I have often wondered and imagined what it must have been like for the founding fathers of the Christian faith, or the pilgrims as they crossed an ocean into a complete unknown. The former choosing to step out of the life they thought was set before them into something completely unfamiliar and unforeseen, and the latter driven to seek out a new path due to forces persecuting and trying to stop them from living out their lives as they saw them called to be. Both, however had to forge a new life, overcoming dire circumstances and uncertain how they were even going to survive. All the while trying to bring Christ’s promise of a flourishing life to those who had not heard how to attain it, and trying to attain it themselves. The pilgrims had to literally start all over, even having to learn how to properly farm in a new land and climate; and one founding patriarch, Paul, had to take up tent making to provide for himself in order to continue his ministry.
I think for a lot of us in our society, we have have lost the ability to feel, know, or even experience what something like this would be like. We have such an amazingly smooth system (once you're forced to look at it from the outside) where we have a blueprint for success from day one.
We are educated for at least twelve years, we have ample scholarships to see us go for more and become specialized, we have an overabundance of avenues to apply that education in the specified field of study, and a strong economy (despite what we hear) that can keep you working upward in that field at a job for decades, or even a lifetime.
All the while there are more systems in place to keep you healthy, food around every corner, and entertainment constantly streamed through air to your fingertips wherever you are!
Now, can you really imagine or even empathize with having all that taken away, or worse yet, being asked to voluntarily give that up? I know I couldn’t until it happened to me. And it is really hard to realize this when we constantly distracted and told to believe it never will. But as I go through this with VLA, the more I talk to those who have lived life a little longer, the more I understand MOST of us will go through it at some point. Why weren’t we told this would happen, been prepared for the days of struggle, loss, and wondering….oh wait….
Why do we never heed these words until they are our reality? However, at least we have them, and when we hold fast to them, they become our reality. He becomes our reality. All ‘our’ systems may fail us, all our plans may crumble, the broken world may break our world we have built around us; but, then we come back to the truth that He has overcome the world, can produce in us hope in Him and not ourselves, and He promises this will not return void.
As my wife so patiently reminded me the other day…”What is it that Gandalf said to Frodo in Lord of the Rings?”… “I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
And so in God’s comedic irony I now take up my ‘tent making,’ helping provide new roofs for those in need, providing shelter against the elements as a tent would, in lieu of a home, during Paul’s time. Sure it is still incredibly difficult to trust; but now I know where my hope lies, and it is not with me or my abilities, systems, or plans. It is in Whom I am promised this hope will not return empty; and although it may shift or change, I have decided what to do for now. Following the path only as it is revealed, and ever reminded of the absurd abundance He gives; as I will share in part 3.
I know this has been a bit long, but I would like leave you for now something, again, my wife shared with me (I think she must be wise or something).