Over this past weekend, God gave me another glimpse into understanding His character. He has a way of crumbling my preconceived ideas about Him that reminds me all too well of the verse from Isaiah 55:8: "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord." The next verse reminds me that His ways are higher, better and more magnificent than mine. If He orchestrated life my way, my life would be so two-dimensional, so flat line. Instead, He adds a fullness and a depth to my life that I never dreamed could possibly happen.
That happened this weekend.
When I was 21, I committed my life to the foreign mission field. I figured the first step in reaching foreign soil was to attain Bible college training through the graduate school of Cincinnati Christian University. After one year, I met my future husband who had absolutely no interest in foreign missions and who persuaded me that America was a plenty big mission field. After much soul searching, I realized I was pursuing missions with wrong motivations. So I said yes to Jack's proposal of marriage.
I thought I had misunderstood God's calling. Maybe He was testing my willingness to go wherever He wanted me to go. Maybe foreign missions was just the bait to head my stubborn will in the right direction. Jack was right. My life as a minister's wife and as a children's ministry worker has certainly been full and rewarding. Still, an inner part of me longed for the foreign mission field. In some ways, I felt like I had let God down.
This weekend, I discovered God had never let go of the idea of my involvement with foreign missions. When I answered His call, He basically said. "All right. Let's get you ready. You ARE fit for the mission field. I've got a very special job for you that will utilize your unique gifts. It's going to take awhile so let's start developing those gifts."
Soon after we were married, God opened the door for me to write children's curriculum, something I had dreamed of doing for years. I just wanted to write Sunday School material for Standard Publishing; twenty years later, my resume documented Sunday School, VBS and Jr. Church materials. In 2004, the Salvation Army asked me to write several books of curriculum designed to reach inner-city kids who knew nothing about Jesus, material stripped of middle class American culture references, and, because it was targeted to inner-city kids, material that would require a minimum of supplies. How they chose me to write this material makes me still shake my head with disbelief.
In the spring of 2012, Rainbow Publishing will produce my three books in their Five Minute Sunday School Activities line. These books devote two pages to each of 42 lessons; one, a simple lesson plan, the second page, a simple activity that again, uses a minimum of preparation and supplies.
Fast forward to this past weekend when our church held its annual Faith Promise rally. As I sat at lunch with our two visiting missionary couples, one man said, "Karen, tell us what books you have written." As I explained about my work with the Salvation Army and Rainbow Publishing, they leaned forward. "This is exactly what we've been looking for," both exclaimed. They explained how they have longed for children's curriculum that didn't use a lot of specialized supplies unavailable in their countries, easy for missionaries to teach and translate for indigenous workers and material stripped of American culture jargon. I spent an hour the next day, explaining the philosophy and scope of the two different curriculums. They left loaded with author's copies, website addresses and publishing information.
See what God has done? My curriculum material is headed for Sri Lanka and the Philippines! Placed in the hands of local workers, my curriculum will reach far more children than I could ever reach had I personally gone to either Sri Lanka or the Philippines. God is using my gifts of teaching and writing to reach the world with the gospel story - without ever leaving my desk.
When we say yes to God's leading, we must be willing to let Him use us as He deems best. We need to let Him draw the road map of how we get from where we are to where we want to be. He knows us so much better than we know ourselves. It's true not just in answering the call to foreign missions or the ministry. No matter what job you accept in His kingdom, God takes the raw materials of who you are and does totally awesome things for the glory of His Kingdom in ways that are beyond our awareness or comprehension.
We just have to be willing. We just have to say yes. Then we just have to hang on for the ride and watch what He can do with us.
I hope to share yet another dimension to this story in a future post.