“Still, accepting God’s existence is one thing; honoring his command is another matter entirely, especially if we’re required to go back when we’d rather go forward.”
~Liz Curtis Higgs
from Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible~
We all like to believe that God is using us; that He is commissioning us to do something in His kingdom. Some of us are quite happy for that commissioning to be in the work we are doing right this moment, close to home, reaching the people around us. Others would be totally ecstactic if God said, "Go..." somewhere new, somewhere with different challenges. The response would cry out "Just tell me where." Yet, others of us don't even worry about knowing the "where." We'd love to be Abram, setting out for the land God would show, and to have that much faith to go.
Yes, a Christian who is seeking to grow in their relationship with God wants to move on with Him. But, what if He were to say, "go back"?
Anyone who knows me for very long quickly understands that I love to move on. We have lived in England longer than anywhere else during the time of our marriage. I have itchy feet, I'm ready for God to take us elsewhere. I've been ready. For three years I've been ready. And time and time again God has clearly said, "stay." We have lived within the blessing because we stay. It doesn't keep me from reminding God that I'm willing to go. I'm sure He just smiles and whispers, "I know, not yet."
Just before I read this quote in Higgs' latest study, a friend and I were talking and praying. She, too, has been ready to go for a few years. We love each other because we can say, "I love you, but I'd love to tell you good-bye!" Anyway, she asked the question, "Could God ask anything more difficult for you than to stay?" I immediately answered, "He could say go back to the States." A week later I read this quote. And began to think, "Could I trust Him if He said go back?"
If He said go back to Texas? (Dix, Amy, Adrienne, you guys know I love you, so don't take this personally!). I wasn't the greatest farm girl growing up. There aren't any jobs that would draw German to West Texas. I am not sure that Texas could ever be home again. But if God said go back, would we? We would because God doesn't call to where you aren't needed. But it would be a difficult step of faith.
But that isn't what God is calling us to do (sorry guys!).
What if it wasn't a physical place, but an emotional place that He commissioned me to go back? What if it was back into a discipling friendship that ended in broken hearts all around? What if He called me to face that battle again? *Deep breath*. I can almost feel the physical pain from that emotion even now. But I've known that this period of time might be only a respite before another round. My head would say, "I'm not ready," but my heart would hopefully trust Him enough to go back.
Again, that isn't what God is saying. Not yet.
In fact, what God is still saying is "Stay." But the last few weeks of meditating on this has taught me so much. Time and time again, God has brought a person, a situation, a place, a feeling to my mind and said, "Would you go back to this." I'd love to tell you that each and every time I've said "of course Lord." But it isn't that simple. Knowing that He is sovereign is easy. I know that He doesn't leave unfinished business---but I do hope that in some of those places He has appointed someone else to finish it! I have had to grapple with these truths, that if He sends me "back" to somewhere, then there is something to accomplish. In each situation I've had to struggle with what I didn't want to go back to and why. It's been hard, but it has also been freeing.
In the story, Hagar had run away from Sarai who was mistreating her. Sarai was jealous of the pregnancy. But God still had things for Hagar to do. He didn't promise her that Sarai would all of a sudden treat her well. He didn't tell her things would be easy. Instead He assured her that He was with her. And He sent her back. Ishmael was born. Abram had his son. Later, after the birth of Isaac, Hagar would be sent away again. Again, God would meet her in her need. That time, he would not send her back. She would have a new purpose. But in the early part of Hagar's story, God sent her back. She trusted and she went. How difficult that must have been! But she did it.
If God asks us to return to something that has been left behind, there is a purpose. The purpose may be for someone that is there. But more often than not, the purpose is to continue to refine us to be ready to "send forth."
Has God sent you back? Is God sending you forward? Is He asking you to stay? Can you trust Him no matter the direction He sends?
(Oh, and in total irony, my friend who sparked this whole train of thought has been called back...she and her family will be returning to Saudi Arabia in the new year after four years here. I'll miss her, but I know that God has called them back to a purpose and can't wait to hear what He does!)
Father God, help me to trust You in all places. If You say return, may my heart return without fear. If You say stay, may I be content in the place You place me. And if You say go, may I step out in faith. I seek to serve You whereever I am. Amen.
Thank you for being a part of In Other Words this week! Please write your own thoughts on the quote, and then leave your link below. Have a blessed day!