My Kids, My Wife, and “Either Way”…

“A morning like this makes me realize how cool our life is.”  This was Luke’s comment on a recent river trip to deliver water filters to the interior of the Amazon flood basin as we watched the sun rise after awakening on our boat docked near a simple river house.  These week-long trips are a lot of work with simple food and living conditions and yet these were his words to start the day.  My son’s statement caused me to remember… and to steal away and stammer such heartfelt gratitude to my Father.

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My biggest concern years ago in leaving “familiar” and relocating to the Amazon was how it would affect my kids.  I really had absolutely no idea and it was, therefore, one of the most profound burdens of my life.  And now, without exception, they are so glad that they live here.   They understand and appreciate the blessing of being able to live in two very different cultures.  They have great friends in both places and see both cultures as beautiful, though so different.  I would say all of our kids’ general attitude (when not thinking of school) would be exactly what Luke said above.

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How incredibly cool is that?  I have had my ups and downs and in some ways my time in Brazil has been disappointing, but not so at all for our kids.  Though they have lived far more simply than we were previously living in the States, they each have so many fond memories and so many beautiful local friends.  They love the Brazilian culture and the people here, the small-town life, and the tropical environment.  Every day, once school is completed, they are out with their friends and each one hangs out with a group of great kids.

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It was a huge trust test for me to lead my wife and my kids to another part of the world where they would have less convenience, less available medical resources, less family support, less leisure and extracurricular activities, less educational opportunities, less material things, and less temperature control ;); where they would have to learn a new language, home school, miss all of the “normal” extracurricular activities, share bedrooms, and live without ice cream and many other favorite foods.

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Was I sacrificing them for the sake of me following MY calling and/or desire?  Did I have the ability to harm someone I love while doing what I thought was God’s request of me?  I’d heard stories…  Was I placing the remote folks that we came to serve before my kids?  Several concerned family and friends told me that this was a selfish move for me.  It was a difficult, confusing decision and one which tested my trust in God’s sovereignty and eternal purposes.

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God’s sovereignty has always been difficult for me to grasp.  “Understanding” has been perhaps my principal stumbling block in relating with my Father, and I have yet to comprehend His sovereignty.  Why?  When, from my perspective, circumstances are “good”, I can accept that a good, loving God is in control.  But with pain, tragedy, loss, wounding, etc, I can struggle to trust His goodness and His purpose in all things, and to believe that He is in control without controlling, and that He is aware of every minute circumstance in the world and can intervene at any time (and likely does far more than we know).  I can be so profoundly bothered by the pain and suffering in me and/or around me…

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There are so many indications in the Bible that God is completely sovereign, likely none more powerful than Jesus’ statement at his “trial” that Pilate had no power but that granted to him by His Father.  And this in the midst of Him experiencing untold brutality at the hands of men that He thoughtfully and lovingly created.  Though Jesus was in the midst of such pain, loss, rejection and humility, His Father was in complete and purposeful control.  We err if we define God’s goodness by present circumstances.  Jesus and the early church taught us that we can believe His love and control without seeing the goodness of God toward us on this earth.  He isn’t obligated to continue to repeatedly prove His goodness to us.  What He did on the cross was a demonstration for eternity.  “Greater love has no one than this…”  His goodness and love have been proven.  The ever-standing Kingdom invitation is to come to Him at any time, anywhere, in any condition of pain, joy, success or failure, and experience again that which is a never-ending reality: a Father’s embrace and His love for His dear child.  Nothing can separate us from His passionate love for us but He NEVER compels us to come, believe, love or trust.

