Monday, September 11, 2017
“What you are is God's gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.” ― Hans Urs von Balthasar
Talking about gifts is appropriate today because today is our oldest son’s birthday (he’s fifty). After the horrific events on this date in 2001, my son called me and asked if you could legally change your birthday. He and his wife both live and work in New York City, so there will be no big celebration there—it just wouldn’t be right. They will celebrate quietly. We are so very proud of him and his wife, as we are of our middle son, and our youngest son and his wife. As we have helped to make them what they are, so they have also helped to make us who we are. Karen and I got to talking the other day about all the people who had helped to make us who we are. The list included family, friends, teachers, coaches, pastors, and people we had just met briefly but who had an impact on our lives. The one thing they all had in common was that they believed in us.
Karen had a high-school counselor who told her she couldn’t go to college, the best she could hope for was a secretarial school. This was a case of someone who didn’t believe in her but who prodded her to get into college and prove that counselor wrong—and she did. A few have challenged us to become better, but most loved us, encouraged us, and were there to pick us up if we failed. One of the best lessons we learned was that failure can be a very good thing. There is no value in succeeding if there is no chance of failure. On my side I had aunts, close friends, teachers, professors, and one or two pastors who all added to the totality of me, but none of them urged me to move to Africa. No one on Karen’s side did either. In fact, most thought we were crazy, that we would never make it work. A number believed that we would not last more than two years and would come home hanging our heads in shame and disgrace. Happily, we didn’t listen to those voices but the one, still small voice that said, “Come, serve Me here.” It has never been easy, but nothing of any real value ever is. Christ didn’t promise His disciples great health programs, good vacations, and stock options.
When God told Abraham to go, Abraham went. That’s how it works. However, neither Karen nor I believe that we should have been here years ago. We came when all those people who helped to shape us, when all the experiences good and bad combined together to tell us we were ready—that’s when we went. As we look back, it seems that every single thing we did in our lives was preparing us for this. We only had three days of official training to become missionaries, but we had both been preparing for decades to do what God called us to do. We couldn’t have done it without each other either. Now that John has been here for eleven years, we know how important a part he has played and is playing. It’s that first line of the twenty-third psalm that’s important. You know, the one where it says, “The Lord is my Shepherd” and we have to let Him lead. The sheep don’t lead the shepherd, it is the other way around. Neither do the sheep dictate to the shepherd what the shepherd’s duties are. The sheep trust the shepherd and follow when they hear His voice. That is all we are asked to do, really. Listen and follow. We may not know at the time for what we are being prepared, but trust me, God doesn’t make junk. If He is working on you, He expects great things from you. Become a gift to all in response to God’s great gift to you.