Like Bilbo and his companions on the eve of the battle of the stone giants, the view is rather breathtaking from up here. Balancing ourselves on the precipice of faith, pressing into The Rock at our back without any idea what lays around the next bend; but we CAN see where we have been. And while we don't know the lessons yet to be learned, we see clearly the lessons we have been taught thus far, and their impact is certain. That we know, because they have been tested.
When God called Abraham to Mount Moriah to sacrifice Isaac on a wilderness altar... what was that? It wasn't a test for Abraham to prove his faith to God. God already knew what the outcome would be. God was sure of Abraham. And yet it was a test of sorts, for sure. A test that ultimately must have proved more to Abraham than it did to God. I imagine him standing there after the fact, rather surprised at the proof of how deep and sure and true his faith and trust in the goodness and promises and power of God really were. I feel like in some small way I can relate to that feeling of surprise in myself. In us. In "the proof is in the pudding moment of testing" of our actual position in faith and trust and peace and surrender.
A few weeks ago we received an unexpected email from OM Italy. In short it was saying that due to many upcoming changes that will be taking place within the organization they will be unable to continue moving forward with our application at this time. Considering how far we are into this process, you would have thought that would have been like the sky folding in on us. But as I shared with those who are subscribed to our prayer updates, we didn't even bat an eye. It was the most remarkable thing. We read it, and both responded in the same manner. "Huh." Not a questioning "huh"... not a shocked "huh" just a completely matter of fact.... "huh."
It was like God was saying, "Do you trust me even if the bottom falls out of your best laid plans?" He knows the answer. But did we? I remember back at the start of this journey, when we were willing to give up everything and leave for Zambia with eight suitcases and the panic I had in my heart. God... Are you asking us to do that without any knowledge of where you are taking us or what you are preparing us for? Because God, if you are, that is a huge leap and a big chasm to face and I'm not sure I'm ready. And I wasn't. But five months later, five months of baby step lessons in surrender and trust... well, apparently a lot has changed. Because yes. We trust Him. Wholeheartedly, and even if we have to walk into this blindfolded we know whose leading us by the hand and we'll step off the dock because we know He walks on water.
Someone was sharing with us last night about other missionaries sharing how they had sought to make the best laid plans of men in ministry and just got to feeling like they had "all their ducks in a row" when God came along and swiped all the ducks right off their little backsides. It makes me chuckle. The same friend shared with me, just two days before we got the email from OM that "if there was one thing God was teaching her lately it was that things aren't always what they seem." All those ducks might be lining up in your head, and it all might seem to make perfect sense, but then God says, "Nope. That's not how it's gonna work folks. You're on the right track, you just aren't allowing for the switchbacks." It's like a trail that starts out in one direction and you are looking straight ahead thinking that's where it's taking you. Then a curve, and you are headed in a new direction, still looking straight ahead, still thinking "Ah, so THIS is where it's taking me." :) How many curves before you realize that you really have NO idea where the trail is taking you and really, that you are okay with that.
Pietro and I stole away to the city the other night and were able to process without distraction. We both were thinking the same thing. God used all these twists and turns so far to keep us moving in the direction He was leading us in, and every piece of the journey has served to teach us something new and wonderful. All the switchbacks are not God changing His mind, not that we heard wrong, not that we are going in circles. It's that we are being led on a winding trail designed expressly to teach us trust, and obedience and surrender.
It is amazing in our eyes that we can say we are not the least bit worried, anxious, impatient or discouraged about this little landslide in our path. Who knows, maybe this is God's way of telling us to stop, breathe, take in the scenery, spread out the picnic blanket, and rest in Him.
I wrote a while back about how God is "Already There". How our future is already reality with Him. And thank God it is! But thank God for the rest of the story. Because in the end it's not about getting where we are going and it's not about where we've been. It's about learning to walk and rest in the joy that comes from the knowledge that right now, wherever we are, He is RIGHT HERE.
"He goes before me, He stands behind, the God of Angel Armies is always by my side."