“Partnering with Jesus to advance his kingdom is often difficult and unpleasant, but there are some unexpected upsides. It is never boring.” – Chris Travis, Insignificant
As is often the case when embarking into an unknown area, we venture out on highways that we have not yet traveled. We find ourselves leaning forward as we wonder what will be around the next bend. The anticipation of a new landscape, a breathtaking view, the wonders of majestic mountains coupled with patchwork quilts of farmland never grows old. Every journey contains a choice – will I eagerly look to what is coming, or dread the unknown?
A few weeks ago, we were able to venture out of the city on a long weekend to visit Quilotoa, a crater lake located high in the Andes Mountains. As is our custom, we grabbed a mattress and a blanket, threw the kids in the back (once we were outside city limits), and proceeded on our adventure. We traveled a bit and then veered off the main highway to the winding road which would take us deep into the mountains. Once we found a quiet little pullout, we unpacked our picnic lunch and enjoyed the solitude of rolling hills and puffy clouds.
We are always amazed at these spaces and God’s creative handiwork. We continued to wind around bend after bend, switchback after switchback, particularly thankful that the truck continues to be a faithful and trustworthy companion on our journeys. Of course, we consider how awful it would be to have a breakdown so far from a main road, yet remain grateful for the many miles we have traveled together without significant incident. As we continue on our way, we eventually happen past a much needed gas station, and, while standing at our pump out in the middle of rural Ecuador, greet a gentleman on a motorcycle who arrived the previous night from Kansas City. He has been in country less than twelve hours and, with his limited Spanish, is making his way to the coast, stopping at the crater along the way. Among other things, we discuss with him the beauty of the surroundings and the amazing upkeep of the road we have been on. It has been lined with flowers in the town, and seemed somewhat new. We wish him well and pull out ahead of him, eager to continue our journey but marveling at the coincidence of meeting a lone English speaking tourist at a random gas stop in the middle of the mountains of Ecuador.
As the kilometers tick away, I’m not sure why we continue to be surprised when we meet unexpected obstacles, but our North American roots run deep – we often expect the way something is done in the US of A to be the same regardless of where we are. In this case, our previous musings on the newness of the road bounces up against our unexpected reality that maybe, just maybe, they hadn’t quite finished the project. We must have somehow missed the “construction ahead” signs (there weren’t any) and we had suddenly ventured into some serious change of roadbed.
No flag men, no pilot car, no detour signs; the inconveniences we dread seeing in the States when we are in a hurry to arrive at our destination were nowhere to be found, and, in actuality, nonexistent.
Imagine the immediate conversation in the car: “Which lane are we supposed to take?”
“Are we even on the right road?”
“Truck ahead! Can you get around him?”
“We’ve come this far…there is no way we can change our investment of time and energy at this point!”
After all is said and done and I reflect on this trip from the safety and comfort of my living room chair, I can’t help but notice the parallels of our life journey right now. We are currently at the crossroads of some major decisions. Our time here at Alliance Academy International is drawing to a close, and we have been working through the immense emotions and changes that come with a decision such as this. Many different roads stretch out before us – great choices and opportunities – but the fearful part of me is concerned we will choose the wrong one. In some ways, certain actions can be interpreted as barriers and discernment is needed to determine if it is simply a detour, a roadblock, or a closed road. Many people have valid opinions and insight and we must continue to weed through godly counsel as well as personal preferences. This road is bumpy, winding, and we can’t really see very far in front of us at this point. To be completely forthright, there are many days where I question everything about what we are doing and where we are going. Unfortunately, working through all of these thoughts means a whole lot of uncomfortable introspection and a spotlight on my own shortcomings.
once in a while, occasionally, sometimes, frequently I want to do things my own way, with my own best interests in mind. I want to pick my path, what is best for me. I want to be selfish and choose myself first. I want to not feel bad about the way I treat my husband, or how I speak in anger or frustration towards my kids. Keeping the best interests of myself in the forefront means I have the right to hang on to past hurts because it is justified to feel this way. Sure, I may cast my cares down at the feet of the Lord, but pride makes me pick them back up, time and time again. And, when choices are on an even bigger scale, involving the future and where we will live next, where we will serve in our next phase of life, certainly I have the right to pick and choose based on how I feel and what I will get out of it, right?
In the minds of the world, everything I wrote in the paragraph above would not only be accepted, but perhaps even honored. It’s understood that I should “get mine”! But, I have learned over the recent years that my way, although it is self-serving and may sound or feel satisfying in the short-term, is by no means the best way.
Thank the Lord that He has drawn me to himself and called me to be His own! He chose me, and, each and every day, my choice, despite how much I fail or fall short, is to follow Christ, no matter what.
I don’t have to do anything because he has done it all, through his sacrifice for me. But, my response, due to my thankfulness for this gift, is to serve him with all that I have and all that I am. I strive to become more and more like him every day – I want to be more Christ-like today than I was yesterday. Granted, it is definitely not easy and I fail miserably all the time (see paragraph about selfish tendencies listed above!) but, blessedly, I am forgiven for my shortcomings, so I get up and try to be obedient in letting him lead my life again and again.
The beauty of all this (there’s actually a lot but I’m picking this one today…) is that His plan for me is promised to be SOOOOO much better than my plan for me.
It is promised in John 10:10 and I can claim and trust that promise for my life!
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (ESV)
Or, if you read it in the NLT version, it shows how it is beyond what I can comprehend…
A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
This life of a Christian is never boring, and it is full of adventure when Jesus IS the pilot car. I am immensely thankful that I don’t have to venture out alone as we have the gift of the Holy Spirit leading us along. We know by seeking Him and aligning our hearts with his, he will auto-correct us if we are veering off course. By immersing ourselves in his Word while strengthening our relationship through prayer and communication with Him, we can be assured that we are traveling His road, in His time, for His glory. He alone can provide the assurance in each step, each decision, because we trust in his leading, even if we are unclear where it is taking us at any given moment.
Despite the twists and turns and actual obstacles in the road (once again, our truck proved herself to be true as she cleared water pouring over the road and easily bounced over boulders), we eventually reached Quilotoa and were immensely rewarded by the wonder and beauty of God’s creation. Surrounded by snow capped mountains, the lake reflected the ever-changing hues of the sky. The journey was well worth it due to the destination. In this case, we were able to see the end product of our journey in just a matter of hours.
Thankfully, as Christians, we also know the ultimate destination at the end of our time here on earth. We have the assurance of heaven due to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection for each and every one of us. So, we trust in Him to continue to guide us as we follow wherever he leads.
Things are changing for us…including our location and calling. The new chapter is becoming more clear each and every day. Today, we choose joy in the opportunities coming into focus and continue to experience a peace beyond all understanding as we travel the unknown road into tomorrow.
This is what the Lord says – Your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.” Isaiah 48:17-18 (NLT)
Thankful to be a small part of this amazing adventure ~
PS. As I have been writing this over the past days, a news story was developing about a tragic accident along the very road we had traveled a few weeks prior. The excessive rains we have experienced lately were a key factor. Once again, we are overwhelmed with thankfulness for our safety and protection in this country, and our hearts are heavy for those who are victims of this sad event. May we ever be mindful of how fleeting life is, and how the urgency to share Christ with others should be our first thought and action in whatever our circumstance.