It finally all came out last night. The rushing wave of emotions I’d been silently dealing with alone.
The sermon earlier that day had been on expectations. The pastor said, “80% of our expectations are assumed and never expressed.”
I have decided I have expectations even when I say I have none.
I had unrealized expectations about this trip to Kenya and about what God was doing. I really thought I had some puzzle pieces figured out only to realize, not only do those not fit, half of the pieces I had pieced together don’t fit either!
I expected to come here and each of us have an amazing encounter with God and hear him say, “Move here.” I expected to return home and plan our course for becoming missionaries. I mean, I tried not to place those pieces into the puzzle prematurely. I tried really hard, but my hand was still poised for the fit, like an audience queued up to laugh.
It made since – this hypothetical move to Kenya. In so many areas of life we’re at a fork in the road. It seemed a logical reason why so many of my prayers have gone unanswered or answered with a “No”.
In fact, as I looked at my expectations and the reasoning behind them I decided this: It actually takes more faith in God to go back home and live than to go back home to prepare to move to Africa.
Maybe that’s where God wants me. You would think the “ultimate” walk of faith would be to leave everything and move to a 3rd world country. You would think if God had a willing family to move overseas, He would move them.
But that’s not the case for me and my family. We were willing, just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar. Can you imagine that walk to Moriah? Imagine Abraham trying to act like nothing is wrong, but his responses to his son’s constant chatter reveal a mind that’s far away. A mind that’s preparing to do the most difficult thing he’s ever done: sacrifice his only son.
Did he believe God would raise Isaac? Did he believe there would be a ram in the distance instead? I don’t know. But I do know he walked the journey to the area of Moriah and made his way to the mountains where God had directed. His son, putting some puzzle pieces together said, “Daddy, I see the wood and the fire, but where is the lamb?” His Daddy’s face would have said it all. And what was Sarah thinking back home? Did she come running after them, desperate to stop her husband’s wild obedience?
Just like Abraham, we had cast in all our chips on this trip. We made no plans for the fall semester of school, no summer camps or playdates, no business trips or schedules. We came as Abraham did, precious cargo in tow willing to leave it all behind. In my mind it was already packed up. Then, when we finally reached the mountain the Lord provided a ram instead. It was not for us to move here.
I can only imagine what Abraham felt when he saw that ram. The sadness that had spread over his heart like a thick blanket at the thought of losing his son was removed. But our minds take longer to process a journey like that. For days before he would have rolled over the prospects of losing Isaac. In fact, he had to lose him mentally, for that’s what surrender is. Surrender is opening your hand and allowing God to have what he’s asking for. The thing is, my human mind thinks He’s trying to take from me and I’m going to miss out on something good. Like Eve in the garden, the snake gets me to think God’s keeping something from me. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
My husband often asks our oldest son when he’s grasping for control, “How do you hold the most sand? Do you squeeze your fist tightly together? No. You hold out your hand. Palms flat, better yet, both hands cupped together pinky to pinky. Now you can a handful of sand.” That’s the process of surrender.
At the first knock on Abraham’s heart of sacrificing Isaac, I bet his fist tightened just like mine did at the first thought of leaving home and moving to Africa. God massaged Abraham’s heart until his fingers laid out palms flat and he surrendered it all, including his most prized possession, Isaac. My Grandad and other family members are my most prized possession and it pained my heart to think of not seeing them for birthdays, holidays and Christmas. Slowly, God had my hand opened flat and I surrendered it all, even those things most precious to me. After surrender, I realize my palms are holding more sand than my clenched fists ever thought of holding.
So there’s my story. And now that the ram’s been spotted in the bushes and we’re preparing to return home I’m face to face with my new challenge: To go back and stare again at the mound of unanswered prayers and step around the shards of shattered dreams. As I said at the beginning, this requires more faith for me than moving to Kenya.
To look at the puzzle I thought was taking shape and now to have to undo it and return to my knees about where this piece goes is humbling.
But that’s where God wants me. I’m struggling with it…it’s hard!
In the sermon I mentioned, the Pastor closed with Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
The “walk humbly” pierced my heart. To walk humbly means acknowledging God is God; I am not; I will trust Him.
God is God even when my expectations are unrealistic and go unmet.
I am not in charge of this life.
I will trust – even when my dreams are shattered and my puzzle destroyed. I will trust. I will obey, for as the song says, “there’s no other way…to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.”