2 years ago when we started feeling the stirrings towards missions, we started feeling tentative about the things in our lives. Tentative about the goals we were setting for ourselves, the priorities we were focusing on, the identities we were entrenched in.
We started feeling tentative about some things and more certain of others. More certain of God’s word. More certain of His kingdom. More certain that we didn’t want to spend our whole lives living good, comfortable lives and somehow miss what Jesus spent pages and pages of the Bible communicating to His followers. We didn’t want to miss the gospel and our invitation to be a part of sharing that good news with those around us.
So we moved forward tentatively and moment after moment, service opportunity after service opportunity, God-ordained and orchestrated ministry after ministry we arrived at International missions to Papua New Guinea.
We arrived with a heart for serving youth and a willingness to offer our skills in an area of the world that is desperate for teachers and mentors who also happen to love Jesus.
We arrived, we researched, we applied and connected and God used those tentative feelings, pointing us toward a path for our family we had not previously considered, to launch us from a world of predictable comfort into a world where flexibility is paramount. A world where every single decision, every single timeline and every single otherwise assumed foregone conclusion is all subject to that very same word – tentative.
Over the course of the past 14 months, since our initial application to Wycliffe, this word, tentative, has surfaced again and again and, it wasn’t until a conversation with dear, dear friends, that it’s significance became clear.
You see, our hearts are to serve God. Our hearts have been moved, over the past 2 years, to become Christ followers and not just believers and this upcoming move is the current manifestation of that desire – a calling we have felt fall into place as God has made it clear why we are the way we are and how His perfect design (manifested in our imperfect selves) can be used to direct glory back to Himself.
Why we seem to enjoy hanging out with youth, even after days spent teaching teenagers. Why we have both felt called to build into the lives of youth, not just academically, but spiritually. Why we have felt the desire to serve as a family, alongside our kids. Why my, once more introverted and shy self, no longer needs copious amounts of down time. Why Jon has always had endless supplies of energy for relationships and friendships. Why our kids have turned out to be so social. Why we openly share the ups and downs of our marriage. Why our perceptions have been challenged and our paradigms shifted. Why we are this particular way.
We have felt sure about our calling. We have moved forward with excitement but we have also felt knocked down more than once. We have experienced set-backs, periods of tiredness, confusion, disappointment and even doubt. As Ann Voskamp put it in one of her blog posts, almost daily, we have felt like our whole life is up in the air and it has felt strange, tense and more tentative than comfortable.
Every single thing that drew us to our current calling also draws us to our knees in frustration, and eventually prayer, as we process reality as we know it. Recently we were visiting one of our former home churches, a church dear to our hearts, and the pastor was speaking about how we are more than conquerers through Christ. In his sermon, he referred to our desire for control. Our tendency to micro manage God’s plan for our lives and to only spend significant time in prayer once all other avenues and options, over which we feel we have control, have been exhausted.
Those words resonated. Those words convicted. Those words sent me back to my knees. Back to the God who called us to Papua New Guinea. The God who called us to serve MK’s. The God who made us the way we are and who knows what He’s doing. The God who is still God when we experience setbacks, periods of tiredness, disappointments and doubts. The God who loves tentative because it means we have to rely on Him. The God who asks us to give Him our burdens (Ps 55:22). The God who tells us that His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24). The God who begs us not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34) but to ‘leave the future to him, and mind the present.’ (George MacDonald).
The God who openly promises that there will be struggles and difficulties but that our ‘up in the air’ lives can be beautiful. Our ‘tentative’ living can be peaceful, joyful and abundant. In fact, it is the only kind of living that can bring us joy. Even if every part of our being wants to control the outcomes because we fear the unknown, God is asking us, instead, to embrace the unknown because we know the One who is God over all of it and because we believe that these trials challenge our faith and that having our faith increased is of singular importance and eternal value.
Our faith, not our circumstance, is what brings us joy and those struggles, those trials and those disappointments, rip us from our controlled, comfortable circumstances, draw us to our knees and propel us forward toward the incredible good God has called us to. The good that we cannot fathom, cannot control and cannot orchestrate on our own.
God knows this. God sees us struggle and strive to control and so He calls us. Calls us back to Himself where we can rest, where we can be renewed, where we can sit in peace with Him, walk in peace with Him and watch Him work out His beautiful plan amidst the circumstances that seem incongruent with our good. The circumstances that seem to be bringing our demise but are actually just bringing our dependence. Bringing us into a life where tentative is celebrated because our plans are paused and room is made for God’s better plans to be revealed.
Why has this been on my heart and why am I sharing? One of our biggest changes throughout this process of faith has been our timeline. Originally scheduled to leave at the end of August, arriving in Madang on Sept 4th, our new departure date is now somewhere around the 11th-16th of July. Originally thinking we would have an entire summer (minus a few weeks of training in Canada), we were called to embrace the tentative and let go of our idea of ‘best’ and our idea of timeline.
We continued to read the word and mere hours after receiving the news of a date change that felt all consuming, I happened to be sitting in a hallway, waiting to present to a potential partnering church about God’s call on our lives. (funny, and likely not a coincidence, that these moments of doubt and difficulty so often coincide with opportunities to speak about God’s call.) As I sat there somewhat nervous about the presentation, I pulled out my bible and flipped to James – a book currently being studied in a women’s bible study I”m a part of. I read through chapter 2 and 3, while I waited, and was stopped in my tracks at James 4:13.
13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.
As we wrestled with the news and a required decision on our part over the coming weeks, we felt as though God was saying, over and over – “Do you trust me?” Do you trust that the One who called you is in control. Do you believe enough to follow and to fix your eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18)? Will you pray first, not last? Will you resist the urge to do and embrace the call to be still and, in that stillness find strength? Will you show, with your actions, that the endurance produced by set-backs, tiredness, confusion, disappointments and doubts – the endurance that produces character and faith – is of far deeper significance than the trials themselves and, as such, rejoice in those trials?
Ann Voskamp brings so many beautiful truths to light in her words and, a recent post of hers on control, resonated with me.
“How often do we forfeit possibility with God in favour of maintaining control? If there’s one thing life keeps teaching me, it’s that I can’t actually control the journey despite my best attempts. God in His goodness continues to show that if I’ll just quit trying so hard to control it all, He can take me places I’ve never even dared to imagine.”
So, we’re going. 6 weeks earlier, in 127 days and a mere 11-14 days after Jon finishes work and we’re trusting. Trusting that the God who called us is faithful. That the God who called us is excited to help us develop endurance. That the God who called us can accomplish it all – the finances, the plane tickets, the packing, the details, the goodbyes, the to do’s and all the daily life in between and that He can somehow change and use us in the process. We know He can. We know He is faithful and we know we will be ok because the God who celebrates the tentative, with eyes that see its purpose for our good, is with us.
Here it goes…