Called To Stay11
Five years ago, I started a new job. The company had wowed me during my interviews on campus with modern architecture and interior design like I had never seen in the workplace. They showed me they wanted me by placing custom-made labels on water bottles and letterheads with my name during the interview. They had donuts and pastries and a procession of all 150 employees to meet me and greet me on my first day. This place really wanted me. I was thankful and felt truly honored by all of the kind gestures. However, I also recall a conversation I had during my first week with a new co-worker:
“Pretty nice here, huh?” he asked with a smile. “Yeah, it’s really awesome,” I responded, “I’ve never been anywhere that treated me this way.” Then the co-worker said, “Yeah, this place really sucks you in. It will be five years before you know it!” I was immediately triggered. “Yeah right! There’s no way that will happen to me! I’m here one year, two tops, and then I’m gone.” He smiled again and pushed back, “That’s what everyone says. Just wait and see.” I remember what I said next like it was thirty seconds ago - probably because I’m still afraid he will come and collect. “Dude, if I’m still here two years from today, you can walk straight up to me and punch me in the face as hard as you can! I’m not going to be here.”
That conversation happened five years ago last October. I look back and laugh, but the thing is I really believed what I was saying. It was only a year prior to the co-worker conversation that I was on my knees in my living room surrendering my life to the God of the universe pledging to go wherever he was leading me as a career missionary. I was dating my now-wife at the time who had also surrendered to the call to go. We were getting our finances in order to get married and get my student debt under control enough to go to seminary, and then it was off to the mission field. We were scared, but convinced that Oklahoma City was a quick and fast stop on the rapid and issue-free road to the mission field.
Student loans. Car wreck. Death. Death. Home ownership. Baby. Surgery. Cancer. Heart attack.
God had other plans for us, and each one of the unexpected changes to our plans was a beautiful display of his grace and mercy towards us. It didn’t feel like that was the case in the moment, though. Don’t get me wrong, there have been countless nights throughout our journey where we have cried out and asked, “Why?”, but on this side of each of our trials, it is so easy to see he was present in it all. He is faithful. Student loans have brought financial wisdom and taught us to live on little. The car wreck was a good lesson on “want vs. need.” We are so thankful we were near to grieve with and love on our family in times of loss. Buying a home has been very difficult and has taught us so much about stewardship. Having a child has showed us how selfish we are and has taught us sensitivity, responsibility, and patience. The most recent journey we have been on has been the ill health of our family. Through it all God has taught us to enjoy every moment and to hold all that we have loosely because it all belongs to him. I cannot imagine the pain and difficulty we’d have faced if things had worked out the way we planned. Truth be told, we probably wouldn’t have made it. We most likely would have come home broken, feeling like failures, and unequipped to handle the road we find ourselves on.
His faithfulness isn’t always pretty; I absolutely believe that. I also believe, however, that his faithfulness is exactly what it needs to be. He is present and he is near. We cling to his promises in Jeremiah 29, not that we might prosper in this life, but that he is with us on the journey and also in the suffering (vv. 5-7), that he won’t leave us ultimately abandoned, and that he will not destroy us (v.11).