In four days, we leave for Nepal.
I am excited to write that. Correction-I am VERY excited to write that. Despite all that transpired this past month, it is crystal clear that God has called me and Sonia to go and serve the missionaries and people of this shaken country.
Getting to this point has not been simple. There have been so many times this trip could have (and maybe should have) been cancelled in light of the earthquakes. Even after we were confirmed to go following the initial 7.8 quake, only a few days ago, a 7.3 “aftershock” rocked the earth near Mt. Everest. Every time something new is reported, loved ones call or email wondering if we are still going. We appreciate their concern for our safety. It contributes to the process of discernment in determining our call to go.
Obviously, the most important thing is to figure out what God wants and then to do it. I understand that this is not elementary. God can speak to us through circumstances, desires and wise counsel but ultimately it is His Spirit and His Word that are final. God used all of those means to confirm our call to Nepal.
Another way I process through decisions like this is using a simple template that looks like this:
FEAR – FAITH – FOOLISHNESS
FEAR: On one end of the spectrum is fear. Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Fear measures the costs, anticipates the outcomes, and weighs the consequences. Healthy fear keeps us from jumping off buildings, putting our hands on hot stoves or wearing those spandex pants that look good on yoga models but have no business being in my closet (or on my body).
The Proverbs remind us that healthy fear is a fear of the Lord. Godly fear is the beginning of all understanding and wisdom. It frees us to live with humility and confidence. But unhealthy fear stifles. Ungodly fear takes our eyes off of God and fixes them solely on what is known, measurable and predictable. But, God’s not like that so ungodly fear can paralyze obedience because His call will inevitably involve mystery and the unknown. Let us not forget that His ways and his thoughts are so much higher than ours.
I think most of us, Westernized, Enlightenment-saturated Christians tend toward this end of the spectrum. If we can’t measure it and determine it, we are fearful to do it, even if the Lord is calling. We like to be in control. At least, we like to think we are. When we do only what we understand comprehensively, then our world shrinks drastically. No wonder so many believers falsely conclude that the Christian life is boring.
FOOLISHNESS: On the other end of the spectrum is foolishness. Unlike fear, foolishness is not concerned about the costs or the consequences. Foolishness is willing to do things that don’t necessarily make sense. That’s not necessarily bad. It’s what made my wife marry me. Love tends to do that. Without this kind of “foolishness,” forgiveness would not be possible. It makes no sense to relinquish your right to be angry when you’ve been wronged especially when it’s the 7 x 70th time. No one wants to be a fool but if it’s because our lives emanate the grace that we have received, then there’s nothing better than being a fool for His sake.
The Proverbs are rich with warnings not to be a fool. They broadly fall into three categories: those who relate to people badly, those who can’t tame their tongues and those who will not heed to wise counsel. When it comes to discerning God’s will, those on the foolish end of the spectrum ignore the risks and ignore loving people around them who are concerned. Without this consideration, we can quickly turn our personal desires into demands all in the name of the Lord.
FAITH: Somewhere in between fear and foolishness lies faith. Faith considers the risks heavily but is still willing to push past fear if it’s the Lord’s will. Faith pushed Peter past his rational fears of sinking and dying so that he could answer Jesus’ call to step out of the boat and walk on water. Faith is also willing to heed to wise counsel if it’s clear that it’s not the Lord and we’re just being selfish. It’s often challenging to discern where faith ends and foolishness begins because according to measurable standards, faith is always foolish “on paper.”
I wrestle with story of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14. The night before the big battle, Jonathan goes up with his armor-bearer to take on the entire Philistine army. You remember what he said in v. 6?
“Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”
It was a bold move, to say the least. Jonathan’s faith definitely moved him past all rational fear. He was confident that nothing could hinder the Lord’s victory whether it came by the hands of an entire army or by just him and his servant. What baffles me about what he said is the word “perhaps.” Perhaps the Lord would act on his behalf. Jonathan didn’t know what the outcome of the battle would be. He had no doubt about God’s power to give him the victory but he had no idea whether it was God’s plan to do it at that moment. Was it faith or foolishness? Yes.
As we pondered whether to go to Nepal, we definitely weighed the costs. The fear of our loved ones was considered. We have talked with our kids through the entire process to get their feedback. We promised them that we wouldn’t go if they didn’t want us to. While they had some slight concerns after the second big earthquake, they are at peace with us leaving because as our youngest said, “this is what God wants.” We have contemplated the risks. That’s why we purchased unusually loud emergency whistles, got our living trust in order and sought the continual prayer support of more than a hundred people.
Yet despite all of our planning, as of today, we still only have 60% of our itinerary confirmed. The other 40% is still somewhat undetermined in light of the changes brought on by the earthquake. We know where we’ll be but not totally sure what we’ll be doing. I have no doubt that nothing can hinder the Lord from doing His work in and through us. Perhaps, we will know soon how it will happen. Perhaps, we won’t. All we know for now is that the airports are still open, INF still wants us to come and most importantly, the Lord has still called us to go for such a time as this. Some might call it foolishness. I call it faith. Please pray for us as we walk by it toward Nepal.