31 Dec 2009

Is there life after “No”? (part 3)

I’ve been digging through some of my old baggage – sharing pieces of the year God told us a whole lot of “no” and not much else. My hope is that it might encourage you if you find yourself stuck in a place where your prayers seem to be bouncing off the walls. If you want to start from the beginning you can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

After a year and a half in my homeland of South Africa our plans to settle in permanently under the purple boughs of the jacarandas were painfully uprooted. No one was hiring an international and if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that a man needs to work. So I blindly promised my husband that wherever he found a job, we would move.

Turns out that job was in Michigan.

It could not have been more different. Or more perfect a place to recover. Psalm 23 took on literal meaning for me. Out of the desert of God’s silence and our desperation He led us now into green pastures

beside quiet waters

and the Spirit begin the gentle process of restoring our souls.

We couldn’t afford a house or much of a rental either, but family friends had a home they couldn’t sell and were prepared to rent to us for a fraction of its worth in exchange for us being prepared to move out at a moment’s notice if it sold. It was deep in farm country and would have stood vacant if we hadn’t arrived when we did.

Pete’s aunt and uncle lived just around the corner and absorbed us into hearth and home. And slowly we started to find our feet and take tentative steps forward again.

And I discovered that at the heart of my misery – beyond the homesickness and sense of failure – had been a misunderstanding about faith. I had confused faith in God with faith in what God could do for me. I had been viewing God like a mystical vending machine; I inserted my prayers, pulled the handle and expected the desire of my heart to pop out the bottom slot.

Boy, was I deceived.

I have since come to believe that God is not nearly as interested in our happiness as He is in our holiness. What makes me happy is not necessarily what draws me closer to the God who knows my every nook and cranny. And He loves me enough to say, “no” when – as every parent understands – saying “yes” would have been so much simpler.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still ache for home and the could’ve beens if things had worked out there. It just means that I truly understand in a way I never had before, that His will is for His best, which in turn is for my best. Because He is the God of fresh beginnings and beautiful restoration. And I have the baby to prove it.

More on that tomorrow!

##

To read the final chapter, please click here. Because it has a happy ending.

Comments

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  1. 1

    Thanks for continuing to share your story! I’ve had to learn some of the same lessons this past year. You’ve expressed it so well and I look forward to the next parts.

  2. 3

    Wow! …confusing “faith in God with faith in what God (can) do for me” … what an amazingly raw and truthful analysis of what He teaches us in brokenness. I wish I had known and been a steady friend through such a horribly broken time for you guys. I’m so glad to be back in touch with you!

    • 4

      Aww, thanks Bria. I’m sure you would have been if we had been in the Bend then. But we didn’t make it back there for a long time. We went direct from SA to MI. And – despite how it “felt” – I now know that God had us tight in the crook of His arm the whole time.

  3. 5

    “I had been viewing God like a mystical vending machine; I inserted my prayers, pulled the handle and expected the desire of my heart to pop out the bottom slot.”
    This left me with a head nodding “mmm hmmmm” Such a powerful metaphor! It’s so easy to think of faith as a one way street, when really – it can only work of it’s both ways.

  4. 6

    I love your story, and what it has taught you. Cant wait to hear more!! Happy New Year!

  5. 8

    “I have since come to believe that God is not nearly as interested in our happiness as He is in our holiness. ”

    Yep. My flesh says, Nope. I go with “Yep” & drag the rest kicking and screaming. :-)

    I loved that part. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  6. 10

    Thank you for sharing so beautifully. What a lovely family. May God Bless you exceedingly, abundantly, above all that you can ask or think in the coming new year!

  7. 11

    Oh, I just remembered one of my lessons after a “no”! It was about 5 1/2 years ago. We were given the “desires” of our heart in way of a beautiful wooded 53 acres in Kentucky. We prayed and felt it was a “yes” and it became ours. So shocked was our reaction when a year later we felt God calling us to leave Kentucky. It shook my faith. I wasn’t sure if I could trust in ‘hearing’ from Him, if I missed this one by a mile. But HE showed me it was HIS ‘yes’ and then it was HIS ‘no’. He spoke the answer to my heart. My lesson HE tenderly taught me was this: “I gave you the desires of your heart to see where your treasures lies. In taking it away, I tested your heart. To refine you. It doesn’t mean I won’t someday fulfill that desire (one I feel HE put in my heart in the first place). But in giving it up, you (me) exhibited putting your treasure in ME.”

    Here is the holiness over happiness part. Like what you wrote. HE was teaching me about that. Setting apart, Holy. Setting aside this desire and trusting HIM with it. The next few years I would waffle between content, to idol worshipping the promised land HE showed me. Many times I had to lay that stinking idol at HIS feet. I believe the harder part was those years following the ‘no’, not picking up the idol. When I finally gave it up, HE delivered it.

    I look forward to hearing more about what HE’s teaching you in your ‘no’. What a blessing to “walk” with you in it. Thanks for inviting us in!

    • 12

      Wow – great insights, Tammy. Thank you for sharing them. You are so right about how hard it is to voluntarily give up the things we love or want or crave for the God we are supposed to emulate. What a wonderful example you share.

  8. 13
    Stephanie says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey. It is great to know someone else who God said “no” to in order to give them something different, a different kind of better. Keep hanging onto Him as He continues to develop your character – more like Himself.

  9. 14

    you must be on Lake Michigan….we live along the lake too, in the north– and I know of its healing, restorative powers. I think in the quietness, in the vast stillness and open landscapes, it is easier to hear the heart of God and the universe thumping away. A beautiful, holy thing indeed.

    • 15

      Yup, that is Lake Michigan. Up near Traverse City – my aunt has a cottage there and it was one of our favorite summer vacations. But, the house we lived in was in Owosso, MI. Small town – I fell head over heels in love with! And you are so right, I hear the “heart of God and the universe thumping away” in wide open spaces more than anywhere else. Thanks for stopping by. Send love to big, old Michigan for me!

  10. 16

    I read courage and humility and love and integrity.
    In great posts .
    thank you for writing in a way that we could apply to our stories too.
    And I hope that you are at peace with all of this now.

    • 17

      Thanks for asking. And yes, I am. It’s actually been a great exercise just writing it all out. Did you get to part 4? Therein lies the closure and a glimpse of the bigger picture that the Lord showed us.

  11. 18

    I feel your pain and your joy. Ten years ago I left the land and the lake (Michigan also) for the desert. Part of you dies when taken off the land, but it can be given new life in Christ’s plan.

  12. 19

    Hi Gypsy Momma,

    I just read your story! So Good and True about our God being more interested in our Holiness! I realized that I don’t live too far from your home in Owosso. I live in a small town west of you guys in Dewitt, Mi. I’ve been to Owosso many times. I will start to pray that you will completely settle in in this new place where God has brought you. Thank you for your thoughts.

    Kathy Stanaway

  13. 20
    Christina says:

    Hi,

    This post was very powerful for me, especially since I am going through a transition in my life (graduation to full-time job to possibly back to school again). It definitely hits home – faith in what God could do for me, and the whole vending machine mentality. It is frightening, but I do hope to go forth in faith and courage as you have, that regardless of what happens, He is there to catch us as we take the leap of faith.

    Thank you for your sharing.

    -Christina

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