Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In the Dark

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

I like to be able to see clearly. When the natural light in our home is dim, I am almost always the first one to turn on the light. Every other family member (in an effort to conserve electricity) will often ask me, “Do you really need this light on?” To which my reply is, “Yes, it helps me to see better.” And so in life as well. When the path ahead looks dim, I find myself asking God to turn on the light, to make the way more clear.

Brennan Manning says in Ruthless Trust: “Craving clarity, we attempt to eliminate the risk of trusting God. Fear of the unknown path stretching ahead of us destroys childlike trust in the Father’s active goodness and unrestricted love.”

“We often presume that trust will dispel the confusion, illuminate the darkness, vanquish the uncertainty, and redeem the times. But the crowd of witnesses in Hebrews 11 testifies this is not the case. Out trust does not bring final clarity on this earth. It does not still the chaos or dull the pain or provide a crutch. When all else is unclear, the heart of trust says, as Jesus did on the cross, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23: 46)

“The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered his presence and his promise.”

Last year about this time a friend sent me this quote on the darkness: “I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’” (Minnie Haskins, 1908) My friend wrote, "I hope this is inspiring to you as you go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God!"

It helped me to realize that one of my desires in our move to Lanzhou was to have someone to welcome me, to take my hand, and to show me how to live here. But because there was not a physical person to do that for me, I could only rely on God to take my hand and to show me the way that He has for me here. It has been an unfamiliar path, and I have often felt blind, but my walk with Him has definitely grown closer this past year. Trusting Him in the dark.

A year ago, we were packing up our apartment of 12 years in Tianjin, and trying to find an apartment to rent in Lanzhou. I was Carried by Grace during that time, and God gave me a certain calmness in the midst of the stress. But, during a family council a few days before the move, my anxiety surfaced. So CJ challenged me, “But, Mom, didn’t you say that you were willing to leave Tianjin without knowing where we were going to live in Lanzhou?” I replied, “You’re right, I did say that. But I didn’t think it was actually going to happen!” It did.

During the 17 hour train ride, Charly was texting with his PhD advisor about housing possibilities.
Arrival in Lanzhou..."homeless"

We went directly from the Lanzhou train station to the real estate office and discovered that the two apartments we had wanted to see were already taken. They took us to look at two other possibilities, but one was a mistake and the other was too small. Our last resort was to look at the apartment on the 9th floor with no elevator that a friend of a friend had seen, and that the landlord had agreed to hold for us until we could see it for ourselves.

As the sun was going down, CJ and Joshua (growing cold and tired of waiting all day, but still relatively cheerful) waited on the street corner with our suitcases.

Jordan, Charly, and I walked a block and climbed the steps to check out this apartment. We liked it (Jordan most of all), and after Charly negotiated the rent down, we got the keys, collected the boys and our bags, and moved in to our new home.

We found a small restaurant for dinner, and as we were eating, Charly got a call from a friend saying that we had possible renters for our Tianjin apartment. We hadn’t even known that our friend had listed our apartment for us! These people had called right away, had seen our apartment, had talked with and were approved by our second floor neighbors, and were willing to pay our asking price. So we agreed to rent to them, and marveled at the way God had provided both a new home and renters for our old home in one day. The day of our arrival in Lanzhou. Don’t worry. Trust me.

Now we are looking ahead at many more unknowns as we plan to move to a village about four hours from Lanzhou at the end of March/first of April for Charly to begin his PhD field research on the Bonan minority people. We are going to one of the “most remote villages in China,” that I included in my wedding Vows to Charly almost 18 years ago. This is a VERY unfamiliar path! And we are unsure how village life is really going to work for our family. But “God has signaled the movement” and is offering “His presence and His promise.” So I am working at not giving in to fear or “craving clarity.” The Lord Himself will be with us each step of the way. Just as He promised Moses, “My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

With childlike trust, we can hold His hand in the dark.

Like my friend who told me about her complete Trust in her father’s choice for a husband for her. Like Abraham who trusted his heavenly Father so much that he laid his beloved son on the altar and lifted a knife over his head. Like Isaac who trusted his earthly father so much that he stretched his body out on that altar. When it didn’t seem to make any sense, God enabled them to obey His command. And God provided.

He continues to provide.

Will you trust Him in the dark?

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