A few months ago, I lent my car to some visiting friends, and they went for a drive to Stinson Beach. They took a roundabout way out there, but their return took them up over Mt Tam in the fog. That was the first time those Florida girls had ever driven any kind of elevation, any kind of winding road, and the first time they’d ever driven “through a cloud,” with dubious visibility.
At one point, they thought they were headed the wrong way and affirmed that with the faith that I would have warned them about “the death road”, as they were calling it. They were going the wrong way, but that faith was misplaced. I didn’t even think to warn them. I drive that road all the time–sun or fog–and I took it for granted when I tossed them the keys. I had faith they’d be fine.
They were white-knuckled, convinced that one missed curve would send them over the edge. The terror of the Tamalpais drive eclipsed a full day’s worth of lovely hiking. That drive back made them feel like they had barely survived the day. I felt sad their return home was more memorable and eventful than the original adventure.
But they were right about two things:
For those of us in Christ, the return Home is the Adventure. We spend our time on this earth finding our way back to the place we were truly, eternally made for.
And The Road back is treacherous. It is steep, winding, foggy, and unfamiliar. It should be travelled with fear and trembling. Anyone could go over the edge in those conditions.
Last week, I almost went over the edge, myself.
The road I’m on is steep, winding, unfamiliar, and everything ahead is shrouded in thick fog. I can’t see a thing. I have no idea what’s next.
In desperation, I went to pull over and found no shoulder between me and the Edge. I looked over and saw the 3600 mile drop to Florida. I spent the next several days convinced that’s where I was headed.
You see, I was offered the chance in a very real way to have my old life back, and I decided to take it. I wanted to go back to a place where I knew the land, where I felt I could predict the turns in the road.
Florida is flat. The only thing on the road there that might catch a traveller by surprise is the occasional toll booth. How the Road looks right then is how the road will look in 50 miles, in 100 miles. Pounded by the sun, lined by palm trees, strip malls, and swamp growth, it was ever the same. Back when I traveled that road every day, I found all that certainty ugly and oppressive.
Now I was willing to give anything–everything–for it.
So I said “Yes,” unsure if it was really God I was answering. This was the only reasonable thing to do from here. I’m 32 years old. I have to start taking care of myself. I convinced myself the work in Florida was noble, and I wouldn’t have to disappoint my family and some dear friends if I went.
My time here must be done; I must have turned somewhere on to the wrong road.
Someone would have warned me if the Road was going to be this dangerous.
This must be what I have to do.
On Sunday, I took all this to church.
Nothing, NOTHING in me wanted to leave. Figuring it was just my struggle to let go and move on, I prayed I’d have the courage to do that. I prayed for forgiveness that I selfishly wanted something other than what God wanted for me. I prayed for the strength to surrender to His will. I chastised myself for not trusting God enough about life in Florida.
I went on like this for nearly a week,
.but I had no peace
I couldn’t sleep, and facing some powerful asthma difficulties, I couldn’t breathe.
Tears streaming, I confessed. I told my pastor what I believed God was asking me to do, holding out my heart of resistance. It was so loud, I didn’t know how to hear from the Father. I asked the the Elders to pray for me. In my church family, this is how it works. We make big decisions in community, because we believe God speaks through that. We trust that God has given this set of men a special responsibility to care for His people, and so we live in mutual submission to one another.
On Monday, 630am, the elders came.
I made a big pot of coffee and pulled out 5 mugs.
I told them everything that was sending me to Florida. We talked through them all the reasons I didn’t want to go. I braced myself to hear some hard words about my defiant heart.
Instead, they called attention to my fervent prayer this whole year: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be as You say.” They pointed out that was not the mark of sinful disobedience.
They also pointed out that either choice required the deepest faith in God’s provision: To go would mean work that I love, but trusting God would provide the church family and contentment I had never found there. To stay would be leaning in to my community and love for where I live, but very practically trusting God would provide meaningful work and a place to live.
I explained that when I moved to California, the final word I needed came from a wise and precious friend: “I want you to leave the very least in all the world, but even I think you should go.” With that final word, a head full of fear and a heart full of clarity, I leapt.
I turned to the elders who said, “We love you and support whatever you decide and we’ll bless you, but none of us feels it is time for you to go. We cannot give you a green light. We do not believe this is what God has for you.”
Later that day, I tremulously declined the offer to return to my old life.
On Tuesday, still in the Wilderness, I prayed. I asked for Jesus to reveal himself in this mess of fear and uncertainty.
I saw him, too, sitting in the desert.
He, too, was told to “turn these stones into bread.” “Provide for yourself. Take the job; nothing else is coming. No one else will take care of you. You and you alone have to secure your provision and your future.”
He, too, was told to throw himself down. That way, people would be impressed by Him. People would approve of Him. He would be as glorious as He said He was, and He wouldn’t be letting anyone down.
He met me in the place where I didn’t want to disappoint my friends and family.
Finally, He too, was told He could be great–that He could have power over something, that He could make a difference.
That day, I see what the elders saw: That the fear that I wouldn’t find another job, the fear that I would disappoint people whom I loved who were generous with me and believed in me, that the incentive to go where I would have influence and the chance to work as I wanted, was not the voice of God.
And I almost listened to it. That voice–that other voice, almost got the better of me.
Today, where does that leave me?
I am still without another job, which will leave me without a place to live in two months’ time. I will still have to say Goodbye to some people who have been my major support and encouragement here.
This is dark and scary stuff, folks. These are tough days, and I am really struggling.
Jesus went into the desert armed with the truth that He was the Beloved.
Today, I’m honest:
It’s not so easy to be the Beloved.
But that’s what I am.
And I’m still on this Road.
Today, I visited some new friends at another part of my church family. I asked them to pray for me, so that I can see His Love and what He is doing.
They prayed for the fear to be broken and the panic to subside. As far as answers, they, too, were at a loss, but they could see one thing:
In all of this, The Father is giving His daughter her story.
And I’ll ever proclaim that to His glory.
This is beautifully written. Very moving.