But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 3:7-8
I’m back to the white spaces again. We talked about this in our women’s Sunday school class. One younger woman seemed particularly bothered by why God would leave questions unanswered for long gaps of time, or why in my case, He would seem to lead overseas and then head me in a total opposite direction and not tell me why for so long.
Three years ago I would have jumped on that question and argued with God on her side and yelled, “Yeah, WHY GOD?” I’m so much more mature now 🙂 Not really. It’s just that He’s tipped His hand a little more since then. And I’m thankful. Thirty years ago I did think that God was calling me to be an overseas missionary and instead I’ve been stationed instead just south of Lake Superior in Wisconsin. I’ve not been labeled as a missionary, and for parts of the time I’ve not had many friends, a healthy church to attend, or have I been overjoyed to be posted here. I’ve tried to relocate, only to feel pulled back by the hand of God. Rats.
I do know that God had me learn things in the 80’s that I needed to know for life in this spiritually tough area:
- I learned that the Bible really is the power of God for salvation. I had been a part of several camps and youth ministries where I was able to lead hundreds of people to the Lord, or to be a part of God’s process. I learned that if I taught with a Bible in my hand, things would happen. I saw hearts changed radically and visibly. I needed to know that so when I got to this area, two different places in NWest Wisconsin, where the spiritual climate was drastically colder and harder, I wouldn’t give up. I learned not to resort to emotionalism, manipulation, or slick tricks to get numbers. Today, I still teach with the Bible in my hand, trusting that God will do His work. The visible results aren’t there like they used to be, but it’s still true.
- I learned that the Holy Spirit is real and is alive. I had been taught in my youth that all of the work of the Holy Spirit ended with the apostles. God did some amazing things to show me this was not the case. He wanted me to have the Holy Spirit as my close friend and power to stand and to keep standing. It’s a good thing, because there have many spiritual warfare battles and I have learned in the trenches how to chase demons away. I even had a graduate professor astral project into my bedroom a couple of times when I lived alone in the woods. But that’s a story for another day.
- I learned that God still had purging and refining to do in me. I had claimed a song as a life song in the 80’s, “Whatever it Takes.” Some of the lyrics are: There’s a voice calling me from an old rugged tree, saying ‘Christian, draw closer to Me. Leave this world far behind, there are new heights to climb; and in Me a new life you will find’…For whatever it takes to draw closer to You Lord, that’s what I’ll be willing to do. I’ll trade sunshine for rain, comfort for rain–that’s what I’ll be willing to do. For whatever it takes, for my will to break, that’s what I’ll be willing to do. When you say, ‘Whatever it takes’ to God, then you better mean it. You’re giving God the license to purify, purge and sanctify. I needed and still need junk hosed out of me. The time here has done that, and it hasn’t been fun. Some of the time just about killed me. But it has been good (kind of like a root canal).
- I learned that God is writing a story in me, in all of us, that He wants to use. A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a third grader in my principal’s office. She and another girl had gone on a stealing spree, going through classmates’ lockers that they thought would have cool things to take. The biggest problem was that they took and lost a girl’s retainer, worth hundreds of dollars. And they seemed unfazed by it. Something in me snapped, and I said to the one in my office that day a speech something like this, What do you want in your life? Do you want to be in jail like your mom? I know she just got out. I know that wasn’t fun for you or her. I know where you live. Not really–I don’t know where your house is. What I mean is, I grew up like you did. I lived your life. We didn’t have plumbing half of the time. Our lawn mower didn’t work most of the time so the grass was over our waist and I slunk down in the bus seat because I was ashamed for my classmates to see it. And my clothes were all hand me down’s because I had two older sisters. Then our house burnt down and so we got the whole neighborhoods’ hand me down’s, so my clothes were really bad then. I could have stolen things because I thought I was a victim. But I did something instead. When I was in third grade, your age, I read every book in my school. It might have been a little smaller school than this, but the point is that I used my brain. And that’s what got me out. Find something that you’re good at and run with it. Make something out of your life! She sat there frozen, just staring at me. My words probably went over her head, but they didn’t go over mine. Maybe she helped me find a little more of my voice that day. God has written my story and He wants me to tell it.
- God isn’t finished with me yet. Caleb was 85 when he went to Joshua (in Joshua 14:10-12) and said, “I am 85 and I am just as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me…so now give me this mountain!” Caleb still had dreams and plans until the end, and that’s a great role model. I’ll never arrive until I get to see Jesus.
I don’t remember when I quit singing that song, but I do know what God did take me at my word. He has made me more like Him, not to be mean, but to make me useful and to lovingly make me who He made me for my good and for His glory. And He’s not done yet.