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As he suffered, God told Paul that His “grace was enough”.  His favor outweighs all suffering.  His favor, his attitude toward us, and his love for us outweighs all suffering.  Why?  Because, from an eternal perspective, our current suffering will be as nothing compared to what we experience in His kingdom.  His goodness is clear to any who believe in Him but it is not necessarily always obvious to us circumstantially.  Our personal perspectives can be so different.  He could end my earthly life at any time, in a variety of ways, and still be good.  Those here would be sad and struggle with the “Why?” of pain, suffering and loss while I would be experiencing the indescribable joy of eternity as I meet Him face to face.  He could bring to me calamity, the good purpose of which I might only appreciate when I see Him.  I daily read (www.OpenDoorsUSA.org) stories in the persecuted church (now and through the ages) and how they experience unimaginable horror (as did the One they follow) as they await their reward, sacrificing escape from pain today for Jesus’ promised hope of heaven (face to face fellowship with Him) tomorrow.  In Porto de Moz, we are choosing to leave another place (like our beloved US) that we dearly love.  It would be almost intolerable to do so again if we weren’t able to look forward to a lengthy reunion one day with each person that we love and likely won’t see again in this life.

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So I’m left with such gratitude for how my Father has led, protected, and provided for my kids and that, though He could have chosen otherwise, their teen and preteen years in the Amazon have been so very good.  Of course, the journey here certainly hasn’t always been fun, rewarding, happy, or full, but it has been good.

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Bets told me recently that she has experienced personal changes that would likely never have occurred had she remained in the life which we knew previously.  The trials of these few years, the slow and relationship-focused life-style, the relationships with her kids that homeschooling has enabled, the radical simplicity of life materially, and the personal loss of her previous dreams of how her life would unfold, have contributed to transform her perspective and her relationship with her Father.  She is so glad that we came here, even though she would not have ever chosen to do so.  I can attest to being married to a beautifully different woman than even a couple years ago.

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Bets and I have been molded much while being used a little.  I believe that we’ve been prepared for our more challenging next step.  He completes His work in us with purpose and for another’s sake, just as He completed His work in Jesus for our sake.  We are so grateful for his gracious preparation and discipline over the past decade, and we are both in a good place today as we soberly look ahead to being spent in Angola.

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For the past year or two, I have struggled with God’s purposes in His desire to move us, as many things have not fit within my understanding.  As I come out of the other side of this struggle in a place of trust, however, I see again this morning that He can use us by blessing us, wounding us, or taking our life (“your will be done”) and I am beside myself with joy as I reflect on how He has used this part of our journey in maturing and preparing all of us, especially our kids.  Each has grown greatly and recognize intimately that the world is so very different than the sliver that is the US. They know with certainty that difficulty and change will be constant challenges in their lives and that they can choose them and face them rather than try to avoid them.  They know, first hand, that less is good, and that life isn’t found in material things, ease, or good times.  They know that so many suffer greatly today and need the help of their fellow human beings and of their Father.  They still may or may not choose to walk with their Father going forward, but He has been so faithful to guide them, to draw them, to instruct them, and to love them.

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Thank you so much for bringing us up in your conversation with our Father over these past years.

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I see again that my choice is between trusting Him and trusting my understanding.  Daily, I can be anywhere on the spectrum though one brings peace and the other insecurity and burden.

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As we move on to a more challenging location, my struggle to trust Him especially for our kids’ lives will resurface.  Perhaps because of time, perhaps because of deepened faith, or perhaps because of senility, my trust in Him today seems a bit more secure.   I know that growth in our life with Jesus is far more about a deeper and more secure trust in Him than becoming a better person.  Perhaps the mustard seed is finally germinating?   “Acceptance with joy” is a fruit of faith in God’s sovereignty and I will seek to accept whatever He brings, knowing that ANY experience along the way is for His glory and my kids’ eternal good.  Tomorrow might be full of trial, pain or loss, or it might be smooth sailing for a season, but EITHER WAY He is in complete awareness and control of every moment of my kids’ lives…  His kids’ lives.

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Consider:

All things have a purpose and they help again and again to bring us back to the Father.                            Alfred Depp – Jesuit priest facing death in a German concentration camp

God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.                Anonymous

Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?      (Lam 3:37-39)

“Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish”      (Isaiah 38:17)

Our perspective is temporal; God’s perspective is eternal.

One comment

  1. Isn’t it “funny” how the very things we wish and try to “protect” our kids from become things that God uses to mature our kids and bless them?!

    We continue to lift your family up to our Father—for protection, for blessing, for peace, and more…

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