Sunday, March 16, 2014

Camping Season

Once upon a time there was a little girl in a junior youth class who was asked what she wanted to do when she grew up. The little girl was no more than six or seven and was missing her front teeth and probably wore a jean jumper and some oxford shoes because she so loved the way the black and white pattern looked on her feet.

The little girl grinned and without much though, proclaimed that she wanted to be a missionary orthodontist, not much knowing what an orthodontist was but growing obsessed with the idea of being a big kid and knowing that big kids got braces and therefore, by proxy, being an orthodontist had to be the cool thing. Her ministry would be fixing smiles and sharing Jesus with the world and that was that. No questions asked.

The little girl grew up and joined Girl Scouts and fell in love with cultural days and theme days at school, proudly announcing when she learned a few words in French. She grew into a middle schooler and took Spanish and oh how she loved the language. She loved how the words "flojo" and "anaranjado" rolled off her tongue and danced on her ears and she wanted nothing more than to speak the language and learn about the people because the culture was her love. The girl watched as classmates took ambassador trips to Australia and class trips to Paris and Barcelona and Egypt and she craved to go too, but alas, she never did.

The little girl had a friend who traveled the world and worked in Lebanon and Germany and went to places like Africa and India and would tell her about the beautiful things that God would do. And the girl had a box full of postcards from Middle Eastern countries where her uncle would go while he was in the Marine Corps and she dreamed of having a niece or nephew one day to send postcards to as well.

But the little girl didn't go.

The little girl often thought back to the day that she announced that she was going to go to Africa and be a missionary orthodontist and would ask God to send her somewhere to do something wonderful. The little girl took in the slides that visiting missionaries would show during special services and would instantly want to go to Sri Lanka and The Ivory Coast and Botswana and Greece and Argentina and Brazil. She wanted to eat strange foods and learn new languages and meet new people all of the world.

And the little girl would ask God to send her.

The little girl found herself facedown on a tear stained floor at church camp when she was 17, asking God for a word. Should she go to college? Or was there something more? Were those dreams God gave her before actually something more?

And the little girl asked God to send her.

The little girl found out there was a need in South America for someone to help in the school. And the little girl prayed and raised money and bought a plane ticket.

And three weeks after she graduated high school....the little girl went.

The little girl went to a country called Paraguay and saw wonderful things and met people that she fell in love with and even though she felt incredibly lost and very homesick, the little girl was doing the thing she had always prayed for.

But alas,things didn't happen according to plan and the little girl came home after just a couple of months and she cried the entire way home. She told God that it was clear that He didn't actually want to send her and swore that she would never do missions again.

The little girl went to bible school and God picked her up and dusted her off. He told her that it was going to be okay and reminded her that this one trip did not mirror His plans for her forever. The little girl sat in a missions service and wept and all of the things she had wanted before she had gone overseas flooded back in an instant, and God told her exactly what He expected.

He told her that she needed to keep an eye out and keep her faith strong because He had called her and He had chosen her and one day, sooner rather than later, He was going to send her.

And the little girl waited.

The little girl waited and prayed and waited and prayed. She looked into disaster relief trips to Haiti and orphanages in India and AIDS clinics in Swaziland and a home for children with HIV in Honduras and ESL schools in England and schools in Vietnam. The little girl found something called The World Race that she wanted to do so badly that it physically hurt her heart. And she dreamed and schemed and planned and prayed and cried and waited.

And God said, "Not yet."

The girl tried to move across the country several times and to go back to school and to move in with friends and to just leave to be anywhere but where she was and each time, things fell apart. And she cried and prayed and planned and waited.

And God told her to be content where she was.

And the little girl didn't understand.

And God showed her a vision of people in India and Cambodia and Malawi and Madagascar and Peru and Paraguay and Vietnam and Uganda and Sudan and Bangladesh and Argentina and Brazil and Costa Rica and the little girl's heart was broken. The little girl's heart had been broken for a long time. And God wrapped his arms around the little girl and touched her broken heart. And God told her that these faces were why she needed to be patient and be content....and wait.

And the little girl waited.

The little girl got a good job and moved up and loved what she did and before she knew it, a year had passed.

And God spoke to the little girl and showed her the same vision as He had the year before.

And this time all He said was....soon.

He didn't give a time frame or any other details. Just...soon.


The ninth chapter of the book of Numbers tells a story of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness. It says, "At the commandment of the Lord they camped, and at the commandment of the Lord they traveled on; they kept the instructions of the Lord according to the commandment of the Lord, by the authority of Moses." (Numbers 9:23, New English Translation)

To be honest with you, Numbers isn't a book that I ever look to have speak to me. If I'm being honest, I can find it quite dull and just want to be done with the thing. And then I read this. It's referring to the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire that directed them as they wandered in the wilderness, so I'm quite aware that in a strictly hermeneutic sense, I'm taking my liberties here. But regardless, when God said to camp, they would camp. They wouldn't move. They would be still. And when God said to move, they would move. As simply as that.

If you hadn't realized, the former part of this piece is my story. When I was very, very young, the Lord called me to missions. God broke my heart for people that I haven't met yet and it's been a journey with more ups and downs than I can say. I have embraced it and run from it and loved it and hated it and everything in between. And if it hasn't taught me anything else, it has taught me (some) patience and it has taught me how small I am outside of Christ. Patience is something I don't like. Patience is something I would be okay with out. I'm okay with admitting that I have a problem with instant gratification. And it's okay if you are nodding your head along with that statement because I'm not the only one.

All I want to say right now, maybe more for myself than for anyone else is...don't give up. I'm sure that you have promises and hopes and dreams in your life that frustrate you beyond all recognition. But don't give up.

Can I suggest that maybe you're in a season where you need to be camping rather than travelling? Is that okay? I know it's not fun to hear. It's not fun to say either. It's not fun because we've already established that I don't like having patience. I don't want to camp. I want to go.

I want to go and do things and see places and help people and I'm so constantly scared that I'm not going to have the time or the money or the whatever and I tap my foot at God and ask him if he understands what time it is.

But...He actually does. He knows exactly what time it is. And it's not time to travel yet.

It's always time to prepare. It's always time to be ready. But it's not time to travel yet.

Find peace in the camping times. Make some s'mores. Roast a tofu dog.

And camp.

Be still.

It will be time to travel soon.



RDailey said...

Have you considered that the mission God has planned for you may be right here in the USA? Maybe even in Mount Vernon? I understand the desire to travel, because I also love to travel, but there certainly is mission work to be done right here, right now. Think about it.

MotherT said...

Let me know if you need some waterproofing for your tent. Gotcha covered!!