Last Thursday night my family packed up our belongings, again, loaded up the van, again, and moved into some temporary housing, again. This time, our temporary housing is in the vicinity of where we hope to set up a more permanent home in August, and where we hope Overboard Ministries will be unleashed to be all that God wants it -- and us -- to be! When we arrived here in Kalakaska, we met up with some good friends and celebrated, with pizza and pie, the passing of one part of our journey. After moving to Michigan two years and three months ago for one job, God has redirected us toward this new adventure in a place, that until a year ago, we didn’t even know existed! We are chasing a God-sized dream that has been burning in our hearts for quite some time, and while the future seems a little blurry, the next step (maybe even the next two steps, but certainly no further) is right in front of us. The dream is beginning to take shape.
And the doubts are bigger than they’ve ever been.
Have you ever lived in that tension between your dreams and your doubts?
The scope of what we’re about to undertake is intensely exciting, and it is terrifying. (Thus we’ve coined the phrase, “Excitifying” and use it quite frequently around our house.) As a husband, I feel the strain that I’m putting on my wife. There has been, and at least for the immediate future will continue to be, a great deal of uncertainty. We don’t know exactly where we will be staying, 90% of our earthly possessions are in storage and we are truly living on the goodness and kindness of friends and fellow dream-sharers. My wife is a rock, and she takes care of our family in extraordinary ways, and is doing so in the midst of deep uncertainty.
As a dad, I feel the burden that I’m putting on my children. AJ is about to enter the 9th grade, and will be doing so in a brand new school with kids he did not attend junior high with, and whom he does not know. BJ is switching from 6th grade to 7th grade, and moving to a new middle school that doesn’t have choir (one of her true passions) and is smaller in three grades (6-8) than her previous 6th grade class alone. CJ is leaving a great school that loves her and what she brings academically and socially (3rd grade student of the year!), to enter a 4th and 5th grade only, Jr. High prep school. They load up the van like troopers on one end, and unload it like moving professionals on the other, and yet I can tell the bed-shifting, suitcase-packing, school-changing gypsie-life is taking its toll.
As a man, I feel the weight of wanting to provide, for my family, the basic comforts of a home, the relief of a steady paycheck and the peace of mind that comes with good insurance, retirement contributions and a growing nest egg. Today, however, none of those are realities. More than once I’ve wondered if I’m making a mistake pressing on toward this dream, questioning whether or not the burden of moving forward will be worth it for my wife and my children. Honestly, I think the burden is almost multiplied by their unwavering trust and the way they’ve embraced each new move “forward.”
The doubts that once were subtly in the background are now fully exposed, and they are ugly, vocal and stalking me in my thoughts, my planning and even in my dreams at night.
Friday morning, after our first night sleeping in the Starwood Ranch, I woke up and pondered my night of restlessness and the attack I felt in my sleep. Literally, I dreamed of failure over and over again, and I had to shake off the sleep reminding myself that those were images provided by doubt (and maybe the pizza and coke I enjoyed before bed!), and not the realities in front of us. I had to remember that the giant doubts are present, because the dream God has embedded in my heart and mind is massive! When the dream was little, the doubts were in the background -- they didn’t need to appear since I wasn’t pursuing the God-given vision with any fire. As soon as the dream became my focus, the doubts emerged with an unholy fervor. The size of your doubts will be proportionate to the size of your dreams.
I stumbled in and out of the shower Friday, then sat down to blog. Before I typed a word, I picked up my Bible and began reading in Genesis 12, where God first connects with Abraham (then called Abram). In the first verse Moses writes, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘leaver your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’”
Notice the phrase, “...the land I will show you.” In other words, God was moving Abraham and his family, and Abraham had to trust God that this land existed, and that God would reveal it in time. The dream was huge as God had promised Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing...and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” In order to embrace the dream, Abraham had to embrace the unknown and follow the Lord.
And when they arrived in the land of promise, it wasn’t ready for Abraham. Look at verse six: “Abram traveled through the land...At that time, the Canaanites were in the land.” So he visits his future home only to find out it already has occupants (occupants, by the way, who weren’t thrilled at the idea of giving their land to someone else!), then leaves the area and settles outside of the region, and ultimately, just a short time later, leaves the country in order to survive a severe famine.
I wonder what kinds of doubts Abraham had to fight? Occupied land? Famine? (How great could this land be if there were famine issues?!) Some of them are revealed, like at the end of the chapter 12 when he lies about his marriage to Sarah in order to save his own life or in chapter 16 where Abraham tried to speed up God’s promise by having a child with a woman who wasn’t his wife. In chapter 18 Sarah laughs at God’s direct word promising them a child (she was almost 90!) and I wonder if Abraham shared in her doubts (he was almost 100!). After all, how could Abraham’s children inherit the land of promise and all of God’s blessings...if they didn’t exist?!
Without question, Abraham occasionally stumbled under the weight of his doubts, but he always managed to get back on the path that led to the dream. Ultimately, his faith was bigger than his fears and he reaped the reward of trusting in the Dream Giver. Hebrews 11 describes his journey like this:
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents...For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith Abraham, even though he was past age -- and Sarah herself was barren -- was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”
So Friday morning I acknowledged my doubts as a husband, father and as a man. I recognized my fear of failure and the sense that the task in front of me seems preposterously overwhelming. Then I chose courage, like Abraham before me, in the One who gave the dream and in whom there is no fear or doubt worthy to be in His presence. While I can’t see how He will pull it all together, I am confident that we are on the right path, and that the monumental task in front of us is nothing compared to the greatness of our God. The doubts are out on the water with us, screaming for us to get back in the boat, but He who called us stands confidently next to us, speaking clearly, yet quietly, urging us to keep trusting Him. I hear His sweet voice, and by His grace and strength, I will hold this course.
What about you? Are you living in the tension between doubts and dreams? Let me encourage you to root yourself, even deeper, in the One who gives the dream. Spend time in His Word daily, speak to Him often in prayer and surround yourself with those who will run the race with you. One of my life verses, Ephesians 3:20, continues to stand out -- almost daily! -- in my thoughts: “God can do anything, you know, far more than you could ever imagine, guess or request in your wildest dreams” (The Msg). What ever He has in store for us next, I know that being out on the water with Him is the best place for me and my family.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always best -- even...maybe especially!...when your doubts are biggest! -- out on the water!