Randy Alcorn in his book “Heaven” includes the following story:
“In 1952, young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island, determined to swim to shore of mainland California. She’d already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and hilly; she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water along the way, her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was close and that she could make it. Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It wasn’t until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away. At a news conference the next day she said, ‘All I could see was fog…I think if I could have seen the shore I would have made it’.”
I really like that story because it makes me ask the question ‘where I am headed for?’ and encourages me to focus on that place. In the book Randy Alcorn is talking about the New Heavens and the New Earth. If we are in Christ that is indeed where we are headed and in tough times in particular that should be a huge encouragement to us. It is one of the key transitions of life which for the most part probably seems so remote and yet which in reality can be just around the corner. Certainly for me suffering, pain and loss has brought the reality and hope of the New Heavens and the New Earth into sharp focus.
Tonight I have been thinking about transitions; that is the place that I am in and it is a somewhat uncomfortable place to be. Its a place of uncertainty. I feel like I too am swimming in the fog and struggling to sea the shore. Oh how I would love to see the destination but I guess that would eliminate the process of faith and it seems like God is in the business of growing faith.
In Matthew 8:23-27 the disciples who were crossing the lake (as they had probably done many times) lost sight of where they were headed and lost perspective that Jesus was right there with them. They woke Him and cried out to Him saying “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus response was quite direct and cut to the heart of the matter, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Good question we might answer but what was it about this storm that so terrified them? Storms are as much a part of our lives as they are part and parcel of life as a fisherman. Sometimes they can be avoided but other times they just come out of nowhere. We’ve been sailing in the storm now for almost two years; its not been easy, its been pretty horrible and hopeless at times but we are starting to see shore.
Yet the challenge now is not so much the storm itself, as we come out from the storm the challenge before is where are we headed. Ultimately of course we are headed home to be with our Father in the New Heavens and the New Earth. The short-term however is much harder to discern and I particularly am having to hold on in faith that God is leading us and is working out His plan for our lives. As I have written previously (see “Saying Goodbye to Student Ministry?) much is out of our hands. We are seeking to be good followers (not a huge strength of mine) and to openly seek God for what He has for us next (rather than plotting our course myself). Just like the disciples I feel like I am out of my depth and wonder whether we will ever get there or even if we do whether we will enjoy it when we do so.
At the end of the account in Matthew the disciples were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Should I expect anything less, that one day I will look back in amazement at how God has brought us through the storm and led us clearly to what life has for us next? This is clearly a transitional phase which is also something of a cross-roads for us. There are different paths we can take and quite a few people have already encouraged us in a variety of ways. My 360 degree review feedback is due next month and I expect that to also weigh in heavily on the various options.
How then do I evaluate the different contributions people are making to these questions? What God seems to be saying is that I need to keep my eyes on Him and wait for what He does next. If you know me you will know that waiting is not exactly “my style”. Indeed I am the kind of person who paces up and down if something or someone is late, the kind of person who finds it hard to take “no” for an answer and comes up with numerous options of how to yet around a “no” and make it a “yes”. Could it be however that God will somehow weave all of the different voices and advice and use them to affirm what God Himself has been laying on my heart? I pray that this will happen but even if it doesn’t I pray that in His time God will make our next steps clear and continue to use us in His service wherever that leads us.
Transitions are scary times, they are uncertain and it is so easy to lose sight of God and where He is leading us. Yet they are also a fruitful time for our faith and are opportunities to trust God and walk in step with Him and what He is doing in our lives. After all Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12 that “When I am weak, then I am strong.” I still cannot see the shore (and it would be a lot more comfortable and motivating if I could) but in the meantime my challenge during this time of transition is to trust God to lead us forward. If you too are going through a period of transition I encourage you also to keep hoping, keep trusting and keep your eyes on Him who will lead you forward according to the exciting plan He has for your life.