Thursday, January 30, 6:56, back in Chiang Mai
Available. This word has come up in various ways during this trip for me. I came into this journey with a head full of questions and a heart yearning for God to use me and have His way. And in a way, God answered my questions as I leaned into the opportunities He provided for me to obey Him, but definitely not in the way I expected.
To be completely transparent, I am at a crossroads…no, more accurately, a place where life feels like it’s got me thrown way up in the air, and I’m still waiting to come down. As cliché as it might sound, God has completely turned my world upside down ever since I made the choice to obey His voice two years ago and stepped away from everything that was comfortable and known. Through the process, He’s taught me what it means to depend on Him for EVERYTHING, radically changing my heart as He’s captivated me with His beauty, His faithfulness, His constancy, and His love.
But after two years of walking with God in such a step-by-step, faith-required way, experiencing the joys of such closeness with the Lord and the fear/doubt/difficulty of such radical living, I find I’m still anticipating the fall from such great heights. Will God really take care of me? Was this path the right one to take? Will I really find God bringing me to a Promised Land of sorts for me where I will finally see the destination of this journey and all will make sense in my head? Will my heart for family really have a place? And what about roots? Ministry? Relationship? Am I to remain in this nomadic lifestyle for the rest of my life? Has God forgotten me?
I went into this missions trip with great expectations. God had put Thailand on my heart and I had been praying for it off and on for a few years. I’ll be honest: I got distracted by a few things in life and failed to remain faithful at points to God laying this specific place on my heart. Every excuse in the world came up as I battled fear and doubt but wanted so desperately to obey the Lord out of my love for Him. Opportunities would come and go, but for some reason this trip in such a strange, God-appointed way came up. All because I went out in obedience to the Lord on a summer trip without knowing where I was going and watched the Lord pave the road ahead of me, leading and guiding my steps. Direction came, clarity came, but I had to first surrender to the process.
After seeing how God made it possible for me to come with a bunch of random people from Minnesota I didn’t even know, to a place I had been before, during the same timeframe as two years prior, I thought, “Surely, I’ll get answers. Surely I’ll know if I’m called here or there or somewhere else.” And yet, (again) the Lord has opted not to answer these and other questions on my heart. All He’s telling me along the way is to let go, be still, and be available.
As we’ve gone to different orphanages and group homes and heard from the missionaries we’ve been partnering with about how God brought them to Thailand, one common theme is present: they were all faithfully available. It’s not about numbers or glamour or selfish ambition or pride, they simply were faithful to the task placed before them, trusting that God was indeed using them to bless the Thai people in powerful ways. The work of building relationships and serving and sharing Jesus through relationship has been steady, slow, and requires a great deal of patience and dependence upon God. And as days, weeks, months, and years have gone by, they have seen both great and small fruit…over time. Again, it takes patience, commitment, and a deep dependence on Jesus.
So in the word “available,” I hear God saying for me to just rest from my efforts to figure it all out in my specified window of time and surrender to His agenda. I see how God takes people who are available to Him, faithfully and steadily obedient step-by-step, moment by moment and uses them in powerful ways beyond their imagining. That spoke deeply to me and helped me see that I don’t need to be consumed with asking God, “When, God, when?” or “Where, God, where?” or “Who?” or “Why?” I only need give Him my cares, concerns, and questions and trust Him as I remain available to Him. He will do the rest. Somehow He’s using me right here and now, and even though my life’s journey right now often doesn’t make sense to me and is still really difficult at points, I can know that God is blessing people through me and shaping me into who He desires for me to be.
At many points as we were painting and doing construction at one of the orphanages further up north, I found myself without a task to do. Somehow, I just leaned back, walked around from one side to the other, and spent time with the Lord. This former 100% “Type A” personality would have had a meltdown and tried every way to find a job or a role to feel useful. But even in this I see how God has changed me in the last two years to not default to striving but receive what He was giving in that moment. I had some really beautiful times with Jesus in those few minute gaps between tasks. And I found along the way, a task would pop up and I’d get to come to it with a closer connection with Jesus, practicing His presence as Brother Andrew once wrote. Every task, whether sweeping out a bug-filled restroom stall or cutting in paint became holy, filled with His presence and an opportunity to worship.
Later that evening, I was placed to run one of the stations for the kids program that evening at the foster home. We had over 100 kids from 5 years old to 22 and worshipped with them and blessed them through the activities we put together and ran as a team. As each group of kids came with their designated leader from my team, we giggled, we danced, we shared smiles while we played musical chairs to Hillsong music on my iPhone. And in all this, we shared the love of Jesus in our interactions with the kids and received just as much from them as they often spoke in broken English, “God bless you,” and said “thanks.” It was such a joy to be with these children who may not have as much as we’re accustomed to back in the States, but were so lovely and loving through the gift of their presence and openness to receive us.
As I reflect on the beauty of simply being available, I think of how much I’ve missed over the years by often becoming more focused on results and gaining identity from my usefulness in my profession than on the One in Whose image I am made (my true identity). And even now, that snapshot of a few days ago became such a teachable moment for my life right now. I don’t need to worry about the destination. I don’t need to worry about feeling useful and striving to that end. I don’t need to worry about accomplishing great things or having a definite answer for myself or anyone else that asks what’s next once I get back to the States. I just need to remain, abide in the Lord and stay available to Him, trusting He will lead me to the places where He wants me, speak to all the unfulfilled desires on my heart (that quite often makes it feel sick), and make His presence and faithful love know through me as I simply obey.