I was on my way back from Windhoek, Namibia, carrying much medication and equipment to cross the border into Angola by car. Medicine and equipment are often confiscated by Angolan customs when brought in by air, so it’s worth the 11-12 hr drive to bring it in by car. On the way back, I was taking a route I’d never taken before in order to cross the border closest to Shangalala, where they know me and the hospital (less likely to get hassled by customs) and I was depending heavily on my little GPS device. About an hour or two out of Windhoek, (I left late and intended to drive a few hours and finish the trip the next day), at about 7:00p (in the dark), I noticed that I was to turn in about 10 km. Soon after, I saw ahead an impressive convoy of about 12-15 construction vehicles traveling pretty slowly, and I realized that it would be quite a challenge to pass them all (one at a time), but if I didn’t, I’d be traveling well below the speed limit and would be less likely to arrive at my destination for the night at a decent time.
I took on the challenge! Everything is two lane, so to pass so many vehicles takes time and patience, especially on Namibia’s mountainous, curvy highways. About forty five minutes later, so pleased that I had passed the last truck, I glanced down at my GPS and was disappointed to see that it was obviously malfunctioning because there was no line to follow and the distance to my destination was increasing, rather than decreasing. As I was processing all of this, I finally remembered the upcoming turn sign that I had seen on my GPS, now an hour ago. I made a u-turn (passing the convoy going the other way!) and headed back and found that my GPS was working just fine and directing me to my destination, now more than 100 km back to the turn off.
When I left Windhoek, I had enough gas to make it to my destination town, but not much to spare (there are no gas stations except in good-sized towns). I always try to enter Angola with close to an empty tank, because gas in Namibia is about 4x the price in Angola. Now, with this 200+ km diversion, I was not going to make it to the next town with a gas station. I made it to about 50km from the town and pulled off the road in the very cold desert night (my diversion had cost me dearly) and needed help. I called a hotel where I had stayed before (in the next town) and asked (begged) if someone there could please bring me some diesel. The nicest man (he communicated grace and honor, completely without criticism, mocking, joking…) arrived an hour later with 20L and led me into town, where all concern for the price of gas was forgotten and I filled up. I began the next day with a smaller wallet, a little more wisdom, and more than a little humbled.
That night, my Father gently shared with me how so many times my life has been like that day. He has given me direction, I’ve known where I was to be heading, and I’ve known what He would have me emphasize in my life with my time, effort and resources. I’ve prepared (usually without expecting, or preparing for, unexpected detours, storms, error, etc) and taken off, more anxious to get started than to “waste” more time in preparation. I set out enthusiastically and energetically for my destination (place of emphasis)… and… along the way, I become distracted by something that, at the moment, seems important, challenging or stimulating. With energy and passion, I have taken on convoys (challenges, tasks, goals, relationships…) in my life that have had little to do with my primary purpose, and they have led me away from my destination. Then days, months, or years later, I look where I am (my GPS) and realize that I am not where I wanted to be (or where He had directed me as to the emphasis of my life). I’ve missed the mark AND I’m worn out (running low on fuel).
I’ve neglected to look to my Father (my GPS) for direction. Neglect is the biggest killer of beautiful, intimate relationships (and marriages). It usually does its work through its ever faithful partner, distraction. Then, at some point later, I find myself experiencing the pain, frustration, and fatigue (out of fuel) that invariably accompany journeying independently of my Guide and my Father.
So I return to Him and ALWAYS find grace and kindness, welcoming, helpful arms (the man from the hotel) waiting to embrace me, to put salve on my wounds, to refuel me, and to prepare me to begin again. Never have I found from Him criticism or condemnation. I am SO grateful that my Father loves providing new beginnings for our ever-wandering hearts! His mercy is new every morning. I then start out again, a bit wiser from my mistakes, with a renewed commitment to stay close with my Guide for the remainder of the journey… then I come upon another convoy (an urgent need, a stimulating challenge, a filling relationship, etc) and sometimes remember…
Can you relate? As you look back on your journey, is your trail straight or is it a wandering, rabbit-trailed, crazy-looking path (like mine)? Jesus must feel like I do with our newly, temporarily adopted dog, Bella, at Cavango when I walk with her about a mile to the river. I walk on the path and she darts back and forth, crossing the path a hundred times, set on exploring every inch on either side of the path all the way to the river and back, looking for stimulation, scents, challenges, etc. I have been so like Bella, at times at Jesus’ side, but so often enthusiastically wandering off the path on which Jesus walks, exploring and chasing every urgent concern or desire. I am still (after all these years) not yet “well-trained”, staying at the Master’s side until He instructs me to purposefully leave the path to address something important to Him.
Have you found your Father’s arms and ears when you return to Him for help? Isn’t it so good to remember those times of amazing grace? He is so good, so always present, so approachable, so understanding, so forgiving, so helpful, so instructive…
Perhaps you and I can today seek out our Father (look again to our GPS), to see if we are on our desired path and if we are following HIM (in the emphases of our lives), or if we are chasing challenges, achievements, satisfaction, scents, etc (convoys) that will lead us away from where we really want to go. Where is your Father directing you today (as to what to emphasize in your life with your time, effort, resources, etc)? What are you giving yourself to, living for, spending yourself on?
Are we worn out (fuel gauge on empty) from chasing distractions or are we well spent from doing what our Father has called us to do? Are we energized by God’s calling and His pleasure, or are we passionate about the stimulating, urgent challenge of passing the convoy (or chasing the rabbit), forgetting (neglecting) our desired destination (emphasis of time, resources, etc)? We can throw ourselves into so many good things that are not what our Father would ask of us. Religion is about doing good things for God, while the Kingdom is about walking with Jesus and doing what He is asking of us today (big or small, humble or great…), counting all success, praise, knowledge, achievement, etc as loss for the sake of knowing Him and walking with Him. Religion is about obeying a book, the Kingdom about obeying our Father as we connect with Him daily. He specializes in asking of us small things (give him a call, invite her to coffee, send him a note, serve her today in a special way, rest, give to this cause, come away with Me for a few minutes, ask her how she is really doing, talk to Me about how you can help him, ask her if you can pray for her…)
If we are unsure, our Father is faithful to meet those who seek His counsel and seek His face (intimacy, closeness). He assures us many times throughout history, that those who seek Him WILL find Him. He is always calling to our innermost being (Rev 3:22), looking to “dine” with us, to draw closer (as people do who dine and share life together), to be our guide. Let’s go back to Him today to make sure of our calling (2Pet 1.10) and to put our feet on the path He has for us that will take us to our desired destination (place of emphasis).
Our Father so often allows us to wander in our own choices (chasing distractions) until we arrive at a place where we realize we are lost without Him (again), at which point we are willing to yield to His guidance and to receive the encouragement, correction, or instruction that He has for us. He loves being our rescuer, our counselor, our helper and doesn’t hold our human-ness against us any more than we think less of a two year old for messing his/her pants while in “training”. The toddler knows what to do, yet…
Depending on Him, trusting His guidance/leading, running to Him when we find ourselves off the mark, etc are how He designed us to relate to Him. He is also ever creating ways to draw closer to us, often using our own choices to mold us and sensitize our ears to His “voice”. Let’s connect with our Father today and discuss our journey and whether we are on His path for us (emphasizing in our life what He would have us emphasize) or missing the mark via distraction or neglect. He will direct surrendered hearts…
“This is my commandment…”
One of our missionary team needed to return suddenly to the U.S. for health concerns. I had the humble privilege of observing many, many people in Angola, Canada, and the U.S. completely stop their lives and sacrifice great effort and expense to help their brother. People in several states in the U.S. stopped everything suddenly and offered their time and effort to help in any way. One man joyfully and willingly cut his long-awaited (and expensive) Angola trip in half to accompany this missionary back to the states. The whole process, accomplished through so many people, was one of the most beautiful demonstrations of love in God’s family that I’ve seen. So many people, so willing to lay down, at a moment’s notice, everything important to them, to serve and assist a brother in need (many of those who helped knew him, many didn’t).
This is a remarkable team we have joined, and I am once again humbled by the beauty of my Father’s family (always flawed, yet so beautiful). Living in surrender to Jesus is living with the freedom to be completely genuine, and this genuine-ness and freedom to be yourself (blemishes, weaknesses and all) is lived out in a community of people with the same motive for living (loving the weak and flawed, as are we…). With genuine Jesus-lovers, masks are off and every screwed up person in the bunch (all of them) admits freely their weaknesses and screwed-up-ness and lives in constant worship of their Father for HIS goodness (not their own). They are ever living out grace (unmerited favor), having received the same so many times. In this case, the ninety-nine doing whatever is needed to help the one. I want to be more like these friends of mine…
I was deeply challenged, but also encouraged by this whole circumstance because I will, like you, at some point, need grace and love when experiencing pain, loss, failure, need, etc. The beauty of belonging to a community is that you never need walk alone. We were made for fellowship and intimacy, with our Father and with family and friends. We were not made to walk individually. We were made to be loved, blemishes, weakness and all. We were made to love the flawed and unlovely (every person in every community). We were made to be dependent. We were designed to love, to focus outward (on our Father and others). Health is to know you are loved and to know you are flawed, weak and needy. We are unhealthy when we don’t love and serve and when we don’t allow others to love and serve us. We are also unhealthy when we don’t recognize our weaknesses, blemishes, etc and when we can’t love someone flawed and unlovely. Our friend needed help and grace in a time of need and was part of a beautiful community that gave this help passionately and energetically, without reservation. The family/community of God is beautiful, indeed.
Sometimes interruptions are of Him…
We have had such a unique missionary journey. We have a loving, extremely supportive family. Our friends are dear and true friends. We have been part of a beautiful Vineyard church community in Sunbury, OH for over ten years and have dear, dear friends in the Toledo Vineyard and Columbus Vineyard communities and have never felt alone in all of our years of cross-cultural work. We’ve been visited frequently (a beautiful daughter of some dear friends is here now) and our pastors and friends have maintained regular contact, sharing concern, support and encouragement. We know that the challenges of our unique experience are understood and we have been supported emotionally, relationally and financially by so many of you. We have never walked or worked alone, though we have lived geographically separated from those we so dearly love. And now we are part of a beautiful, supportive, gracious Angolan missionary family, as well; people with extremely varied backgrounds and experiences, and yet Jesus-lovers who highly value loving their brother/sister.
“Do you love me? Care for my sheep.” We know that when we are weak (and we WILL be), we will be supported, loved, embraced, helped, encouraged, etc rather than criticized and abandoned. This blemished, passionate, wandering Kubacki family is so very, very blessed, indeed! We remain so grateful to be where we are and to be journeying with you…
Amen! I am glad that we never go off God’s radar.
Thanks Tim for your words. I’ve been a Christ follower for almost 40 years and I still get distracted, wander, fail, run out of gas etc. But I know that I am being changed because when I realize I’m off the path I run back to God without shame. What a wonderful Father we serve. Say hi to Betsy for me!