A year ago today, I was trapped in the throes of one of the most excruciatingly miserable weeks of my life. [Let’s just say that in my humble opinion (and not that I normally have one), the world would be an infinitely better place if we just built a concrete wall around Cote d’Ivoire and tossed some lighter fluid and a match inside. And that’s my final word on the matter.] New Years Eve found Christy and I vehemently swearing up and down that we were going to leave Senegal, shake the dust off of our [dirty] heels, and never look back. I believe there was even a lengthy discussion entailing a Walmart rubber dingy and detailed speculation as to whether or not we could feasibly row one across the Pacific. [And let me tell you, had we been able to find a Walmart on this continent, there is a 99.79% chance we would have tried it.]
…to my retrospective embarrassment, we were also belting “God Bless America” at the top of our exhausted, enthusiastic little lungs with more pent-up patriotic passion than the 4th of July, and making lists of resolutions comprised of things like “stay stable” and “don’t eat chocolate chip pancakes and rice for every meal.”. But that story may be best left locked up in the vault.
My grand plans, if any, entailed muddling through the rest of my time in Senegal, SPRINTING back to the land of the free, kissing the tarmac in beautiful Raleigh and then spending the remainder of my days curled up in a gloriously overstuffed chair at Starbucks conducting research on just how much caffeine the human body can tolerate.
From my point of view, there just wasn’t much to see standing on the brink of 2010. The brink, in fact, looked rather dire and bleak. And then, Lord help us all, Jesus asked me to commit another year of my life to Dakar! [The nerve.] Believe you me, if you’d offered me a million dollars and an espresso machine I still wouldn’t have been able to hazard a guess as to His reasoning. I suppose that’s why He’s God and I’m not. Last year, Jesus very tangibly asked me to “fix my eyes on what is [was] unseen”, and in faith, follow Him and trust that He knew what on earth He was doing. Faith is, after all, a belief in what you can’t see.
Can I tell you something that’s absolutely thrilling to me? Now, a year later, I can “see” some of what He had up His sleeve. And it makes me want to hand Him this next year, too!
I am inexpressibly grateful that Jesus had grander plans for me than my aforementioned Starbucks sit-in, and that I listened. It’s been difficult-make no mistake. I try to be really honest about that here-if you’ve been reading for any length of time, you know full well that following Jesus back to Africa has entailed tears and homesickness and more than a few temper tantrums. But now, standing on the brink of 2011, I am extraordinarily excited to follow Him through this next year. Goodness, if this last year is any indication, there’s no question that I’ll miss out if I don’t! I started thinking yesterday about what wouldn’t have transpired had I ignored Him in 2010 and hopped in that rubber dinghy.
Aside from becoming shark bait, I wouldn’t have met Miriam. Or Bineta. Or Aya. Or Fatou Ba. Or 1,000 other girls that have names and faces and stories too-stories that have drastically altered every shade and subtle nuance of my life.
I would not have become betrothed to sweater vest man very much against my will, and consequently would not be cheating on him with the Mohammad the fruit stand man.
Come to think of it, if I’d gone with my plan, Ben and Dayton wouldn’t be in my life. And a year and a half after meeting
those boys, it is entirely impossible to imagine life without them. They’re part of my family, now.
If I’d opted for my plan, I wouldn’t have gotten to traipse through Europe with some of the most fantastic people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting.
I wouldn’t have gotten to watch twenty six people fall in love with Senegal and what God’s doing here on the crazy ride that was our summer project.
And if I’d gone with my plan, there’s a boy I wouldn’t have met. Granted, we then would have avoided the whole “I’m sorry I crunched your laptop screen to smithereens” conversation, [another story I’m locking up for now] but crunched screen and all- I’m glad that he came into the picture.
That’s just for starters.
My point here is that Jesus is good. Really, really good. And He’s worth following. There is so much hope and promise that comes with this new year-not because I have great plans, but precisely because I don’t! Jesus does. Which sounds trite until you realize that’s it’s actually true. And then…well, that changes everything, doesn’t it?
So here’s to relinquishing our colorless dreams, dwarfed goals, and timid, elementary plans-because we were created for so much more. Here’s to allowing Jesus to author our stories this next year- when it’s excruciating and uncomfortable, and when it’s effortless and exciting-because at the end of the day, it is always, always worth it. His stories are infinitely better than ours, anyhow.
To things unseen.