On this weekend four years ago, Ryan and I both began a new journey with God when we arrived as students for the September 2010 Discipleship Training School here at YWAM San José. Little did we know that four years later we would be married, serving as full-time missionaries, welcoming the next generation of youth hungry for a transformed life. Ryan and I didn’t know each other back then. We were simply two individuals who felt that God had more for our lives, so we decided to embark on a 5-month journey that would change us forever. As you can see, that 5-month journey turned into quite an adventure that, up to this point, spans four years and counting; a journey that has not only changed the direction of our lives, but has taught us what it means to live a life of radical faith and obedience to the One who created it all.
Four years ago, I thought I was doing something really counter-cultural by passing up a job offer and coming to Costa Rica almost immediately after graduating from University. Today, I look back and see that I had no idea what radical, selfless, abandoned faith and obedience truly looks like. I reflect and realize that four years ago, I was a young girl with just enough willingness to follow what I felt God had for me in that moment, but since then, I have become a woman who longs to radically follow my Creator for the rest of my life, no matter the cost. And not because of me, but because of what God has done in my life.
Of course, I am not perfect at this radical obedience thing, and I won’t ever be. But these last four years on the mission field have taught me that the absolute best place for me to be is in the very center of His will. I have learned that even if His plan for me is physically uncomfortable, logically unsound, or straight-up crazy to man’s perspective, it is still far far better than what I could plan for myself. I mean, He has asked us to do things that make us look insane to the rest of the world! He has asked us to give money away when we had nothing, to move to places to disciple people who don’t speak our language, and to love people who hate us.
“Ultimately Jesus was calling them to abandon themselves. They were leaving certainty for uncertainty, safety for danger, self-preservation for self-denunciation. In a world that prizes promoting oneself, they were following a teacher who told them to crucify themselves. And history tells us the result. Almost all of them would lose their lives because they responded to his invitation.”
Discipleship has a cost. But each and every time, those cuckoo-sounding adventures have only enriched our lives. Yes, they are difficult sometimes, but in the end they only bring us closer to Him. So, I keep trusting this God who holds everything in His hands, and He continues to surprise me with the way that He cares for us and wants us to experience His Kingdom on earth.
Two weeks ago I wrote this in my journal,
“Wow, so much irony! Yesterday I woke up feeling really discouraged because tomorrow Sallie Mae is scheduled to take out $134 from our bank account and we only have $37. Then, when I got to the base, Pablo wanted to start filming a video about finances! No monthly donations were scheduled to come anytime soon, and there was no sign of other gifts coming in. But, I opened the Bible App on my iPod and the verse of the day read, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him’.”
Yep, a couple weeks ago, Ryan and I went through possibly the biggest financial challenge of our married life. Not because we needed a great, big amount of money, but because this one literally came down to the last minute. We arrived at the base and as part of the Communications team, I was asked to help create a new video in which we asked several of the staff to share about what it’s like to depend fully on God’s provision, what have been the most difficult experiences financially, and how has God provided. Ha! I had to answer these questions on the day that I was seriously wondering if God was going to come through. But, as I was being interviewed for this video, I began to reflect on all the times that God gave me exactly what I needed, and the last thing I said to the camera was this,
“I’ve seen [God] provide in miraculous ways over and over and over again, so even in the most difficult moments, I have to believe in my heart that He’s going to come through, because there has never been a time in my life that He hasn’t.”
The day after we filmed the video (the day that a payment was scheduled to be withdrawn from our account), I was at home in the morning, helping to homeschool two of the boys from the base. I prayed,
“God, I don’t know what else to do. There isn’t anything I can do. I know You know the situation better than we do, and I believe You will make it into something good. Give us a greater faith and trust in You.”
We still hadn’t seen any signs of a donation coming in, and I was kind of scared that our account was going to overdraw for the first time ever! Not only that, but we only had some leftover beans in our refrigerator and some rice in the cupboard, along with an even higher payment that we needed to make. I believed that God was going to take care of us, but I was wondering if it was going to be in the way we wanted. Maybe the money wasn’t going to come in, and we were still going to be okay. After all, we would still live even if we got penalized for not paying, and we could survive even if it meant not eating for a few days. We would still have the most important things in life, those things that remain with us despite physical death, discomfort, or difficulty – our relationships, our family, and our God who gave it all to us.
Well, after I had the boys started on their work, and had a moment, I checked our email. Two minutes earlier a message had come into our inbox from Mission Enablers International, and we had received donations from several different people, none of whom had ever given to us! The total was the EXACT amount we needed to pay the two payments, plus $40 extra to get groceries. He did it again! A miracle for us.
I have to admit that when I read the email, I was as ecstatic as a kid who goes to Disneyland for the first time. God didn’t only provide what we needed when we needed it, but He reminded us that following Him, even if it is scary sometimes, is the absolute greatest privilege we have as human beings. He is the Maker, He is the One who made all that exists, yet He entrusts us with His Creation. It’s actually pretty crazy if you think about it. The original Artist, the One who made each and every person, animal, waterfall, mountain, and sea invites us to walk with Him, to allow Him to care for us and surprise us with gifts that we don’t deserve, and to experience a radical life where we let go of what is temporary in order to take part in what never fades away. And although this life of radical obedience has a cost, it’s the best we could ever have.
David Platt goes on to say in his book,
“This is is where we come face to face with a dangerous reality. We do have to give up everything we have to follow Jesus. We do have to love him in a way that makes our closest relationships in this world look like hate. And it is entirely possible that he will tell us to sell everything we have and give it to the poor. But we don’t want to believe it.
We are afraid of what it might mean for our lives.
And this is where we need to pause.
We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.
A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have.
But do you and I realize what we are doing to Jesus at this point? We are molding Jesus into our image. He is beginning to look a lot like us, because after all, that is whom we are most comfortable with. And the danger now is that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshiping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshiping ourselves.”
Woah. I surely don’t want to mold Jesus into what makes me comfortable. And, as much as I’ve learned from all these experiences, I know that I’ve still got a long way to go. The storms will come for all of us, whether we’ve built our house on the foundation of the rock or the sand. So I pray that we’d surrender control to the great Artist, respond to His invitation, and remember that His ways are always better than our own – especially if they’re uncomfortable.