When I think about next week, that's when I worry. Because next week I have to make all sorts of choices that affect me and my children. And what if I make a wrong choice that leads me into more struggles? Yes, next week is pretty darn scary.
But there's something even scarier than next week, and that's today: when the journey begins. I told you just a few weeks back that I was ready to Leave so I could Go. I was ready to leave my past behind and go wherever God would send me--without having any idea where we were going. Again, that was true in the abstract. I didn't get terrified until it was time to take the first step.
For the last few weeks, I've been seeking God's direction for this phase of my life, asking Him to show me what changes He wants me to make and to give me the courage to be obedient. The only problem is I still don't know where we're going. I've prayed and prayed, asking Him to show me the path, but I haven't been able to hear His answer. Probably that's because I'm not good at being still. Instead of listening after I pray, I ponder my questions endlessly, examining them from every angle and trying to solve the dilemmas with logic. It's exhausting!
Just yesterday morning, I was grappling with confusion and anxiety about my future. I felt utterly lost in the darkness, like I was crying out to God and He wasn't answering. No, not that He wasn't answering, but that I couldn't hear Him because I was too far out in the wilderness. The sermon at church seemed to have been written just for me, and it gave me hope. Our pastor shared some darkness his own family is dealing with, and the purpose they are finding in it. He talked about this passage:
Who among you fears the Lord?
Who obeys the voice of His Servant?
Who walks in darkness
And has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord
And rely upon his God.
Look, all you who kindle a fire,
Who encircle yourselves with sparks:
Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled—
This you shall have from My hand:
You shall lie down in torment.
Pastor Bill assured us that being in the darkness doesn't mean we're not where God wants us. Isaiah's words show us that we can fear (revere) God and obey His commands and yet still be in the dark. He said God allows us to walk in the dark for a purpose, that there's always something He wants to teach us. He encouraged us to trust God to lead us and to resist the urge to light our own fire. Figuring out our own way out of the darkness, he warned, would only lead us to more sorrow.
At some point, he shared a thrilling quote from Helen Keller: "Life is either a daring adventure, or it's nothing." I was convicted by her courage; both blind and deaf, she focused on life's adventures instead of her struggles.
I felt most encouraged at church, but it wasn't long before I was trying to light my own fire again. All through the day, I mulled over my dilemma. What if I made this choice? Where might that path lead? Or that choice? Oh no, I was afraid to go there. Maybe I could just make no choice at all?
By bedtime, I'd decided that I would just run back to the last place I felt safe and comfortable and forget about this whole Leaving and Going thing. I felt disappointed, confused, worn out, and defeated. On the floor of my closet, I poured out my frustrations to God. "Why did things have to change?" I asked. "I was happy before. Now I'm scared. I want to go back."
And then the Holy Spirit led me in a totally different direction. I realized that I didn't need to run away from the circumstances that were causing me pain, but that I needed to run toward God and let Him heal my pain. Oh, the comfort I found when I laid all of my hurts at the foot of the cross!
I sensed His tenderness then, saw Him cradling my fragile heart in His powerful hands. I remembered how precious I am to my Beloved, and I knew He would protect me from harm wherever I might go.
Only then could I find the direction I'd been pleading for. "Please," I asked. "Hold my hand. Lead me out of here. I'm tired of striving. I can't figure this out, and I don't want to try any more. I don't need to know where we're going or how to get there. I trust you, Daddy."
I drifted to sleep feeling absolutely loved, safe, contented.
Can you guess what happened next, you who know me so well?...
No. That's not what happened! I woke up this morning feeling just as peaceful, just as settled as I'd felt when I fell into bed last night. I still didn't have specific answers to any of my questions, but I had an assurance that God would lead me one step at a time.
During my morning quiet time, I decided to meditate on Psalm 73, which Christian artist Ellie Holcomb had quoted during the Celebrate Freedom concert this past Saturday. My heart thumped when I read these verses:
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23-26, emphasis added)
Here was God, answering me back with a sacred echo. Yes, He will hold my hand and guide me! This familiar passage came alive to me in a whole new way.
I thought, I've always wanted to see Rome. But suppose someone dropped me off in the middle of the city with no map and said, "Go explore the city. Have fun! We'll see you back at the hotel tonight." I'm sure there are a handful of you who'd think that a great adventure. Not me. I would probably sit down right there on the sidewalk with my back against a wall and wait for someone to come find me.
But what if there was a tour bus waiting at the side of the road with a guide who'd grown up in Rome? I'd climb on in a heartbeat. It wouldn't matter at all that I didn't know the ultimate destination, nor the route we would take. I'd trust that guide not only to get us where we needed to go, but also to make sure we didn't miss any of the good stuff along the way.
That's an adventure I'd sign up for. And that's the adventure I have signed up for. I realize at last that God is not going to give me the itinerary, because I don't need to know all those details. I don't need to know what's happening next week, or what will happen if I take this path or that path, as long as I don't let go of my Guide's hand.
It's going to be a daring adventure. I don't want to miss a minute of it.