One of my favorite birthday gifts this year was a map. Remember the old maps that you could get at gas stations? The ones that took up the whole front seat when you opened them and pretty much the rest of your trip to get them folded back? Yeah, it’s not that kind of map–it’s way cooler than a 1970’s version:
A scratch-off map, it’s not only way better than the 70’s version, it speaks volumes about my life and travels. Instead of showing me the direction I need to go, it paints a picture of where I’ve been.
As a travel consultant in the 1970’s to early 80’s I could only dream of traveling the world. Planning trips for others and living out those dreams by osmosis, I loved helping them get to their destination and then return to tell of their adventures. I dared not imagine that I would be the one to travel farther than an automobile could take me.
I don’t use those two words flippantly. Those two simple words convey what I feel: “All because of God’s grace.”
When I married, moving to Texas sight-unseen was a big deal. I had barely been out of my home state of Illinois, much less lived so far away from everything familiar. Living on a meager income in a new place seemed to be the grandest adventure this young bride would ever take. Not seeing or even beginning to understand what God was doing, my husband and I dove into a life of full-time ministry.
My husband had been a pastor for almost ten years when the opportunity came. Our church was planning to take a team on a mission trip to Poland to teach an English as a Second Language school, and my husband would preach an “English Bible Lecture” for the students and their families.
I was thrilled for them, but had not even considered going with him. I had four young children and lived far away from any relatives who might be able to care for them. Finances were tight and though our church would pay for their pastor to go, it would be a great sacrifice for us to pay my way.
“The result of humility is fear of the Lord, along with wealth, honor, and life.” Proverbs 22:4
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go–it was purely a modest admission that I couldn’t see how I could go. I remember it clearly. It was a Sunday night and a young woman from Poland shared her testimony. It was not a plea for more people to come–it was just her story of how different her life was since she made the decision to follow Christ–and to be obedient to Him–wherever He might lead. Hearing her story, I prayed simply, “Lord, I am willing to go. I just don’t know how–or even why you would want me to go, but I am willing.”
The moment I prayed that prayer, I knew I was supposed to go.
“Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
To my husband’s surprise, I shared with him what had happened in my heart and mind, and he supported me in my decision. He jokingly said, “I guess we’ll have to sell the car or a kid, but we will make it work!” And the insecurity set in. It was far too easy to question myself and to think that I had little to contribute. Leaving my children was the hardest thing I think I had ever been asked to do. Believing Him to provide for them and protect them while I was so far away was a new level of trust for me.
Guess what? He provided every penny. He provided for our children. Read Proverbs 22:4 again. When we, in humility, fear the Lord–choose to trust His sovereign plan, we are blessed–it is His wealth–His honor–His life, not ours. He provided for us in every step of that journey–one that would change our heart and our perspective forever. One that would change how we viewed missions and the world,
and one that proved He is faithful.
Proverbs 22 is a sweet reminder for me; remembering the many times in the past that God’s Word has proven true–but also proved best. Sometimes bittersweet, those memories of when God did big things in my heart and life make me want more. Not just more travels, but more of HIM. Looking back at His faithfulness, I can’t help but desire another experience like that.
Truth is, you don’t have to travel across the world–you just have to get on your knees. Every day is a fresh opportunity to see God at work. Facing “normal” days sometimes takes just as much courage–or confidence–as being willing to travel half-way around the world.
“Listen closely, pay attention to the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge. For it is pleasing if you keep them within you and if they are constantly on your lips. I have instructed you today–even you–so that your confidence may be in the Lord.” Proverbs 22:17-19