I’ll never forget the moment. As we pulled out of my parents’ driveway, there were a lot of people seeing us off. My dad was comforting my sobbing mom, my sister and her kids all waved goodbye through tears and my brother and his family stood by as we headed out, alongside my brother-in-law, Ellen and several other friends from church. Inside the van, things weren’t much dryer, as none of us were really ready to say goodbye to so many great friends and family.
That day was March 16, 2013 and it was six month ago today that we began our move from Salem, Oregon to Lake Ann, Michigan.
The process that lead to that move can be read on previous blogs, but today as I look back over six months of living in Michigan, there are a few key lessons I’ve learned -- maybe these will encourage you.
The process of growth is often the product of growth
I think I often look as growth as a destination. I think, “once I get through [insert life-changing event here] I will be [enter superhuman power here].” As I look back over six months of life change here in Michigan I’m realizing that the process of growth is the product that I desire. In other words, what I am becoming is a direct result of how I work through the process of growing, not in where that process leads me.
Living in Michigan hasn’t changed me (although I’ve never worn so many hoodies throughout the summer months!), but the process of moving to Michigan has radically shaped my life. In fact, I think I could have gone through this process and ended up staying in Salem, and I would have experienced the same type of life change. The process of growth creates the change God is working in my life.
James said it this way, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials [aka: personal growth opportunities!] because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and compete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Notice that it isn’t the victory over trials that James says produces growth, but rather, the working through them…perseverance!…that produces the character God wants to develop in us. The process of growth produces the life change God wants to perform in me. When I short-change the process, I short-change the end product.
It pleases God to bring joy to His children
I don’t know if it was the conservative church context I grew up in, or whether or not I simply missed it (and both are distinct possibilities), but somehow I grew up not understanding how much God delights in His children. Two times in the New Testament Jesus was said to be “full of joy,” and both instances occurred in relationship to His disciples (not to His own activity). All throughout the Scriptures, we are told about the joy of God in regards to His children.
In Jeremiah 32:41 God says to the prophet, “I will rejoice in doing them good…” What a profound statement to think that God rejoices in doing good to His Children! If you have children, you totally understand Jeremiah’s words. There is something intensely joyful about doing something your children love. When you grant them a wish, when you give them a special gift, when you surprise them with blessing -- you smile almost as much as they do! How much more that Almighty Creator God, who knows you better than you know yourself! When He does good to you and to me, it is precisely what we need, and He rejoices.
In Zephaniah 3:17 we read, “I [God] will rejoice over you with gladness…” It seems almost redundant, but maybe that’s the point -- if you missed it the first time, please understand that God rejoices over you with gladness. Doesn’t rejoicing imply gladness? God is joyful, He is glad, to bless you with His resources.
We have been the recipients of God’s amazing blessing through this growing process. And while we know we could never earn His favor on our own (thank you Jesus for making it possible!), we marvel that God smiles and is glad to shower us with goodness. He hasn’t blessed us reluctantly, but joyfully. Somehow, that makes the gifts have even more value.
God’s path is always the best path
I know it’s nothing new, but this journey has reminded us to always seek the path of God. The Bible tells us many stories where the path of God seemed to be ‘off’ one way or the other, only to end up taking God’s people precisely where they needed to be, when they needed to be there. It seems that God is rarely early, and usually doesn’t give the most direct flights. However, He is never late, and what may appear to be a random series of layovers and stops, is actually the most direct travel for the process of growing.
I wouldn’t have chosen Michigan on my own. Honestly, I was looking at ministry on a small island near Maui. Seriously. But the journey God began for Traci and I didn’t start with Michigan as the end, and it didn’t start six months ago. We can look back five years and see how God started the work to prepare us for this leg of the journey. And whatever may lie ahead for us, I am certain of this truth: staying on this path that God has defined as our route, is always going to be best. (I may need to be reminded of that when the 5th month of winter rolls through!)
The Overboard Life is constantly in motion; not because we are constantly on the move, but because we must constantly be in the process of growing. It’s not always easy, nor is always fun, but the end product is worth the trouble. Are you growing? What has God brought into your life as an opportunity to be more of who He made you to be? Are you trusting His path? Are you rejoicing in goodness of God?
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!