Obedience

God has been walking me through my least favorite thing: uncertainty.

As a part of my contract, my school is paying for my plane ticket home. One would think that upon signing a one year contract, when that year was over, one could go home. But 5 meetings with my principal later, I have no plane ticket and no final dates set. A few weeks ago, when I first met with her, she asked if I could stay all the way through September. This request threw me into a spiral of confusion and I was pretty angry. I spent the next two days in fits each time I told someone the situation, my tongue throwing out bouts of “How dare she?!” as if this was some serious offense my principal was committing against me by asking me to stay a few weeks over my contract.

A few days passed in this restlessness. Then, it was a Sunday afternoon and I had refused to stop wrestling with my case. I was folding clothes and listening to a podcast and praying like a child: “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me go home in August like I was supposed to!” or in other words, “Pleeeeease let me get my way!!” The voice from the lecture I was listening to stopped me right then and there. Sweater and hanger in hand, I heard the words

God’s presence is much more important than God’s provision.

My desperate pleas and agitated questions and frustrated stammering prayers that surrounded me like bricks, my false sense of independence and desire to have my will be done just crashed around me. I had been doing this all wrong. I had been begging God to give me what I want out of these unknown circumstances, I had been using his presence as a platform to demand my way. I realized in this moment that I should be begging God for more of Himself, and dwelling in His presence as my permanent circumstance, reveling in the gift that He is alone.

Think through the manner, the lengths, the degrees to which our Lord comes to us amidst our sorrow and sadness and doesn’t get rid of it necessarily, but allows us to walk through it.

The moment I heard these words, my heart was quickened to start a deep journey with Jesus.

My very first night alone in my apartment in Korea I remember looking out my window and thinking to myself, “Living by faith is actually so hard.” The reality of following Jesus is marked by wild goodness and deep joy, no doubt, but it is a long and difficult trek most of the time. As my first few weeks unfolded, I remember being drawn to a lot of the Old Testament stories, not knowing why. I remember where I was sitting in the Starbucks down the street, I remember who I was with and I remember looking out the window at the trees and sidewalk and passerby’s when it struck me: a life of faith requires a long obedience in the same direction, but a year is not a long time. I’m looking out over the next 12 months as seemingly impossible, but nothing is impossible. Abraham stood in the desert and looked at the stars and thought, “Impossible….” until he was granted faith. He waited. He waited. He was one hundred years old when his promised son was born. Surely, I can endure one year.

When this plane ticket uncertainty began, I was reminded of this lesson God taught me so many months ago. Only this time He was whispering to me, “I’ve carried you all this way. Look back and see how far you have come! Why would I not carry you all the way to the end?”

The following week, I was drawn again to the Old Testament stories, so I turned to Genesis 22: the story of Abraham’s faith confirmed.

He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and rose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day, Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go and worship, and we will come back to you.” So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!…. look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.

A few things; God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love” — your son who you have been waiting decades for. Your son who I promised would seed the nations. Your son whom I covenanted to give you, take him the mountain and sacrifice him on the mountain: and there is no hesitation on Abraham’s part. “So Abraham rose early in the morning.” Full obedience. Full faith, and yet full uncertainty. As I read these verses, suddenly my situation seemed so much less daunting, but clear: God said to me, “take your plans. take your ‘rights.’ take whatever sense of control you think you have and come sacrifice it on the mountain.”

Another thing I love about this passage is when Abraham says to his young men, “We will go worship, and we will come back to you.” He knows God is going to provide, though he doesn’t know what it will look like. “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering.” I love that this evokes a sense of worship, of God’s provision for Himself, that He will be glorified. Abraham’s response in obedience is an act of worship above anything else.

And so here I am, ten months later, I stood in the same spot as before, in front of my window looking out towards the mountains and realized His presence has been abounding here every moment of every day. I walked through the next few days worshipping by obeying, by constantly relinquishing control of my circumstances, by constantly laying down my desires upon the alter on the mountain and waiting for God to provide, however he will.

Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.” I can’t imagine the sense of dread and fear, looking towards the mountains and facing the potential killing of your own, only, promised son.

I still don’t have my plane ticket. I still don’t know when my last day of school will be, or when I will actually get to leave. In fact, there are even more unknowns thrown into the whole situation, and the past two weeks have been met with crippling anxiety on my part. I’m looking towards the mountains with a similar sense of far-off-ness. How will all of this be resolved? As I get closer and closer to the end of my contract I’m more restless and the tension between waiting and expecting is an exhausting place to be. But God calls me to obey, to climb the mountain, to prepare my alter of worship, and to wait. So I will.

Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

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Each month, like clockwork, God brings words or music to me that speak directly to where He has me. This is what June + July have felt like so far: “Whether I sink, whether I swim, it makes no difference when I am beautifully in over my head.”

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