I woke up this morning a bit dumbfounded by God's timing, so I'll write about that. I am puzzled why God would choose this time of life for W and me to become church planters and mission teachers.
I don't mind getting older. A strange facet of American culture is the resistance of 40-60-year olds to admit that we're aging. "You're not old!" my friends protest (in self-defense?) when I self-identify as "an old lady," compared to younger women.
Oh well. Here we are. Mid-50s. Going into missions. I'm reminded of a couple of recent encounters:
1) A pastor asked us, "Why are you going at this time of life? Will our investment ($) be worth it? Should we be investing in young people instead?"
I ran that past Dr. Wayde Goodall, the NU School of Ministry dean and my husband's trusted adviser.
"What people here don't understand," he told me, "is that age and grey hair are valued where you are going. Precisely because you are older, well-educated, and mature in the faith, you have advantages young people don't yet have.
"What about bishops, apostles, and elders in scripture? They were entrusted with building the church in the New Testament. Remember that if someone asks you about 'being old.'" (Thanks, Dr. Wayde, for scriptural insights to balance our cultural assumptions!)
Listen here for her talk.) She notes that Joseph was an arrogant spoiled young man, sure of his dreams and his ability to lead. But God took him through difficulties and detours. Joseph wasn't ready for the top post until he was ready in God's timing. Then, Joseph's readiness coincided with Egypt's need for a wise administrator.
We weren't supposed to go until this time in our lives. This is what God has designed. What in our characters and personalities needed to be knocked off - or added?
The confidence of our youth, the easy "we-can-do-anything!" and "let's go for it!" attitudes are past. I actually can't imagine waking without the comforts of our home, the quiet forest behind the house, and the safe haven of family and friends who know and trust us. I feel afraid when I wake some mornings, that we're not enough and "nothing will happen" when we get there.
That's when God says, "Remember, nothing was EVER about you or W. It's always been about Me. If you remember that and live that way, I WILL do what I planned - through the two of you and those who will teach you and work with you."
When we visited Beijing in 2011, I was grief-stricken, sitting in a Chinese church service. I knew I could never learn Mandarin and that region of missions was closed to us.
We are going where the language is one of the simplest to acquire (according to linguists). I'm gradually listening to more and more Bahasa, trying to hear patterns and pronunciation. I'm hoping I can learn it, bit by bit. I'll always have a funny accent and I may not know all the words.
Language encapsulates its culture's gifts of thinking and knowing. Our parents were immigrants who spoke German. (W's folks knew Polish and Russian, too.) Our childhood churches used another language. We taught our children German so they would have alternate ways of knowing the world. Sometimes when we pray or read scripture, we slip back into German because there are words that express God's truths differently than English does.
Limited though our ability may be, both W and I intend to do our best to understand our new friends from the inside out. That means language learning.
4) I'm tired. Just thinking about down-sizing and moving wears me out. We don't have the energy of 30-somethings or even 40-somethings. God reminds me that maybe Job wasn't initially that thrilled about starting anew. Maybe he wasn't THAT excited about having 10 more kids, after being sick and losing it all. Yet God blessed him with a new family, great riches, and wisdom that moderns still learn from.
Thank God for our good health and plenty of vigor. We may take longer to think through what we're doing now. But that might be a good thing in days ahead.
God only knows. It's his timing, after all!
*For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life." Job 33:4 NLT
*This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15 NIV
*God consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT
Moravian Prayer: You are our refuge and strength, O God, our ever-present help in trouble. Embolden us to share the good news of your steadfast love. Make us instruments your consolation, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen