Finding Focus During Furlough
The glare of the flashlight illuminated the angry crack in the engine of our car. As we watched heavy beads of water drip from it onto the hard pavement, they exploded in our hearts like thunderous bombs. Broken down and penniless on a Pennsylvania Turnpike, enroute to another global work conference, the water that trickled through our torn head gasket broke open the dam of determination in my heart allowing frustration to pour through. It seemed we had fought countless battles to return to the field during our furlough year – battles of the will, of attitude, of emotions and now finally of stamina. This broken engine was only another skirmish. But as our family huddled together and tried not to cry, I heard my heart screaming the truth: Satan was winning. I was battle weary, and the vision that seemed so clear when we’d returned stateside, had faded. I didn’t want to return. I had lost my focus.
I don’t know how it happened. Somehow my vision just slowly evaporated as I embraced time with friends, family and church. I knew the fine food and rich entertainment blurred it slightly, but I didn’t notice it fading as I embraced the beautiful furniture and clothes available in the United States. It wasn’t until I enrolled my children in swimming lessons, ice skating and gymnastics, that I realized for the first time in our global working career, I was pondering what life would be like if we stayed in the States. I was tempted and confused and my focus was scattered. Now we were broken; the car in power and I in spirit. My husband rolled up his sleeves, grabbed his wrenches, gritted his teeth and repaired the engine on the side of the road. But he couldn’t fix my heart. While I watched him wrestle the car into submission, I was pummeled by defeat. Without a focus, I was a useless solider, halfheartedly slashing at Satan’s advances. I had been fundraising with the passion of a robot, obeying my Commander with my lips but not my heart. Now I was in the ditch, groping for my weapons. Weak and bleary-eyed, I wondered how I could engage the enemy, let alone win.
I grabbed my Bible and the Lord have Ephesians 6:10-12 to me.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
There was only one way to win this war. First, I needed armaments.
Prayer and the Word
Dropping to my knees, I prayed for vision, for protection and for a change of heart. I renewed my commitment to fight the battle of my earthly desires versus God’s will for my life by daily spending time renewing my mind in the Word. Then, I called in reinforcements.
Friends and Partners in Ministry
I called people who were liked minded. I talked with other global workers, e-mailed friends on the field and read magazines and books that focused on ministry and outreach. And I asked my Prayer Partners to pray for me.
Finally, I opened my eyes to the enemy’s mines; possible explosives that could scatter my focus. The World. Things like house-hunting with friends, pouring over furniture catalogs or even musing about possible cottage industries I could start seemed harmless until I realized they clouded my vision and made me confused during combat. Even Solomon knew the battle was in the mind. “Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about things is meaningless; it is like chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 6:9. (TLB)
I felt like a private in basic training, but as I focused on the things of the Lord, prayed and spent time in the Word, my vision for waging God’s war began to crystallize and sparkle with light. A few days later, the car repaired, we were back on the road, ready to tell again the great ministry the Lord was doing in the land of Russia. Focused and only a little greasy, this time I was lean, mean and ready for battle. And I realized anew that the sweet prize of victory was not a nice house in the suburbs, but a non-refundable airplane ticket overseas to a land I now call home.
Susan Warren and her husband and children recently returned to Russia where Susan is again “…hunting for food, talking with a dictionary and trying to occupy four children in a small ninth floor flat!” Susan has been a regular and welcome contributor to Women of the Harvest.