On December 30, 2004, I sensed God asking for a "Yes" to a question I had been afraid to consider before that time. Here's what I sensed Him saying: "If you knew for sure that it was I who was acting and speaking, would you let go everything safe and settled to follow me? Would the Church? There is coming such radical change—I am bringing it–-that the familiar will fade away completely. Will you be a part of this? You can be, I want you to be, but you must let go of the familiar and the safe and follow me wherever I lead. You are not doing that yet, child, but I am calling to you. How will you answer me?”
And five years ago, the best I could answer at the time was, "I want to be willing to follow! Please keep working in me to get me there (Philippians 2:13)." And God has graciously answered that prayer many times over since that date.
Last year I found myself again saying "Yes" to Father's invitation to follow Him "off the map." Here's what I wrote: "Papa, this date seems to be the date each year that I am faced with answering whether I will follow you off the map! And as I reflect on all that you have done in me this year—far more than I could have dreamed, and different in some ways than I expected, yet not nearly enough (not until 2 Corinthians 4:7 becomes a reality will I stop pressing in!)—I am compelled again to say yes and ask you to continue doing whatever it takes in me. And as before I ask this not in fear that you will allow some horrible tragedy into my life because you prefer to change us by kindness. But I also know, Father, that just as this year has had its pains and challenges…so much to learn, so much to experience!"
But in spite of my words about God not allowing tragedy, this past year did bring pain to my wife--horrible, terrible pain and fear along with it--and because of my love for her, it brought pain to both of us. And to be honest, I wrestled more than once with whether my saying "Yes" to God to "do whatever it takes" somehow brought this pain on her. Yes, I know that good thinking about God wouldn't go there, but in the midst of the battle, we do find ourselves asking those questions, I think, or at least I did. Thankfully, though, God is not nervous or worried about those questions, and His Presence in the midst of the Valley of the Shadow of Death was extremely obvious to both Jettie and me.
And clarity comes as we cling to Him with our scary questions sticking out in front of us like festering wounds. He speaks and reminds me that He is good, to the core, completely and totally good. He reminds me that He sees all things, even the plans of the enemy, and takes them into account for how He plans to express His goodness to us. He reminds me that our ancestor Adam invited havoc into our world with his choice of "independence" and that havoc is no respecter of persons. He reminds me that His Word is true because it is a reflection of His character and therefore the many promises that are so brilliantly illuminated in the darkness by His Spirit are absolutely trustworthy: He really does deliver us from all our fears; He really is with us in trouble; He really does deliver from our enemies--in short, He really is good: totally, completely good.
And so as this day winds down, and I hear again His question, what can I say but "Yes"? But in ways hard to explain, my "Yes" this year is different. I feel like there is less "me" in it and more of Him in it. There is less bravado on my part, replaced by more awareness of my ineptness and frailty yet without condemnation because there is also more awareness that He really is--beyond our wildest dreams--very, very good! So my "Yes" this year feels "broken" and almost tentative, yet in some ways it is perhaps the best "Yes" I have ever given the One who asks the question of all of us.
Yes, my Abba, yes.
Tom, one of Abba's children