Three years ago, we received a crystal-clear calling to go to Thailand. As we rushed about for the next nine months preparing to replant ourselves in a land we had never seen, I assured myself that this was just a three-year commitment. No problem, I thought, I can make this sacrifice. I can offer three years with the certainty that we will return to our beloved community and beautiful home in the Rockies, and then live life as before. I always had this thought in the back of my mind that no matter what, at least I knew we would be home in three years.
Here we are, at almost the three-year mark. So, it is time to go “home,” right? Wait! Somehow things are not going according to our plan! Over these three years, God has gradually revealed that the reasons to stay outweigh the reasons to return. We have built solid friendships in Thailand with an indigenous Akha people group, which is a remarkable gift that does not happen easily. If we leave now, we would walk away from a newly-established trust relationship. An even greater confirmation is that Lawpa, the leader of the Akha children’s dorm, asked us if we would take on leadership roles in helping plan the future of their community—including the children’s dorm.
Really? Why God? Why did Lawpa ask us to help him? I have my American life to live. We promised three years, and surely that is long enough. I have kindred-spirit friends to catch up with, mountains to ski, rivers to raft, and a comfortable home. My boys need to continue childhood relationships and graduate in the same school system where they started preschool. They might miss out on some amazing opportunities. Plus, I long for a land where I understand every word spoken, where I know all the cultural nuances, and where I can find everything I want in one grocery store. I want the freedom to drive ANYWHERE without gripping the wheel so hard that my knuckles turn white. I do not want to worry about scraping the side of the car along a narrow road, or hitting one of the thousands of scooters whizzing by on all sides. I miss juicy hamburgers and cheese!
We have begun to recognize that God is inviting our family to remain in Thailand. At the same time, we have endured some difficult personal situations. These challenges have required hours of our time and both financial and emotional resources. Throughout these difficulties, I have struggled to understand why God allows events that seem to leave us shaken and bruised.
Imagine a toddler who does not want to have a diaper change—wriggling and writhing on the ground, squirming, kicking, whining, and fighting. That described me wrestling with God. God, NO! I do not want to stay in Thailand. We made a deal. Three years. That is all. I am done. I kept my promise. Why longer? We have been faithful to what You called us to do, right? Why are we facing these trials?
Many times I have read about how Jacob wrestled with God, but I did not really get it. Now I understand! I have had good days—days where everything felt right and I thought, I can do this. I can stay and do what God asks. However, soon I was back, getting my diaper changed. A full-on wrestling match would be under way. I have two boys and I know what wrestling is all about, but never in my life have I experienced being a participant in this way.
Despite the turmoil and my earthly wants, God has helped me stop fighting and trust Him. He has helped me realize that through adversity and discomfort, I have to make a conscious decision to either continue being my old self (powerless, impatient, and selfish) or to become a different kind of person—a person who loves God above all else, who is willing to listen to how He wants to conform me, and who sets a better course for my life in the process. I am so thankful that He cares, knows my every thought, and still loves me despite my attitude, behavior, and selfish ambitions. I am more prepared for whatever it is He has for me, wherever that may be, and whatever may come my way. I am thankful to God for the opportunity to wrestle with Him.
An amazing peace has finally come. It was not instant. I received this gift of peace after months of wrestling, prayer, and literally crying out to Him. This peace could only have come from Him and nowhere else, as it is a peace even I cannot fully understand or explain. I have made a conscious decision to become a different kind of person through this adversity. I am ready to go forward on the path He has cleared for us, trusting Him fully.
Philippians 4:7 (CEV)
Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.
Proverbs 3:5–6 (CEV)
With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment. Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow.
Questions to consider: Are you “ready to go forward on the path He has cleared”? How can you trust Him fully in adversity?