My deepest friendships are ones of grace – ones of acceptance. Yes, they are friendships with other sinful people, but those deep, deep friendships are almost always relationships in which I know I am loved no matter what.
Enter an incredibly difficult decision – a decision in which, at times, I have felt like I was choosing abandonment – a decision through which I have felt like I was slamming a door on the promise of living life together face to face. A decision that has seemed impossible to make.
There is fear. Fear of hurting, fear of severing, fear of somehow communicating that I don’t want to live life side by side – something that could not be farther from the truth.
But, do you know what I”m forgetting when I am walking in fear? I’m forgetting that these deep and amazing relationships are beautiful for one reason – they remind me of my Savior. They are filled with grace – undeserved love and acceptance -and just like the gospel of Christ, when doubt and worry prevail and threaten to paralyze, that very same doubt and fear reveals the truth that my heart isn’t operating in full awareness of the undeserved, unconditional gospel of grace. That I’m forgetting, altering and operating based on a faulty view of my Father or, in this case, my friends.
You see, these friendships are sweet exactly because they reflect, even if not perfectly, the grace and freedom of the gospel and when I worry about what my dear friends will say when I tell them that we feel God calling us back to PNG long term – when doubt and worry creep in – that I’m not walking in the freedom afforded by the imperfect yet amazing grace and love of the very friends which reflect the perfect love of the Author of the gospel of grace.
I have to trust that these dear friends will understand that this was simultaneously the easiest and most difficult decision we’ve ever made and that it was not made lightly. We have had it out with God. We have prayed and fought and debated. We have presented our worries, we have wrestled with our doubts, we have cried out in the moments when our desire has not matched our calling. Why us? Why call us? Why move us? Why couldn’t this be short term? Why not just two years? Why can’t we just go back and move on? Why can’t someone else go?
We have cried out and we have found no acceptable argument complete enough to combat this call. God has made it clear to us that He wants us back and, He has given us inexplicable peace and joy at the prospect. He has made it clear to us that our skills can be used here for His kingdom and that, while they can be used in Canada as well, we understand that there are fewer who will be willing to move to PNG to serve and so, we were confronted, once again with the question, ‘Why not us?’
We have found no acceptable rebuttal except the arguments founded in our discomfort and fear. The discomfort of living a life far away from friends, family and conveniences and the fear of leaving these precious relationships in the hands of our loving Father and trusting that He will not only maintain but somehow strengthen and bolster these relationships despite the distance. The fear that, when we walk forward in faith, that He won’t be faithful to give us what we need and even some of what we desire. The fear that we will have to let go of people in order to say yes to His call and the fear that we do not have enough faith to hold our loved ones loosely as we walk forward in faith.
And, strangely enough, despite all of these fears and doubts, in the deciding, we have felt peace. Through our wrestling, our debating, our worrying and our doubt, God has changed our hearts. He has given us glimpses of His purpose amidst this major life change. He has given us joy in ministry even when discouragements and exhaustion take over. He has made it so incredibly clear that He has prepared us for this ministry, He has given us a deep love for the youth here and He has reassured us that He will provide for every need going forward. He has filled us with strength and excitement for serving youth and He has encouraged our hearts even on the toughest days. For, when we are weak, He is strong and we have felt His strength alone giving us the momentum we need to serve in a place where spiritual attack is palpable so it stands to reason that He can give us the strength to say yes despite the discomforts and despite our fear.
He has quieted our fears with the certainty that, when God calls, there is no other suitable option than to answer with “Yes.” “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” A.W Tozer
So, with excited and heavy hearts, we are simultaneously grieving and celebrating – every ounce of celebration and excitement for this journey a testament to God’s power to change hearts and every bit of grief a testament to our deep, deep love for you.
We are saying yes to God’s call and yes to the reality of living a transitional life where our hearts will inevitably fluctuate between grief and excitement often and, as we do that, we are realizing that, though our emotions may fluctuate, the one thing that has been constant and will remain constant throughout this journey has been grace. God’s grace to prepare us for this journey. God’s grace to provide for this journey. God’s grace to continue this journey of obedience and God’s grace to give us amazing friends and family who will, no doubt, understand our decision with God-given peace.
Thank you for loving us well. Thank you for supporting us in the past and in the present. Thank you for knowing our hearts and for loving us deeply. May you know the depth of our love for you that has truly made saying ‘yes’ to God’s call a bittersweet decision.
Praying grace and peace over you as we write.
Anita & Jon