My family just celebrated our 11th anniversary of life overseas. I’ve been looking back over the last decade and thinking about the key moments that have led us to where I am and who I am today.
What moments were important? When did we make the big decisions that changed the trajectory of our lives? How has God been weaving His plan through our lives? When did I “cross the Rubicon” and enter this cross-cultural pilgrimage as an alien and stranger here on Earth?
Some of the big key moments stand out easily.
Like when my husband and I first quit our lucrative full-time jobs in order to complete our training and prepare to move overseas, and our well-meaning loved ones asked sincerely, “How will you live?!”
Or maybe when we sold our house and gave away almost everything we owned?
Or maybe when we first tried to learn some language and culture from a refugee community and lived in a tiny studio apartment in downtown Dallas? We slept on the floor and lived without furniture for three months.
These big moments stand out and are easier to talk about in public. They are a little crazy and a little funny, and that seems to make them easier to share.
But what about the little moments?
Lately I’ve also been thinking about all the little moments that pushed us across the river. I think about how my husband and I first met when we volunteered to go to an urban downtown area and provide food for the homeless on a Friday night. My husband said it was love at first sight, and from that moment on our lives have been intertwined. We had no idea what the future held then, but we haven’t stopped serving marginalized people together ever since.
Or was it when we sacrificed so we could give more to missions at our local church (when we still had those lucrative jobs)? Or, did we really start our journey of mission when we hosted a small group in our home on Sunday nights or when we volunteered to teach a preschool Sunday school class together?
Or maybe it was even farther back than that. Was it the time way back when I was in high school where I picked up a “stone of remembrance” at a missions event and said I would follow God anywhere? Was it when I gave my life to God in baptism at 10 years old and said “I believe” as the tiny church I grew up in sang, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”?
Dallas Willard in his transformative book “The Spirit of the Disciplines” argues that becoming like Jesus is “the intelligent, informed, unyielding resolve to live as Jesus lived in all aspects of His life, not just in the moment of specific choice or action.”
Willard argues that spiritual disciplines are essential to the Christian life just as training is essential to an athlete. He says, “We cannot behave ‘on the spot’ as he [Jesus] did and taught if in the rest of our time we live as everybody else does.”
Our life of mission began before we joined Pioneer Bible Translators and before we moved overseas. And all those little moments and choices leading up to us getting on the plane were just as important.
We started living differently before we ever stepped into another culture around the world.
Each step we have taken has prepared us for the next. And the next. And the next. Our faith has grown, and we have grown. God has continued to use us in small ways and lead us on to the next step. Those steps were made possible by the mercy of God, our commitment to continue in spiritual disciplines, and the power of prayer.
Prayer is our strategy because it is one of the spiritual disciplines that moves us on to the next step in unity with the Holy Spirit.
Prayer is our strategy because it is one of the spiritual disciplines that moves us on to the next step in unity with the Holy Spirit. With each prayer offered in faith, with each prayer offered in obedience, with each prayer said in Jesus’ Name, we commit the next step to Him wherever He will lead.
So maybe “crossing the Rubicon” into cross-cultural service as an alien and stranger here on Earth is not a one-time event. It is not a moment of specific choice; it is a decision moment by moment, little step by little step, always moving one step closer toward Jesus as He calls, “Come. Follow me.”
As Henri Nouwen says, “You can’t see the whole path ahead, but there is usually enough light to take the next step.”
Following Jesus and living a life of mission is not just a one-time decision. It is a continual decision to take another step on the lighted path.
“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
and a light for my path.
I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again:
I will obey your righteous regulations.” (Psalm 119:105-106 NLT)
Our past decade of service has had many twists and turns. Things have not always (ever?) gone exactly as we had planned. But God has answered our prayers. He has been faithful and He has turned evil to good. He has always been with us through each difficulty and each difficult moment.
We had no idea when we set out 11 years ago where we would be today. And we have no idea where we will be in another 11 years. But we continue to follow the voice that says, “Come. Follow me.”
Again and again, I will take the next step.
I will remember how faithful God has been to me throughout my life. I will remember how faithful He has been during our years of service. I will remember His love and presence and I will have the faith to continue to journey on.
Where in your life is Jesus calling you? What next step is Jesus asking you to take? How can you focus on prayer and spiritual disciplines to guide you as you journey on?