Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What I want is what I've not got, and what I need is all around me

I've always wondered what those Dave Matthews lyrics meant:

What I want is what I've not got, and what I need is all around me

Last week we left El Paso to make our way back to Laramie. I was a bit sad saying goodbye to my family and my home. As we were packing my heart was heavy.... is this the last time I will see my parents until we return from Africa?

Jeff unexpectedly holds me tight and answers the question I had not yet voiced, "don't worry, we will see your family again before we leave." What a blessing to hear that! But still... I hated saying goodbye.

While we were staying in El Paso I was on a mission to arm ourselves for the Wyoming winter we would return to. We found a suitable coat for Jeff (who insisted that his thin sweaters were fine. I think not!) and searched high & low for insulated and affordable boots for me. I once had a pair I wore while attending school in Minnesota, but could not find them.

The day before we left for our 14 hour drive I still had not found the right pair of boots to buy. Every pair was not warm enough, or too stiff, or too expensive, or too manly.... nothing seemed just right. I decided I would just bare the cold with what I had, but in the mean time I would find a pair of old dress shoes I once loved. It wasn't what I originally planned, nor was it a practical thing to pack, but I did want to bring them with me.

I searched the house for them. No such luck. But in the process of looking for my adorable but impractical dress shoes I found my original boots from Minnesota. They looked a little dusty, but otherwise brand new! I felt an overwhelming sense of gratefulness, like God was telling me, "it's time to go back to Wyoming." The dismay I was feeling about leaving home was lifted, I was ready to return to Laramie.

We arose early in the morning and hit the road. It was a long trip. During the last few hours of our drive I started becoming irritable. I was hungry, cramped, and tired. The restaurant we had discussed visiting was packed with eager Broncos fans watching the playoff game. We were in a strange town, caring for two tropical fish in the passenger seat, and now it seemed that we would not have the chance of a sit-down dinner (and break from the full day of driving). We ordered to go (the most delicious wings I ever had) and hit the road again. An hour or so from Laramie the truck started having problems. We pulled over three or four times. Jeff called family and asked if they would be willing to pick us up if we needed it. I prayed each time we pulled over. I didn't want to think about sitting silently in the truck in the freezing weather waiting for someone, transfer our belongings from our truck to another vehicle, and still have more driving to do.

On our last pull over, we prayed together and held each other. We spoke of God's faithfulness. I asked my parents to pray for us. We started the car and began driving cautiously. This time I watched the clock to see how long it would take for the truck to act up again. 45 minutes later, we made it into town. I was so grateful. It was -20* outside. We unloaded our things and crawled into bed.

The next day (Sunday) we walked to a nearby church we had never been to for their second service. I was too nervous to use the truck again and I was still a little stiff from all that sitting the day before! As we entered the congregants told us that second service was canceled because the pastor's mother-in-law had passed away. We thanked them and turned around to walk home. I was very discouraged because I wanted to come to church and thank God for allowing us to make it into Laramie safely. I felt guilty that we didn't attend the first service, which was held that morning. I felt incomplete in my gratitude because I did not offer my thanksgiving in the house of God.

Jeff & I decided to reach each others devotionals out loud in our bedroom, a practice we had tried only once before. Two very different passages, two very different devotionals. Yet there was the same theme in both of them: accepting trials and struggles with joy because it gives us the opportunity to trust in God all the more. In fact, this very practice of finding joy in the difficult times builds the foundation for unshakable joy in Christ. And through the joy of being in Christ we find continued strength to endure the heartaches, setbacks, and frustrations of life.

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." ~ Philippians 4:11-13

Sometimes what I want to happen doesn't happen. Sometimes it happens but not in the way I wanted it to happen. But I have never been in desperate need of the basic necessities of life. Consequently, I have never really needed to depend on God for my needs.

God is changing that. I am finding in little ways and in big ways that I am at the mercy of His will. That my very existence and survival is resting on His divine sovereignty. Very fortunately for me, this relationship is not a disheartening one because God is Love. I am grateful that God loves me enough to intentionally put forth the effort to grow me, groom me, and shape me into a more Christ-like individual. He doesn't just offer salvation, He offers development. I am also humbled that these lessons, which I have known for years in theory (God is faithful? Yes! God will give you what you need? Sure!) I am now learning in a deeply intimate way that is shaping who I am as a person.

I thank God for providing the things we need, and also the things we think we need. I thank God when our plans are disrupted because deep down they are opportunities to develop our choices and character. I thank Him for providing "wake up calls" every once in a while in my life to remind me about what really matters.

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."  ~ Psalm 107:1