It was ten years ago this month when our family began a journey that led us to leave a quite comfortable place for us, and take us on a new adventure. The anniversary has led me to think of what we've seen over the last ten years. Specifically, I've been thinking that:
I really stink when it comes to career planning. By any reasonable understanding, the job I left was more prestigious, more desirable, and from a purely human perspective more attractive than the one I have now. When folks ask where I came from, they are surprised, and even say - "Don't people usually go the other way?" Honestly, yes. If you were planning out a career trajectory, this is not the way it would go. (The funny thing is, thirty years ago I taught a course in career planning.) Of course, I did not plan out this career trajectory, I obeyed it. Remember the TV show The West Wing? I clearly remember the scene when all of the main characters recited "I serve at the pleasure of the President." Well, I can relate. I serve at the pleasure of the Lord. Wherever, whenever, and however.
I am not a victim. I have had several people, in fact more than several, who have approached me over the years wanting to know the details of my departure from my old position. Absent any real facts, they fill in the blanks, and make up whatever story they want. It seems that some of them think I was a victim of other people and circumstances. Sure, there was a human side to the story, but that's not the whole story. Being a victim is a popular narrative in many people's lives, but I have come to the place where I refuse to allow it to be mine.
God does not waste anything. Over the last ten years, I have been amazed at the way God has used the experiences of the past to work in the present moment. If we allow, God will take what we have learned, even and sometimes especially through the pain of the past, and appropriate it for blessing in the present. And our present challenges are the raw material for the blessings of the future. Bertha Munro said "God does not waste a consecrated life," and I believe God does not waste a consecrated moment in that life.
Challenges lead to challenges and adventures lead to adventures. General Norman Schwartzkopf once said that when you are successful at meeting a challenge in the Army, the Army doesn't give you a vacation, they give you a greater challenge. The same is true for Christ followers, and Jesus even had a parable or two explaining it. In 2000, when our kids were 11 and 9, for our summer vacation we went to Sighisoara, Romania. It didn't make sense to many folks, and we were lectured on the risks by doctors, and on the strangeness by colleagues and family members. Taking your family to Disney World they could understand, taking them to a poor country still recovering from Communist oppression they could not. Of course, we joked with our friends that instead of going to a make believe world, we were going to the real home of Dracula, and we would visit real castles. But the actual reason for the trip would not be realized until years later. Two years later, when we left the only home they had known and moved to a new life, while it was challenging in many ways (more so for my wife and children then for me), the idea that we were being obedient to God's call was not a foreign concept. Over the last ten years our family has gone back to Romania, and our children have returned there twice. And today, as young adults, they are pursuing their own adventures and challenges, as they clearly follow God's call. The journey to Nashville for one, and Mongolia for the other, began with the journey to Sighisoara.
Relationships are the most important thing. Today, we are blessed to be a part of kingdom work and see miracles every day. My wife Esther serves as a high school music teacher, and her vast experience in creating environments for students to express their passion and creativity blesses both her students, her school, and our church. I serve a church that is making a difference for the kingdom in our community. Every day we see God changing lives, and every day we are witnesses to the transforming power of God's grace. And every day we remind ourselves that it is God who called us here, and God who empowers us to do what we are called to do. And every day we see the blessings that come through our relationships with people, and with a God who truly loves and cares for everyone.
Ten years later, and we are thankful that God has brought us here. And time sure flies when you're having fun!