Stuck or Sent?1
Stuck or Sent?
Have you ever felt stuck? You know that feeling that creeps in when a situation or experience or decision suddenly becomes so overwhelming that you break out in a cold sweat and you feel absolutely helpless?
I had that feeling quite a few times last year. The first time was in January when a mega snowstorm that has affectionately become known as ‘Snowmageddon’ hit. In the space of just under 24 hours we had a whole lot of snow and a whole lot of wind. We lost power for 24 hours and at the height of the storm, it felt as though we were Dorothy from the wizard of Oz being swept up in the tornado – we could see nothing but snow surrounding our windows. The house 15 meters across the road was undecipherable through the blanket of white that was falling fast and furious. This was something that my Aussie brain could not put into the realm of possibility until I was witnessing it! My first major blizzard!
When the snow drifts started creeping up to our second story window and the snowbanks from our previous snow fall were not even visible, I started to feel it creep in – we’re stuck! I had a 2-month-old baby at the time, and I remember thinking- in the irrational way a mother of a new baby does - what if I needed to get him or our other children to the hospital for an emergency? We would not dare venture into this storm and if we needed emergency help, the regular first responders would be a very long time in coming! I felt stuck! After a cold and sleepless night, we awoke to what would take us days to dig out of – I could have walked out of my second storey window onto the snow drifts! The feeling of being stuck lifted slowly at the clear skies and the calm after the storm that greeted us the next morning, but until our road was cleared and our car was able to be removed from our garage, it still lingered.
I was certainly hoping not to have any more feelings of being stuck like that in a while and things were looking good for a couple of months. Then, March of 2020 happened. The whole world stopped and everyone I’m sure, no matter their location or situation felt it in some way. Stuck. Isolated. Cut off.
As a church plater’s wife who originally set out for Newfoundland with the intention of doing what all good ‘missional families’ do – heading home for home assignment every 2-3 years – we had been planning of heading to Australia for Christmas. I would get to see familiar faces, introduce the newest addition of our family to everyone, get some warmth and rebuild those vitamin D stores that I took for granted my whole life. The uncertainty of the pandemic and the cessation of international travel brought those dreams crashing down. We would not be heading home for Christmas. Maybe next year…
As this realisation settled in, I mused over what it must have been like for missionaries of old who followed God’s call. They knew very well that they would likely never get to return home. They knew that when they left but yet they were so convicted of the need to share the gospel that they counted the cost and the went.
When we packed up our life, we had a glimmer of hope that every couple of years we would get that glorious home assignment. It cushioned the blow of saying goodbye. I had looked forward to hugging my dad in a couple of years. I had hope that my kids would get to run around barefoot with their cousins before they got too old to enjoy those kinds of frivolous activities.
Here I am, send me!
March 2020 all of a sudden made that silver lining that I had been holding onto fade away. I couldn’t, and still can’t buy a plane ticket back to Australia. If I did manage to find one, I am sure it would be an extremely obscure route of airport hopping, prices beyond our church planting salary and more quarantine time that I care to think about. The homesickness hit. That feeling resurfaced. STUCK!
Everything in my flesh wanted to rest in those feelings. In that moment I didn’t care about what God had called us to do. I didn’t care about the lost and hurting that God wanted us to share the gospel with. I didn’t care that up until this moment, we had been unmistakably sent to this place, at this precise time. In that moment I felt more stuck than sent. I had those same doubts that have echoed throughout the world’s sinful history – Did God really say…? Did God really send us here, right now? Is this what it feels like to be sent?
I remember in my youth group days we use to sing a song that said, ‘Send me I will go, to this city, to this nation and to the nations of the world.’ In those emotion driven youth rallies that song sounded so alluring and exciting! Send me! It sounded like a great adventure! And 15 years later, here I am. Sent. It just doesn’t have quite the same glamour I expected it to have in my teens. Now I see that being sent means something quite different.
In Isaiah 6 we read about Isaiah crying out ‘send me!’ however his was a very different cry than mine had been. He had just experienced the fullness of God. He was in the presence of the unveiled glory of God, and he was undone. In that moment he sees his sin, he knows that he is not worthy to be standing in this place. In verse 6 and 7 we read that his iniquity is removed, and his sin atoned for. Then, after that soul wrenching experience he hears the Lord ask ‘who should I send? Who will go for us?’. He responds, ‘Here I am. Send me.’
This answer is closely followed by a declaration about how hard it will be once he is sent. He would endure much for very little return. Yet that vision must have been a comfort to him when it got hard. When he was tasked to tell a whole nation that destruction was headed their way, that their decedent sinful lives were displeasing to a mighty and powerful God. When no one would listen.
Thankfully, God hasn’t asked my family to announce the destruction of an entire nation. Although he has asked us to move to a small corner of the world with very rocky soil so that we can plant a church and share the gospel. That has the possibility to fulfill my childhood visions of being sent, but in reality, most days it seems far from that. Being sent is hard.
In those hard moments, I need to take a step back and remember that I am not stuck. I am sent.
The same holy, holy, holy God that mourned the sin and separation of Israel is the God who longs for the lost souls of St John’s Newfoundland to return to him. He is the one who I stand in front of, sins atoned for and in awe of. It was he who led us here. He orchestrated it all to have us in this place, at this time, to do his work. In those moments, my faith is stirred and I see that we are not stuck. We are sent. He has work for us to do here and it is a privilege to serve him. I am counting the cost of saying yes to God and then trusting him with the details, some of which feel like sneaky last minute add-ons, but in reality were written into God’s beautiful plan all along.
Sometimes feeling stuck is a sign that we have taken the focus off of what God has for us and we are striving in our own strength. In those times over the past 12 months where I have noticed the stuck feeling creep in I have had to check my heart and wrestle my own emotions. My ways are certainly not God’s ways and my plans are not His plans. His plans are far better. When my reality is more of a focus than my perceptions, I am in a far better place for God to use me. Resting in Him and trusting that we have been sent, changes our perspective and allows us to do the work that he has called us to, whatever and wherever that might be!