Sometimes we’re too busy to notice. Many of us don’t recognize it. Some don’t care. But this week I have been fortunate enough to see the evidence of God’s fingerprints all over my life.
Today is the last day of a weeklong workshop I’ve taken titled “Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills”. It’s been an exhausting week of learning vital skills aimed at strengthening relationships. The sessions have ranged from relationship killers to confronting well to helping others grieve. It’s been an exciting time not only because of what I’m learning in each session but the moments during the day that are so clearly orchestrated by a detail-oriented Jehovah-Jireh.
The first God moment came in the form of a girl named Ali. The workshop is mostly Christian workers who have worked in the field (Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East) for years; most are much older than me. From across the room on Sund
ay night, I could tell Ali was close to my age but we did not have a chance to connect until Tuesday when she walked up to me at lunch and said she’d served on the islands where I am going. She just got back in January! And she’s not just close to my age- she is my age. Instant friendship. The chances of this happening by chance are infinitesimally small. The islands are home to just a couple dozen workers out of thousands in our organization total; this workshop has participants from five different organizations; she was only home because of a health issue that required her to return to the US earlier than her team. Mere coincidence? Albert Einstein once wrote, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” From where I’m standing, there wasn’t much anonymity in that one. I’ve had the chance to pick her brain all week long about the culture, food, living conditions, gender issues, amenities, etc. on the islands. What a gift.
The second moment was a result of a session we had on Monday called “Helping Others Problem Solve”. Adults retain 10% of what they hear; 30-40% of what they see
and 90% of what they hear, see and do. Each session consists of discussion, demonstrations and practice. I have been having problems with getting churches and sometimes individuals to get back to me when I reach out about my endeavors so this was the problem I presented to my partner. I am scared to do follow-up because I do not want to seem pushy and needy, but then again, I can never be sure that they just didn’t forget and one phone call would be the needed reminder. Together my partner and I came up with a brief solution that each day this week, I would give a follow-up call or a first call to a church or individual that I had been putting off when I was hoping email would suffice. I should mention that I am a bit of a telephobe and much prefer electronic communication. So Monday and Tuesday, I make some calls, no answer; I left messages. No callbacks. Wednesday I cold call a church in Indiana where some family friends attend. I get an answer and a referral. The next thing I know I’m booked to speak at a Saturday evening gathering, a Sunday morning gathering and I have a place to stay. I was elated!
The third is not so much a moment but a slow revelation that has been taking root in my mind throughout the week. As I mentioned, most participants at this workshop are experienced overseas workers. I was surprised to learn that they deal with the same issues I do! They avoid confrontation, say the wrong thing to someone who is grieving, have money problems that cause family issues, blow up at co-workers and deal with stress poorly.
Now this may seem obvious to most of you and I suppose in my rational mind I knew this. But to some extent I have been approaching this whole experience with rose-colored glasses. After years of denial, avoidance and running away from God’s Will for my life, I am finally being led down a purpose-driven path. Shouldn’t it get easier? Shouldn’t these trite interpersonal conflicts go away as I serve God wholeheartedly? The answer I have received this week is a resounding NO! Quite frankly, it’s been a little much to process at times. I’ve had to chide myself as I read through familiar passages that speak of trials and suffering.
I am reminded of Peter speaking to the Christians in Northern Galatia in 1 Peter 4:12-13, 16. He says:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed…However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
In my last post I referenced 2 Timothy where Paul speaks to Timothy about enduring hardship. Thus, my rational brain knows that life in the field will not be easy. People problems will not end. In fact, from previous experience living overseas, those problems have a way of magnifying. Many of Paul’s letters to the early churches were addressing people problems!
For whatever reason, I was living in this present season of stress and challenge in raising support, thinking in the back of mind, once my support is raised it’s smooth sailing, peachy king. This week I woke up. We are not promised smooth sailing in this lifetime, actually, quite the opposite. But we are promised rest for our souls (Matt 11:28-29), strength in our weakness (Isaiah 40:29-31), provision (Phil 4:19) and ultimate victory (I Cor 15:57). That is something about which to get excited!
 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.