I want to know you, Lord. I want to hear your voice. I want to know you more. (from “In the Secret”, Chris Tomlin).
With new doubts and longstanding hope, Tired
I am with you and will watch over you, wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. (Gen 28:15)
All my love, Father
Almost everyone in my life thought I was crazy to pass on Harvard for a 2 week trip to Zimbabwe – a land I did not know much about. I wondered the same a lot before my chat with George and even still after (our story #1). But, a small few believed they heard whispers from God that I was walking in the right path. Along the way, we will zoom in on more of these encouragers, but for today, I focus on one.
Note: I share this story to the best of my recollection and reviewing my journals at the time. Over the years, I’ve talked with several friends who walked this journey with me and I tried to journal their recollections, too.
The early morning I talked with George led to little sleep. Not because it wasn’t restful, but church was starting soon and I had news to share.
After sharing my “I’m going to Zimbabwe! news” with my senior pastor Phil and young adult pastor Dale (who were co-leading the trip), they both were surprisingly confident that God would provide the $3,200 I needed to raise over the next 12 days. Up to this point in my life, I had raised no more than $400 for a trip in high school for DC/LA, a youth group worship conference.
I was scared, but they were confident.
After church, I called one of my closest friends to share the news. We lived far away from each other, but we had been through a lot together discerning life choices. From him over the years, I have learned to lead with questions (something I did/do? not do naturally). He was/is always quick to listen and slow to speak. When he did speak, he always asked questions. But this conversation would be different. After excitedly recounting my conversation with George and urgently amplifying my angst about the money needed, he said, “Ryan, God will provide. He always will provide.”
I was scared, but he was confident.
My friend then shared something I’ll never forget. I pray you don’t, either, when you are tired next.
A few months prior, while praying over my decision to go to Harvard, he remembered that I had once mentioned a desire to go with the church to Zimbabwe. But when I got into Harvard, I told him the Zimbabwe trip would not be wise for me or the church because I was told I can’t go on the 2 week trip and still go to Harvard after. It was a vision trip and work would result from the trip. I was in or out. Harvard was a childhood dream. I was out.
He knew in my spirit I had some unspoken doubts and he was praying through it, without letting me know he had doubts about Harvard, too. In his prayer time, he felt I would get a new urge to go to Africa — that God was working on me and as my friend, he needed to be ready to affirm my faith when I discerned it, too.
So, as a recent college graduate and living at home while working a couple jobs to make ends meet, he began putting money away each pay check to help me if/when I felt the need to go to Zimbabwe. He never mentioned this to me before, but had committed to praying. He was praying that I would be faithful to listen to the whispers of invitation to Africa and the whispers of doubt about Harvard. He believed I needed to go to Zimbabwe.
With tears streaming down my face as I walked up and down my driveway listening to him, he let me know that 1/3 of my need was covered and he would send a check the next day. This conversation set off an abundant provision from God, where in 8 short days God provided 3x more than I needed, allowing my funds to help cover others on the trip still in need. Most of the people who gave to my 1st trip I did not know. Checks came in from all over the country, as friends shared a story of hope, faith, and love with their friends.
Several pastors and church staff would independently reach out to me that week of provision, asking me if I had heard what was happening. Their arms were lifted higher and higher, as they, too, watched God in awe at the awesome provision of our God. Just recently, one of them told me that those checks from strangers were a pivotal moment in his faith affirmation.
Each gift was a whisper to remind me that God does not ask us to be God. He asks us to be faithful.
Any amazing moment in my journey is coupled by hours or years of faithfulness from others, who have surrounded me with prayer. Because I did not know them and they did not know me, many who generously gave to my trip may not have seen the beauty that followed their gift’s wake. Yet, I know that I will spend a lifetime thanking God for the ones who listened to the whisper in their souls to say yes. Their yes helped lift my tired, scared, and doubting arms.
When you are scared, go to God and invite friends to go with you.
Looking back on trends in my spiritual walk, there always seems to be a slight step back after a big step forward. Scared is how I felt after my chat with George. Whether that is always true for all, it was true for me.
In rock climbing, my friends who do it well tell me that it is just as important to look back down for sturdy steps that will be there after a big climb up as it is to look for secure rocks to grip above.
Sometimes it will be your turn to have doubts after your mountain-top hope. Sometimes you will be the firm rocks other people grip going up from the bottom of their well. Still other times you will be the support below, letting them know to keep climbing – whispering God will provide.
My friend’s listening to the whispers of God helped affirm my listening too, which in turn helped both of us hear a roar from God that we may have dismissed if it were more overt. Two simple yeses created a roar — a roar that traveled across the country, as people generously gave to be part of a story that was (and is) unfinished.
No matter why or where you are tired, too, REMEMBER God cares for you and is whispering truths to you and those who call out to Him on your behalf. You are NOT alone.
I am cheering you on. May the whispers of my past lift your tired arms today.
Until next week,