Over the course of this summer, two of our writers, Lianna and Amy, will be exchanging letters to each other—from their personal “desks” straight to the blog. If you have any ideas of what you’d enjoy seeing them write about, feel free to send us a note.
Thank you for your letter. I address you from the current desk of a friend’s dining room table in...New Zealand. When I look back on the last year, I am floored (somewhat terrified!) by how much has happened. This time last year I was in a dead-end internship, just beginning as a writer for an exciting new blog called Of Larks, and uncertain about facing a potential future in France. Now here I am, and all I can think of is a line from the Casting Crowns song, “Oh My Soul,” which says, “This was the one thing you didn’t see coming,” although it hasn’t been just one thing. How difficult it is sometimes to have, as you put it, “the mind of Christ.” I could never have predicted one year ago that I would be sitting here. For one thing, I just travelled eight time zones with my last paycheck. What a surprising God we serve.
Having the image of the Good Shepherd in mind from our previous conversations, I suppose sheep are often surprised by the tracks chosen by the shepherd and where he takes them, but the comfort is that he is always there.
I don’t know whether it comes through in our email correspondence (and deadline near-misses), but I am a Planner. This is partly to due to my superiority complex, believing no one could do a better job than me. It’s always a struggle to entrust things to God, and for that reason, as if to teach me to do better, he gives me no choice. Sometimes I simply cannot see my way out of the woods, can't even see where next to put my foot, so I have to trust the guidance of the Shepherd—the “grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
The marvelous thing is, though, that he showers us with grace. I have been considering the necessity of being faithful in the small things. This started in January, actually with that book of yours, Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place. I think I polished it off in a single day. What struck me was that this Dutch woman, by worldly reckoning (and my own), was past her prime, a spinster of 45 working for her father in the house she’d never left. And suddenly, her compassion brought her to harbour Jews and outsiders from Nazis. Simply doing what Jesus would do in small everyday decisions, she found herself at the head of the underground movement in Holland, smuggling people out of harm's way, and then sharing the gospel with all kinds of people in the worst of the Nazi concentration camps.
My life can feel pretty small. I know it probably doesn’t look that way to anyone but me. But lately it’s been living in little spaces, lost in foreign cultures (even moving cities in South Africa last year was a new cultural shift), and feeling rather like a lost bubble. Floating. Over some pretty spectacular scenery, perhaps, but aimless and rootless nonetheless. And I really do hate that feeling. Corrie ten Boom’s reminder was such a humbling realisation that God is working, no matter how small and insignificant our day-to-day may look. I have no room to assert that I know what God is achieving in my life at any given time. In France, my work may have been uninspiring, but the experience opened up opportunities for fantastic conversations and futures I could never have possibly imagined. New Zealand, case and point.
So lately, I guess, I have been reminded again and again, utterly humbled, by God’s active interest and involvement in our lives. A friend told me once, when my doubts were rising above my head, that the teacher is always silent during the exam. I had felt adrift and alone, and I wondered what possible plan God could have for me, and what possible purpose might have brought me to such a low point. Yet, it’s similar to what you were saying about the need to be rooted in the word. Something as simple as daily readings and prayer (however shallow and difficult they may have felt at the time) were, in retrospect, such an anchor. And simply that, the sticking to faithfulness in the everyday, persistently sticking to it, I found to my surprise that I’d suddenly passed through the waters.
Moreover, God lavished me with such grace, showing me not only the way he had been consistently answering all my prayers in ways I hadn’t been able to see up until then. But he also showed me something else. In the moment, my decisions were difficult and fraught with conflicted emotions. I didn’t have all the facts, and I had to stick to what I knew of God and avoid the pitfalls where I could see them, and trust I was doing the right thing. Afterwards, in His grace, I became aware of so many factors that would have made my decisions easier, but I would have missed a great lesson in persistence through difficulty and wisdom in adverse circumstances.
Ah man, Lianna. Since writing that yesterday, I’ve had to remind myself again how this is still a lesson I’m still learning. Not long from now, I’m going to have to fold my life and my dreams into my little Everest-suitcase, and soldier on to another place. The comfort is that I’m not going alone.
And despite the heartache of a nomadic existence, the assurance of going with the Shepherd is one I wouldn’t trade for a lifetime of easy security.
I guess, in answer to both our questions, wisdom and trust are always intertwined. Like it says in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Here on the underside of the world, with the last chunk of my only foreseeable income tied up in a bank in France and a future in a country as yet unknown. I have no choice but to admit I have no plan, no “wisdom,” to apply to the situation.
But the Shepherd knows the path ahead. So the “wisdom” required merely to move forward must be an act of pure, undiluted trust.
Sending you lots of love and virtual kiwi-fruit.