of mine. I was quite content where I was. I had all the support network a girl could ask for, we had just bought our dream home, and I was in the midst of planning and decorating. We were involved in a growing and thriving ministry in a city that we loved, and amongst a people we understood and loved deeply. On top of that, we had a 2 year old daughter, and uprooting our lives to plant somewhere else was not on our bucket list.
But, God had other plans.
It was through a missionary presentation at our church that God got hold of mine, and my husbands heart individually. His call on our lives to go became unequivocal. I say became, because it was a process for me. In these first stages of His calling, I resisted. I broke. I cried, a lot. We understood the risks, and the challenges that would come with being a christian worker in a muslim country. It was a frightening prospect, and we had a young child to consider.
My husband wisely planned a survey trip for us to go to the city we were praying through. While there, I was shocked in a number of ways. I cried, and I begged God to close the door. I did not want to go to this country… and I had a long list of reasons why.
Some of those reasons were that we would leave a thriving ministry that we loved, and that loved us. We would lose our newly purchased home of my dreams in an exploding market. We would leave our families, and our children would not grow up knowing their grandparents and other extended family. It would be a long road ahead of raising support, and learning language and culture. The people would not want us or embrace us, in fact they would most likely hate us. On top of these, it could be very dangerous and we had a child to consider.
When we returned home from the trip, I was so relieved. I was surprised however, when my heart could not rest. It could not embrace things as they once were. The excitement about our new home was challenged with a deep feeling of guilt and sorrow. That was not there before, and I resented it.
Crying out to God, I asked Him to please close the door to go overseas. I reasoned that if God closed that door, I could happily remain at home in obedience to Him. That horrible feeling of guilt and sorrow would leave, and we could carry on life as we had before. After all, I had just landed my dream. I had prayed for this home, and I was ecstatic to have it. I had plans, big plans. They did not include losing these dreams and most of the other things I held dear.
God did not leave me alone. He brought verses to my mind that challenged my heart. Such as Mark 10:21-22. Jesus personally called this man to sell all that he had, take up the cross, and follow Him. However, the man went away sad, filled with sorrow because he had many possessions. Like me, this man also had his own dream, which he was not willing to forfeit for treasures he could not see.
For the first time, I identified with this man. Until this time, I had stood on the other side. The side of condemnation. How could anyone walk away from Christ choosing rather to enjoy his treasures for a season than to follow Him?
Life is tricky that way, and we are easily deceived. But, the word of God is powerful, able to discern even the thoughts and intents of the heart. The pleasures of this world had deceived me, and my own desires and dreams were sitting upon the throne of my heart. I didn’t see it, but The Word revealed it. It unveiled my heart.
A very short time after this encounter, my 2 year old daughter came to me with a book she would have me read to her. It just happened to be the book of Jonah. I did read it to her, and by the end I was crying. I was crying for 2 reasons. My faith had been so small, and I could now see the similarities between Jonah’s heart and mine, and I did not like that. I always saw Jonah as selfish, rebellious, and even foolish. Ugly parallel, indeed!
Second, I was crying because God didn’t close that door, He just propped it open, and illuminated an arrow in that direction. I knew what God wanted us to do, and my heart was in the painful process of surrender.
I consciously understood at that moment that God was closing a chapter in our lives, and He was opening a new one. A new chapter, and so many unknowns. It was a time to say goodbye to more than I realized, and it was a time to embrace change. I didn’t know what lay ahead, which is always a gift of grace.
It was time to grow in faith, step by tiny step.
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