“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
– James 1:2-4
When I was 10 years old, I was obsessed with Bitty Babies.
If you’re unfamiliar, Bitty Babies are baby dolls that could be bought from the back of an American Girl Doll catalogue. There were dolls of every ethnicity and you could buy them clothes, accessories, and things of that nature.
Of course, my sisters and I just had to have our own.
I wanted my “daughter” to look just like me and dress like a little princess. My youngest sister (4 at the time) just took the baby she was given. Our middle sister, at 7 years old, surprised everyone by requesting an African American doll with little boys’ clothes.
When my parents questioned this decision, she simply replied, “He’ll be the baby boy I adopted from Africa.” His name was Louis.
At an age when most kids don’t fully understand the concept of adoption, my little sister had decided it was her ultimate desire to grow up, go halfway across the world, and bring a baby into her family.
This desire, unlike my desire to become an ice skater or a doctor or a movie star, never went away.
Since elementary school, our family could say with confidence, “Molly has a heart for Africa.”
Time went by and eventually she was heading off to college and choosing a course for her life.
After years of researching the need overseas, her vision narrowed to medical missionary work and she enrolled in a private Christian college.
After four years in school (and two summer trips to Zambia), Molly has graduated.
Her friends are getting engaged, getting into grad school and searching for jobs. Meanwhile, my sister has been figuring out how to get to Africa.
I realize this isn’t the typical “God’s calling” story. Most of us are called much later in life to much smaller endeavors. As my pastor says, heading over to Africa is like investing one big lump sum of $1,000 into the Kingdom. Most of us are called to make $1 or even 25-cent investments every day rather than one big jump.
But sometimes, our callings do feel this huge. Whether it’s being called to quit your high-paying corporate job for minimum wage at a non-profit, being called to become a foster parent or simply knowing you need to reach out to your grumpy next-door neighbor, in that moment, our everyday callings can feel insurmountable.
When God says, “Wait.”
Other times, our callings are exciting and soul-inspiring. We hear God’s calling to plant a new church and want to jump ship at our current one. God gives us an idea for a new career and we’re already putting in our two-week’s notice. God says, “Be a leader” and we immediately apply to seminary. (No? Just me on that one? Ok…)
But God’s timing is not our own. Sometimes, He gives us a giant calling, followed by a ‘soon’ instead of a ‘now’.
Molly heard God calling her to Africa in elementary school. And then she was told to wait.
And wait, and wait, and wait.
A few opportunities popped up to go overseas throughout her life, but nothing quite worked out.
She didn’t get to go to Africa for the first time until her sophomore year of college – more than 10 years after she first mentioned a trip to pick up baby Louis.
She knew God’s calling, but it wasn’t time for her to follow.
She had a lot of growing up and learning and developing to do first.
It wasn’t always easy – she was anxious to get on with her spiritual journey. But, she never lost hope.
Even through the doubts and frustrations, God’s calling was her anchor. She’s grown into a woman who’s at her strongest when she’s depending fully on God.
When we’re afraid to answer God’s call
I often joke that God never called me to leave Texas because he knows I’d be lost without a Starbucks nearby and stable internet connection. But, He has called me to be a light for Him in my local mission field.
I was called to take a job that I really wanted to pass up. I was called to leave the comfort and safety of working from home for a job that requires a train full of strangers and an office downtown. I was called to be nice to my pushy, egomaniac coworker.
To each one of these callings, my immediate response was, “I don’t think I heard you right,” “I really wish I didn’t have to,” and “Oh hell no.”
But after some prodding and preparing (and a bit of heavy-handed “Oh yes you will”), I can confidently say obedience is much more satisfying than running. Or worse, trying to hide from His omniscience.
When it’s time to take the leap
So, how do we handle it? How do we go from “You’ve gotta be kidding…” to “I trust you and I’ll follow your lead”?
It’s Molly’s time to make that leap now. Time for her to finally answer the call.
She’s graduated from nursing school and leaves for Africa tomorrow. Not for a few weeks, but for five months.
After a decade of waiting and hoping and praying, it’s about time to live out her calling – and she’s scared.
“What will I do about my loans?”
“Maybe I should go to grad school first…How will I find a job when I get back?”
“I think Mallory needs me home.”
Despite every part of her life leading up to this very adventure, she’s making excuses.
She’s afraid to take the next step because, for the first time in her life, Africa is a reality. She’ll be with an unfamiliar group in a completely foreign country.
And these are all legitimate fears!
Paying off debt, finding a stable job, being there for your family – these are all burdens each one of us carries. I would be concerned if she didn’t have these fears.
But, God has called her to trust. To leave the details to Him and to take the leap of faith.
So, she’s going.
Despite the fear. Despite the excuses. Despite almost everyone in her life telling her they’d understand if she backed out (or actively trying to talk her out of it).
She’s packing her bags and moving to Africa.
When you aren’t ready to let go
“Everything happens for a reason” is hard to comprehend in the midst of pain – even for the most devout.
But even though she can’t wrap her mind around it yet, she knows in her heart God is protecting and preparing her.
Because if her heart were with a new job, a boyfriend or her family, it would be divided between continents.
We can’t serve both God and people, and it’s time for Molly to be all-in with God.
So, God removed the people.
In His infinite grace, He used a lonely night, hurt feelings and frustrating choices to bring her heart outside of this moment and wholeheartedly into a journey with Himself.
Something else her heart knows (that her mind will catch up to): this momentary pain will break away, revealing the eternal glory built by her leap of faith.
Big or small, $1,000 or 25-cents, the leap of faith isn’t easy.
I don’t think it gets any easier with practice, either.
Because if it were easy, it wouldn’t require God’s help.
When we struggle, when we fight, when we acknowledge our own weakness, we’re left with no other choice but to depend on God.
When we have nothing but God to get us through, we’re made acutely aware of His guiding hand.
That’s how we get from “no way” to “yes please” – through faith and dependence. By trusting that, even though we’re scared, it’s all going to be okay.
He’s called you to it, and He’ll carry you through it
At times, it will be hard. Hard is hard, but hard isn’t bad.
Hard is building our trust and faith and establishing a habit of complete surrender.
Surrender to our need for Him – our dependence on Him.
Hard is the difference between “No really, I can’t handle that” and “I know I can’t handle it…but I trust that you can.”
Hard is what builds a bridge between the mountain of our own weakness and the Rock of our salvation. It’s what shortens the distance required in our leap of faith.
It’s how we make the choice to step out on the edge, and just jump.
Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Have you ever been called to take a leap of faith? Leave a comment letting me know what you’re waiting to trust God for!
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