Our family starts our journey to Thailand mere hours from now. Our bags are packed. We’ve moved boxes, stored treasures, donated items, rented our home to a Japanese company in our city, acquired visas, and just today mere hours before departure we sold two cars (so we can buy one hopefully in a few days). Lots of other details have occurred but as I write from a really comfy bed in my parent’s house, our transition is well under way!
These are days of lots of change. A move to a new city and country. New school. New drivers’ licenses. New visas. A new place to live. New language. New friends. New styles of food. New restaurants. Though we have traveled to this country several times for meetings, we have never lived there and never considered it until about a year ago. But as it will serve as our new base, our eyes and feet are directed to this new destination.
Tonight at dinner, my mom was praying and got teary which caused tears to flow in lots of us. After prayer, my dad broke up the tears with laughter and said, “They’re the ones doing it to all of us!” We all laughed. But the reality is that our decision to move effects everyone we love dearly. They all sacrifice. I watched as grandparents and aunts hugged on our kids today and was reminded how empty their arms will feel soon.
In the midst of all this transition, I have members of my family struggling with medical issues so it’s not a convenient time to go. Nor is it simple to move. One of our daughters has back rod extension surgeries every six months and another daughter struggles with expressive speech delays (because of cleft lip and palate) and probably requires another surgery in about 10 months. Due to the nature of our work, we don’t really anticipate it being easy once we get there. So to summarize – not convenient, not simple, and not easy.
But we are going. I thought I’d give my personal top 6 reasons to still move forward. You see there’s never going to be a perfect time for anything. There will always be a reason to stay back, to hold off on engagement with Jesus’ global purposes. There will always be distractions and situations. The writer of Ecclesiastes (yes, a very somber book I agree) stated in Ecclesiastes 11:4, “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.” There’s never a perfect time for anything, and I’ve used this verse countless times to help me take that next step. I pray these reasons (of course there are more) might encourage you to still move forward even within circumstances that do not seem convenient, simple or easy.
- Because our hearts are set on pilgrimage, we move forward.
Psalm 84 is a passage that Chad and I selected early on as foundational bedrock for our marriage. We have chosen to set our hearts on pilgrimage. It is so easy to get stuck in life, to become rigid, or to refuse to budge out of a normal desire for safety and comfort. But this passage frames how we want to engage life. Regardless of the pressures of life, we want to yearn for the presence of the Living God. We want to live trusting God for our provision just as He provides for the sparrows. We want to live in tune to His Spirit with our hands clasping His, rather than clutching for the old, the same, and the comfortable. We want to move through this life, through this world, and through our seasons going from strength to strength and believing and trusting God to be that strength for us. We want our stronghold to be in our God, not in our physical and emotional security.
- Because this world is not our home, we move forward.
In 1 Peter 2:11, Peter urges us to live as foreigners and exiles. The writer of Hebrews points us to a linage of people who lived by faith and who saw themselves as foreigners and strangers on earth. We find it so easy to invest in our earthly dwellings and environments as if we’ll be here forever. But in reality, we are here for just a blip of time and then spend eternity forever in our true dwelling place. The constant packing of suitcases and transitions reminds me that I’m just passing through. Personally, I prefer to stay in one place, I am not an avid traveler, and I love when my community is all nearby. However, my personal preferences should neither guide me nor hinder me. It requires faith to invest in a future home we cannot see.
- Because we only have one life to live, we move forward.
This fact resonates through me, maybe because I’ve lived in Asian nations where they believe in reincarnation. It is appointed to me (and all of us) once to die and after this the judgment. I just don’t want to live a wasted life. In fact, that scares me more than anything else. I’d rather live 5 years of moving strongly toward the things of Jesus than use 50 years dedicated to pleasing myself.
- Because of spiritual injustice, we move forward.
I won’t get into this here because we have a blog on this topic, but the reality that 2 billion people have never heard Jesus’ Name is mind-boggling. It is a form of injustice the church is propagating if we do not use every means possible to move the Gospel to the least reached areas. Christians still give 90% of all church funds to 10 overly saturated countries. We still only give 1-5 cents of every $100 that goes to the American offering plate to areas who’ve never heard of Jesus – let alone his awesome message that changes lives on earth and for eternity. Something must be done, and as a person called to salvation I am automatically sent to share the message. And guess what? So are you. We must each discover how we are going to do our part to end spiritual injustice which exists mostly in an area called the 10/40 Window. 85% of the world’s unreached peoples (experiencing spiritual injustice) reside in the 10/40 Window.
- Because to share the burden Jesus has for the world, we move forward.
I want to be a friend of God’s, and friends share one another’s burdens. God was so burdened by the Fall, that He came to the earth to reconcile, to redeem, and to restore. I want to make this God named Jesus famous and adored. I want to see Jesus change, renew, and transform lives surrendered to him. I want Jesus to receive the reward of His suffering.
- Because without faith, we cannot please God; therefore we move forward.
Faith sums it all up for all of us. None of us can see the future. None of us knows what will happen in the next 5 minutes. As hard as it is for me to leave (it’s brutal on my heart because my family is close and there are medical issues that I can help with if I’m physically present), I must follow God. I must trust God. I must surrender my family into God’s hands. I must creatively ask God how I might serve my family, even from a distance. I have to choose to believe and remember that God is my focus; and my family cannot become an idol. And nor would they want to be. It’s neither safe nor right for any of us. Hebrews 11:6 describes the litmus test for the Christian desiring to pleasing God, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Obviously when we believe for salvation, we exhibit faith. But a lifestyle of faith – wow, what a gift we can give God!
What hurts Chad and me the most is the reality that our choices affect others. Our transition forces others to transition as well. My mom can’t just run to our house and see the kids. My parents can’t just come to the soccer field and watch a game. Our families won’t have us here for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we’ll have to try to figure out Christmas for our kids with traditions that work in a tropical climate and where 99% of the people in the nation are Buddhists.
But with all of it, we must keep our eyes on Jesus. When we set our hearts on pilgrimage, we set our eyes on Jesus who is the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” Looking at Jesus, “we will not grow weary and lose heart” as we journey through life from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7).
Don’t wait until life is convenient, simple or easy to move forward in setting your heart on pilgrimage.
We have a long way to go as we seek to learn to live from strength to strength, but we desire to see the earth as simply a place we pass through on the way to our true home.
And personally we are thankful we pack not one bag to get there.