The nature of spiritual growth is such that you have to learn things again and again that you thought you already knew.
For example: "You have to trust God."
Amen! Yes, of course!
Or if I'm being honest: Duh.
I've been hearing that since life got real, since I was confused and self conscious in Jr. High, since I was in High School, since I was in college, since I graduated, since I decided to move to Puerto Rico. That last one, especially.
I remember speaking at our service retreat shortly after I moved here last year, about finally trusting God with three things when I decided to come here: Relationships, finances, and my career. And I believed it and I thought I understood it because I had been hearing it for so long and by now it had just become common sense. Leaving life behind was a leap of faith - I was abandoning any hopes of establishing a career path in my 20s, or erasing any of that big dark cloud of debt that (still) hangs over me and my wallet, or keeping up with others who were getting married and establishing families. Also, I was leaving my immediate family again. Double-whammy on the relationships.
I said to God, "You're putting my life on hold, and I'm okay with that. Sure I'll go." I knew he'd provide. I knew that if I had no money, there would be food. I knew that if ever I felt unqualified or unprepared, things would be okay. For the most part, yes, I trusted him.
But trusting God is no temporary thing.
"...You're putting my life on hold."
No. That is not how this works. No matter how big or crazy or different or life-altering your decision might be, it doesn't work that way. Obedience and trust to God are not temporary things. You don't put your life on hold.
You abandon it.
And so every time I sit here and plan my next move, and consider what job offers might come up, and daydream about Sunday football with my family, and start to silently spend the imaginary money I'd make at my imaginary job, and wonder why I'm not on the normal schedule as I see my friends get married,it shows that I am still missing something, that there is some little or big piece that my sinful little heart does not yet believe God can handle.
God has not brought me here to be normal. Normal was gone a long time ago. Stop expecting normal. If you want normal, you might as well go home now.
I read a verse a few years ago that shook me. I thought I understood it then but apparently I didn't because I'm still discovering it, and I'm still working on it.
Psalm 71:18: Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, until I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.
That "until" in there, it's significant, it's heavy, it's bold, it's scary.
Do not forsake me
I declare your power
I've done your work.
Then, I guess... do whatever you want with me. If I'm reading the Psalm correctly, forsaking is on the table. You don't owe me anything. Totally up to you.
...And how could anyone ever believe the Creator of the universe owes them anything? He has no debts. We're the ones with debts.
In the very least, David's asking God not to let him get feeble and old and gray and useless until he's totally spent (broken, spilled out) doing God's work.
In recent weeks, I've spent a lot of time deliberating my future, wondering how long I'll stay here, how long I'll stay in camp ministry, or in ministry in general. If you'd have asked me a few months ago where I thought I was going to be in a year, I'd have told you I'll probably be in Grand Rapids working, paying off debt, back with my family and friends and life will be...
But enough people have pushed me to question that, some on purpose, and some not. And I think there are enough people praying for me that God must be having mercy on my soul and teaching me, again, those things that I probably should have known by now, that no one could ever have told me, in ways no one else could have taught me.
And so now I don't know where I'll be in a year. But I believe that I am nearer than ever to genuinely trusting God. I picture myself with my face hidden, covering my eyes, having long held stubbornly to my own neat ambitions and plans, holding one hand aloft offering the last of them to God, the fingers one by one losing grip on them as he gently takes them, takes my future, and in doing so allows me to truly live as he has planned all along.
I haven't left life behind. Relationships, careers, finances... I've begun to see that being single has allowed me to be free. I thought I abandoned establishing a career path but it's more accurate to say I've started one. I have known very little hunger or need since I've come here, and that cloud of debt is shrinking ever-so-slowly.
While accepting this goes a long way to calm my present anxieties, the greater comfort comes in the realization that God is calling me to greater trust and deeper faith.