Follow the Leader

This past summer feels like an emotional blur.  In a nutshell, I had a job change, worked with students from Spain, China, the U.S. and Ghana. I pulled a muscle in my shoulder, got Bells Palsy and a brain aneurysm, visited my father who was dying in St. Augustine, Florida and then was checked into the same hospital as a patient with a fever of 102. It may sound bleak, but on a positive note… I was able to meet some amazing students from around the world and see many come to faith in Christ, I was blessed to experience God”s miraculous healing power and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to say goodbye to my dad in person.  I also have a much clearer path forward than I did in the spring when it seemed as though life as I knew it was turned upside down.
While it has been an eventful and an emotional summer (to put it lightly), I have been trying to make sure that I am following God”s leading for the future.  The game of “Follow the Leader” has everything to do with listening and doing what the leader does or says .  In the same regard, Sandra and I have been trying to trust God for the path ahead.  This Tuesday I am off to England to meet with friends in the place that I did Young Life from 1999-2002.  After the UK reunion, I am off to Italy to look into job possibilities for our move in August.  My son Murphy and I are making the trip together before he heads off to Paris Island for bootcamp with the U.S. Marines.  This is the next step in the mission process (9/18-28) before I return to Italy in October, for 3 weeks of language immersion (10/9-20).  It sounds exciting, but at the same time it is easy to second guess yourself or to feel alone and become discouraged on an unworn path.
Whenever we step out of the norm (or what may be normal for us and those we walk through life with), we open ourselves up to all sorts of criticism and a plethora of internal questions.  You wonder if the  path is accurate and if the timing is right.  It can be stressful to juggle the bills and expenses associated with the transition.  There are also practical questions such as, “Are we suppose to sell our home or rent it?”  The fundamental question at the heart of all the other questions is, “Did God really lead us in this direction and if so, what”s next?”  Sandra and I are convinced that the answer is “yes” and yet the emotions involved with the changes can get the better of us at times.  After the trip in October, I am hoping to work in a local church until we leave next August. This will have allowed us to get much of the startup work accomplished, and alleviate some of the fund raising pressure in the meantime.
Recently I have been reading through the Book of Exodus and recounting the journey of the Israelites following God under the leadership of Moses, out of Egypt and into the wilderness.  They seem to hit trial after trial, and in almost every situation they complain and say, “Why did you take us from Egypt, we were fine there?”  It seems that people”s memories can get the better of them at times.  When we are heading in the direction that we believe we should go and things get difficult, it is easy to forget the call and crave the familiar.  We can experience fear of the unknown and desire the comfort of what we know.  Each time I read the Israelite”s complaints and responses to God and to Moses, I cannot help but think, “What a bunch of whiners!”  Why couldn’t they just suck it up and see all that God had done and was doing?  What usually follows that thought is the realization that I can be just like them.  When the way forward seems frightening or lonely, I feel like complaining or running for the familiar.  Is that what God has in mind?  (I believe we all know the answer to that question.)
My faith has been challenged by considering the question, “What would it have looked like for the Israelites to have honored God on their journey whenever they faced various trials?” In other words, how would the story have been told if they had faced each trial (such as no food or bitter water), if they had simply turned to Moses and asked for direction?  They could have told Moses, “Please thank God for His faithfulness to us and for leading us thus far.  And after you thank Him, can you ask Him what He would like us to do in this situation, so that we can continue following Him?”  In other words, what if they had trusted God in the difficult moments and looked for His leading, rather than always complaining and grieving the past?  It is far easier to complain and to sulk, but the truth is that this response does not help anyone move forward nor does it make you feel any better.   During these transitional times, Sandra and I are trying to follow God”s leading with trusting attitudes and would appreciate continued prayers for us along the way.  Thanks for everyone”s encouragement and support over the last 4-5 months! (Wow, has it been that long?)