Surrender Doesn’t Look Like We Expect
I had a plan of how my life would be, I trained as a physiotherapist because I was going to go overseas and work with children in orphanages, the lost and forgotten ones, written off because of their disabilities. I was going to be surrounded by the slender arms of loving children who I’d fixed and mended, I was going to see the lame walk because of my skills and dedication. I would be fluent in at least two languages and send photos home of me surrounded by happy, smiling children who would dance and sing and celebrate Jesus with me. It’s a lovely dream, full of ‘good’ things. In fact this dream felt so good that I have spent more time than I dare admit beating myself up and thinking that God must be pretty cheesed off with me for not pursuing it. Why, when I felt I had submitted every decision in my life to God, had I ended up so far from the life I thought He was calling me to pursue? Why was my heart burning for the children of the nations and yet I was overwhelmed by the needs of the children in my own household? Was God disappointed with me?
When God asked Chris and I to plant a church in West Leeds I was adamant that we wouldn’t do it – not because I didn’t love West Leeds or want to stay here but because I had always thought our first church plant would be in Eastern Europe. We had a young daughter and another baby on the way and I was keen to get out there, I wanted our children to be bilingual from a young age so that they could access education and fit in.
“Suddenly I saw my pride for what it was, my attempts to control the lives of our family had made me deaf to God’s calling and what looked like dedication and obedience to follow Him anywhere was actually idolatry of a dream and lifestyle that seemed more appealing”
While I was wrestling with this decision I attended the Love Nations conference at Mosaic Church, convinced that God would justify me in my stubbornness and speak clearly to Chris and I about moving to Ukraine. Andrew Wilson spoke from Matthew 8:18-22. Jesus is calling disciples to follow Him and they have excuses of what they need to get done first. Andrew spoke straight to my heart when he pointed out that in our culture today we don’t talk about burying our parents, we worry about things like our children’s educations. Suddenly I saw my pride for what it was, my attempts to control the lives of our family had made me deaf to God’s calling and what looked like dedication and obedience to follow Him anywhere was actually idolatry of a dream and lifestyle that seemed more appealing than staying right where I was and doing what He was very clearly asking me to do.
So we stayed. We planted the Oak Church and have been humbled to see God use our obedience for His glory, that tiny step of saying yes to Him has led to a multiplication of fruit that we could never have achieved in our own strength.
And what about those dreams, do I still fantasise about rescuing the orphan and seeing the sick and lame healed? I do. But it’s different now. I am on my knees with the pain of loving the orphan who rejects and despises, I am heartbroken at the sight of sickness and loss, I am devastated by the lives of the asylum seekers and homeless, the lonely and insecure, the forgotten and overlooked. But have I fixed anyone? No. I have been broken open by the only One who can bring healing and restoration. There are less photos to send home, my language skills are still pretty poor and I spend many days wondering what on earth God is achieving through me but I know I am not a disappointment. I am pursuing Jesus, the Saviour of the world instead of singlehandedly saving the world and my life is now hidden in Him.
“That tiny step of saying yes to Him has led to a multiplication of fruit that we could never have achieved in our own strength”
What about you? Are there dreams in your life that have become a source of disappointment? Are you struggling to believe that God takes pleasure in your simple obedience to Him? Have you idolised an image of the Christian life that seems good to you and discounted what God is doing in and through you today? Right now?
It time to stop making excuses, make Jesus your dream, and follow Him.