Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such thingsPhilippians 4:8
We’re in Texas this week. The last time we were here, war had just broken out in Ukraine and I flew over to Romania. Deb and the kids followed 3 weeks later, and we settled into a new reality, language, people. The year that was 2022 is over, but the war inside Ukraine seems far from ending. In a sense, Deb and I feel right back where we started, and it’s not a comfortable place to be – looking into an abyss of decisions.
I liked this painting, it captures how we feel. This life has been such an incredible ride for us, we’re exceedingly thankful. Being older, we’re learning to step back and just take in the wild beauty of it, even in the brokenness of it all.
When you’re young, time seems unending, the road ahead limitless. The unknown future is met with optimism, mistakes and detours not such a big deal. As we age, however, it seems we take stock in our decisions more seriously. We’ve experienced the brevity of this life, said goodbye to those that surprisingly left us, and our own bodies begin to remind us that we aren’t winding up, but down. This life is truly a breath, a fading flower, and peering down that unending road shows clear signs of an end.
As much as I wish to write that we’ve secured a plan, a place, a space for our family in this coming new season, any attempt to outline that here would be false. Falsity is a funny thing, I’m learning. I don’t actively lie, or mean to mislead, but when faced with the challenge approaching 50 yet seemingly starting over, I want to go there. I want to narrate a story that is climbing upward, attaining. I want the surprising new career path, the security of outward success. Yet, as we continue to wait, to lean into the present moment of trusting Jesus for today, Deb and I are learning to trust in the character of God as our Father, and not in any particular outcomes.
This is true, this is where my heart finds itself today. We have opportunities we’re exploring, very kind and missional people that have extended branches of fellowship and collaboration. We have dear community inside Ukraine flourishing in delightful ways, truly God has taken great care of His garden we were privileged to labor within. As we visit, speak where invited, and navigate this week here in Texas, I find my spirit oddly aware of this invitation to trust Him, to be patient, to give thanks for this place of transition rather than fret within it.
It’s wild, really, that in our most uphended seasons, we find grace to not only weather the storm, but the secret of His near presence as the end our hearts long for. God, who so often becomes our instrumented means to an end, is permitted by our consciousness to move in as the Shepherd of our soul, not just our pocket book and belly. He invites us to just remain suspended, like that cross of old. It’s a place of trust, and there we learn just how panic stricken we are at the menial things, the transient, the temporary things of this life. It’s in this place of willing surrender, I think, that death really loses it’s power, it’s sting.
Nobody wants to die and leap into eternity when we’ve secured a sense of control in our surroundings, our lives comfortable and going somewhere exciting. When we aren’t sure what is next, when we’re looking at a series of all-way-stops and forks in the road, we pause, we reckon with what is most true – and that, for us, is that this life of faith and journey with Christ is a continual invitation to live into His presence each day, to enter the suffering and joys of others when presented with opportunity, and remaining ready to answer His call.
My prayer today was this, “Jesus either fill me from the inside with the knowledge of your will, or surprise me from the outside in a way that we will know and follow you.” Either way, the promise is that His will, will be accompanied with the desire, the infilled, unmistakable desire to do it (Phil 2:13). I have grown to appreciate the freedom the Spirit gives us to navigate this life alongside, along with. However, in the end, God has led me back to that simple place of surrender, where we gratefully hand our lives back and seek to do His will above our own. Whatever, whenever, Jesus we are yours. This is the work of the valley, the upended life, and it is good.
I’m learning that what I considered to be faith in the earlier years, was really an underlying anxiety to be trusting in the Good Shepherd. It’s so much easier to plan our way out of stuff, but all that planning puts us back in control, and comes with all the stress of ensuring success.
Thinking upon true things. Today is where we live, where we love, and are loved. With more questions than answers, we hold onto Jesus and learn to value His nearness more than a cool plan. I’m learning not to leap down the first available road. Lord keep us from the unnecessary detour. The road is not, after all, unending.
Let our decisions come from that deeper places of united faith, as sojourners smiling into the unknown as we bask in the warmth of your affirming fire.