Five years ago, my wife and I felt God was calling us to leave Texas and move to Colorado. While the move was fun and exciting, it was a little intimidating for us, because we had grown up in Texas and lived there for over thirty years. Our friends were there. Our family was there. Our church was there. We knew nothing and no one in Colorado. Fast forward to today, and I can say that God blessed us through that move. We met some of our dearest friends in Colorado and grew in our faith and love for God.
Three and a half years ago, I left a corporate job with a company I had been with for fifteen years. It was a scary move for me, because I was leaving to become an independent consultant and originally didn’t have any idea where my income would “in-come” from. All I knew was that I felt God was calling me to step out in faith and that I was already three months past the date I had originally committed to leaving. Fast forward to today, and I now know that God grew me through that decision and the ones that followed. He stretched my faith and showed me how He could and would provide for my family.
Five months ago, my wife and I felt again that God was calling us to move – this time to Thailand. The other two challenges seem so easy compared to the changes this one has required us to make. I/we had to re-enter the corporate environment (something I hoped I would never have to do again), sell or give away 90% of our stuff, say goodbye to family members and those dear friends we met in Colorado, leave behind ministries and leadership roles we loved, enter a new culture, where English is rarely spoken, and learn to live outside the margins of our comfort zones.
The whole experience feels like an accelerated learning program taught by Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid movies. We’re waxing the car and sanding the floor and painting the fence, but we have no idea what any of these have to do with God’s call on our lives. We would like to think we are learning spiritual karate, but all the activity seems extracurricular and in a different direction.
But here’s where we have one up on Ralph Macchio; we already know we can trust Mr. Miyagi. We’ve been through His beginner’s course, and we know this is how He operates. The small steps of faith prepared us for larger steps of faith. His dojo isn’t a gymnasium or a room with mirrored walls; it’s life. We learn spiritual karate as we live and experience challenges and loss and pain and joy and love and relationship.
That said, we are probably still going to worry and stress about things. The problem for Ralph and the problem for us is that Mr. Miyagi doesn’t lay out the master plan for us. He gives us the lessons we need when we need them; other than that, He leaves us guessing. Sometimes, we are able to look back over the lessons and realize how it all worked for our good. But at other times, it’s a mystery.
Maybe God will reveal the incredible efficiency of His plan when we get to heaven, but maybe He won’t. God is God. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His ways are higher than our ways. And anyway, I think our desire to know what He’s doing misses the point. God sometimes gives us seemingly bizarre, difficult and confusing tasks to do, because the tasks are tests.
Do we love Him enough…do we trust Him enough to obey even when He doesn’t “make sense?” Even when it hurts? Even when it’s scary? Even when it will cause us to suffer loss? How we do on the beginner’s test determines if we get to take the intermediate test, and how we do on the intermediate test determines whether or not we get to take the advanced test. White belt before yellow, yellow before orange, orange before green and so on…
You can trust Mr. Miyagi. He has a plan. Romans 8:28 tells us that He uses ALL things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. All the decisions, all the tasks, all the trials, all the challenges…everything. Even our bad choices, our mistakes, our sins, our selfishness, our fear…everything. As long as we keep showing up at His dojo and submitting to His instruction, He’s going to be steadily and mysteriously moving us toward our spiritual black belt.