On the eve of 2016, I took some time to collect my thoughts about the upcoming year. I used to do this with Jaime, but over time, the dreaming turned into a nagging list of items I either ignored or begrudgingly fulfilled simply for the recognition. After almost a three-year hiatus of officially setting aside some time to “dream ahead,” I enthusiastically sat down with my dream board, prayed, and got to work. Working from the bottom to the top, I wrote and drew (mostly) areas I hoped to improve and inspire in the coming year. I reserved the very top for my word for the year. Jaime and I first started adopting a word for the year, when we attended First Baptist Orlando, and the pastor encouraged us to pray and ask God to give us a word…almost a theme for the coming year. I can’t even tell you what the prior words were because my commitment to that process was very similar to the lists Jaime and I put together at the close of each year we were married. Not surprisingly, I can tell you the words I have adopted for each year since 2012. And this year, as I wrapped up my dream board, the words, “By Faith,” took their place at the top of my hopes for the coming year.
The phrase is not original. In Hebrews Chapter 11, the lives and service of men and women of the faith are crowned with the statement, “By faith…” When I read through that chapter, yesterday evening, I was stirred by the opening of that hall of faith narrative: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). This is without question what I have been experiencing these past couple months. And without question, this is where I will need to rest…by faith…in the weeks and months ahead – in the confidence of what I hope for and the assurance of what I do not yet see….God’s complete provision! As I have had recent experiences of people questioning my decision to leave Jubilee, I am encouraged by the summary of faith from the 11th chapter of Hebrews. While I am in no way comparing myself to the likes of Noah, Abraham, or Moses, I can imagine they could have a story or two to share with me about the comments from their family and others. And each of those men (and many others) were promised things that they did not see fulfilled in their earthly lives (v.13). Yet they obeyed…not flawlessly…but faithfully, nonetheless!
I fully recognize the audacity of what I have shared – via this blog and in person with so many. Without hesitation, I have stated that God wants me to leave my position at Jubilee and that at this moment I have no idea of what I am doing next. To those who have made or are making a similar journey, this is not audacious….this is what it truly means to live by faith. To others, I am being reckless, over-spiritualizing a personal need to find fulfillment, etc. My response to that is going to step on someone’s toes so brace yourself….it is convenient to reason God out of times like these because then the observer is not faced with the truth that God has called all of His children to complete, not convenient, obedience and trust. That truth hit me hard this past summer, as I found myself offering advice to others about following God’s will for their lives, while all the while ignoring the steady whisper from the Lord, saying, “What about you?”
Friend, I do not profess to have this faith walk figured out. Not even! I have had (and no doubt will continue to have) moments when I wonder when God is going to let me in on what His plan is, or if He is going to let me know in time. Yet every time I begin to veer into the panic lane, He is good to bring someone to encourage me, or a passage of Scripture to my mind. I have been spending a lot more time in silence with the Lord, thinking and meditating on what He has already said and shown to be truth in my life. In the past couple of weeks, as I thought about spending time with family over the holidays, who I knew would want to know what in the world was going on, God was good to lead me to an email I had sent almost three years ago. Then, a family member wanted to know why I had turned down a job offer. When I told them I knew God was not leading me to take the job, they pressed me further, reminding me that I didn’t have a job and that I was going to end up with nothing at all if I didn’t just take something. Here is what I shared with them:
“I am reminded that more important than anything else is to KNOW He is going to place us exactly where He wants us to be. God has ALWAYS taken care of us – through much more difficult circumstances than a job search! He has paid our bills, ensured we had food, and brought the right people into our lives at just the right time. I CAN and WILL trust Him for this next step! And the one after that…” (March, 2013)
When we read about Noah, we don’t find him trying to convince the people that God really did tell him to build that huge boat. The Biblical account of the life of Abraham is not about him convincing the people that God really did speak to him that night, or that there was a ram caught in the thicket just in the nick of time. And, although I am sure it without question occurred, we don’t read Moses begging the people to believe that there was a voice coming from a bush that did not burn away. No…by faith…confidence and assurance, these men and many other men and women did what God called them to do, left the convincing of the skeptics to the Lord, and rested in the complete provision & response from God’s good hand. By faith that’s the journey I am traveling. I know many of you are on this road with me and it is an honor to travel with you.