In some ways, I’m in the same place I was four years ago.
I remember the day we got on the plane to go to China. I cried giant tears, as if I’d never step foot on this land again. As if the goodbyes we were saying were forever goodbyes. I felt terrified, alone, crazy, and irresponsible. Who quits their jobs and moves to the other side of the world to volunteer with an organization you’ve never heard of before?
The day we got on the plane to come to the USA, I cried giant tears… as if I’d never step foot on that land again. As if the goodbyes we were saying were forever goodbyes. I felt terrified, alone, crazy and irresponsible. Who picks up and moves their whole life one month after having a baby?
As we prepared to move to China nearly 4 years ago, we read a book called Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning, and the same passage that spoke to me then speaks to me now.
Our story is perhaps a paradigm for every trusting disciple. The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity; not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise.
I’ve been on a journey of trust these last four years, and in some ways it feels like I haven’t moved at all. But then sometimes I look around me, see I’m in totally new territory and realize just how far God has brought me and what he has taught me.
He has taught me that He is always good. I’m not sure if I truly believed that four years ago, as we were preparing to move to China. I think I thought one of the reasons I personally needed to go to China was to help pick up the slack. As I evaluated the plight of orphans, I came to the conclusion that God’s attention was clearly lacking in this department, and maybe I could make up some of the deficit. (Not that I would have admitted that at the time… partially because I didn’t see it in myself and partially because it sounds awfully unfaithful.) But over these last few years, whenever I came to the end of my rope, I always saw that God’s rope was longer still. He didn’t let them down, and He’s never forgotten a single child. I’ve seen them matched with families, pull through impossible surgeries, and sustain a joy that could only be explained by God’s presence.
But even though I know He is always good, I can’t seem to live in this land of trust. I fancy myself an optimist, but in reality I often brace myself for the worst. When I first found out I was pregnant with Cora, I was convinced I’d probably miscarry. Then when that didn’t happen, I braced myself for the inevitable difficulty of having a baby… of adjusting to motherhood… of packing our belongings… of saying goodbyes. As each milestone came and went with my “worst fears” unrealized, I started to recognize in myself a tendency not towards optimism and trust, but of fear and control. Though I’d quickly defend God’s goodness in the lives of orphans, I questioned His character in my own life… without any real reason.
A few months ago, a friend of mine in Beijing said something to me that I’ve been pondering since then. As I fretted about the hypothetical situations I was facing and expressed my desire for peace, she gently smiled and said, “Carrie, God doesn’t dwell with us in our future fears, so you’ll never have peace for the things you worry will happen in the future.”
He doesn’t dwell in our future fears. In Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning says it a bit differently. He says God is nowhere by NowHere. He’s only present in the Now and Here not in the Then or There. He is Emmanuel, God with us… right here and right now.
And that’s what I’ve learned these last few months. I was fearful about so many things, and when I thought about the big picture and dwelled on all the changes all at once, I’d get so overwhelmed. But in the day to day – in the present moments – I’ve always had a lot of peace. So while we were in the hospital, I had a lot of peace about having the baby, in spite of some somewhat serious post-delivery complications. And when we first went home from the hospital, I suddenly found most of my fears about taking care of a baby went away and I managed much better than I thought I could. The packing and goodbyes were less traumatic than I expected, and though it was hard to leave, by the time we got on the USA-bound plane, I was looking forward to the next season. The trip home was a breeze… everything went smoothly… our dog even made it with no problems! And now we are home, and we have everything we could possibly need. You may remember me worrying where Cora was going to sleep a few weeks ago, but as I type this, Cora is drifting off to sleep in a swing that my sister-in-law gave me, an extra from her own recent baby shower. There was a roomful of baby clothes, supplies, and furniture waiting at Jacob’s parents’ house when we arrived… on loan from our brothers and sisters. There was cereal in the cabinet and strawberries in the fridge. Fresh sheets on the bed and a fire crackling. For however long we need it, we have a home. And I felt peace.
I still don’t know what is next… where or when Jacob will find a job, where or when we will move on from this place. But I sense His presence today, and that’s all I really need.
I pray that no matter where your life’s journey is taking you today, you will look for God nowhere but NowHere, and that you’ll trust that it is enough.