I'm sitting on a 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to meet with a group of International mission leaders and find myself thinking about the God-process that brought me to this place. As I reflect back over decades of experiences I sense that many others have had similar journeys and milestones. Here is what my 'winding road' has looked like:
1. Passion. Nothing matters like passion from start to finish. When God found me, changed me, and filled me with Himself, I had no greater desire than that others experience the same. The reality that there were whole people groups who never would have this opportunity unless the Gospel was taken to them caused me to be smitten with the longing to do just that.
2. Vision. From passion it seems easy enough to develop some sense of vision and even an action plan. The challenge is that the early years are often a mixture of a lot of my own ideas sprinkled in, maybe, with some of God's. Think of Moses trying to free his people by killing the slave master or Joseph trying to explain his dreams to his brothers. Well-intentioned, but...
3. Faith Steps. The vision is initially walked out with steps of faith that are “certain” to lead to God's blessing on life, ministry, family, and all areas of life. So, with confidence I launch out. And, indeed, God always honors our faith and some wonderful things do happen because of it. He is faithful, but He is still in the business of shaping me big-time!
4. Vision thwarted. Somewhere along the way, the early vision and faith-steps encounter obstacles and, despite the fact that there may be some fruit from it, eventually it comes to a standstill. The resulting disappointments are so confusing. I was certain that I was 'the man' fulfilling 'God's calling' so why are things not working out as I had planned and envisioned?
5. Patience, Perseverance, Character Growth. This is the most difficult season of all. It seems to be a time of just slogging it out one step at a time. The vision has dimmed, the glamour of it all is gone, and the way seems dark at times. In my own life, I went through a series of painful, personal seasons that seemed to make the way darker, dimmer, and more confusing than ever. Yet this often seems to be the most important part of the entire process as God shapes the heart more fully for Him. It was a time when my identity became less about 'the vision' and more about simply being the child of God. It was a painful, difficult, necessary, growing-up phase.
6. Contentment. This may be the fruit of step five through which God becomes greater, being-with-God becomes more the point than anything else, and there is less of the push to 'do something' or try to 'be someone.'
7. Vision Renewed. The final step (to-date) is a vision that is re-shaped by all of the steps mentioned. It is more of God and less of Roger. When I begin walking the faith steps this time, doors open, things happen, and it is much more about Him. He has re-formed everything in a way that I could have never imagined nor done on my own. It is a vision that He has inspired and then placed me in the right places to see it come to pass. Challenges still? Plenty? Heartbreaks and disappointments still? All the time. But coming from a place of deeper surrender and clearer dependency, there is the sense that God will do what He needs/wants/plans to do. I can let go more than ever and just be part of His ride. And, at the end of the day, He will indeed work all things together for the good of his purposes, for my good, and for His glory.
It has been quite a ride, without a doubt, yet when looking back it so easy to see the way God has masterfully and miraculously coordinated every part of the journey. He is an amazing God to do life with!
Have you experienced something similar? Share!