Such a simple verse, honestly probably one of the first Bible verses you end up memorizing in Sunday school, yet it never ceases to amaze me how those simple childhood verses can hold such deep meaning when you finally stop and actually process what they are saying.
When I imagine God and His intervention in my life I envision a brightly lit road lined with streetlights. A road where the direction I am going is clear, and what lies ahead is clearly visible. I have time to prepare for what is coming.
Fortunately, that is not how God works.
He clearly states that He is “...a lamp unto my feet...”. Take a second to ponder that. My feet. That seems as worthless as trying to see by the light of your cell phone (way back when when they did not all come with built in flashlights). You know what kind of light I am talking about. The sort of light that illuminates about ten inches down around your feet and absolutely nothing beyond that. If you are lucky you can see your very next step, but there is literally no way you can see what is coming beyond that step. There is no preparation for stepping into that hole or tripping over that tree root until you are already upon it, and then you pretty much have to just have to trust that you won’t die in whatever comes next.
When you sit and think about it, that is exactly how God works. There is no road lined with street lights. There are no roadmaps, mile markers, or blinking neon signs. He is a faithful and magnificent guide. Of course He knows the course, but for the most part, He’s only ever going to guide you in that next step. He does not illuminate the road; He merely illuminates our feet.
Now, the control freak in me finds this endlessly frustrating. I want to know what is next. I NEED to prepare for what is coming. Having Him guide me day by day does not always feel helpful, it usually feels like walking in the dark with my RAZR phone.
In recent years though, I have slowly come to realize that maybe our omniscient and omnipotent Guide knew what He was doing when He chose to light just our feet. Maybe He knew that if we saw the road ahead, we would never choose to take it. If we knew what obstacles awaited, what hardships were to come, what tragedies were to befall us- we would take one look at that brightly lit road, crumple up that map, shield our eyes from those neon signs and run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. I look back at my life, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I would not have chosen this path voluntarily. Not if I had seen the challenges that it held beneath those bright lights.
Now, for you to understand this I am going to give you a little background about myself. I really took that Robert Frost poem to heart. You know the one that says, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
My life has been nothing but the path less traveled by. I grew up the child of missionaries in northern Mexico. By middle school we had relocated to the United States, and I had lived 12 different places. This August I will be moving on to country number three, which brings my location total to 16. It has been a life of goodbyes, and for years now I have found myself longing for to live somewhere longer than a few years, for a place to call home. I always knew I wanted to go into missions myself, and when the opportunity arose for me to return to Mexico to teach at a Christian school in Guadalajara, I assumed I was coming back to stay. I had always been open to the idea of living internationally long term, and Mexico had always felt far more like home than the United States. I was in a culture I loved, doing my dream job (teaching middle school- abnormal dream job, I know), and involved in the most incredible church. When people asked me what my long term plans were, the answer was “staying here”. I was content in Mexico. I was happy.
The catch is though, that God does not call us to happiness; He calls us to Himself. Naturally, pursuing Him wholeheartedly leads to a different and deeper type of happiness and satisfaction, but it is not the same as simple contentment. One is rooted in God’s plans and desires, the other is rooted in being comfortable. I was comfortable. I wanted this to be home. I had done my share of moving, of relocating, of restarting on my own. I was ready to stay, but God had other plans. In September, God dropped a small school in Germany into my heart. He called me away from the balmy tropics of Mexico, where I know the language and culture, into the cold Black Forest of Germany, where my German knowledge can be fully encompassed in “nein” and pretzels. He led me from a salaried job to one that requires raising financial support. He took me away from a place I had made into a home into yet another fresh start on my own.I was not happy on pretty much every level. This was not my plan. I did not want to do this. I was content where I already was, but slowly God nudged me in this new direction and warmed my heart to the idea, so much so that I applied and accepted a position at Black Forest Academy for this coming fall.
Now I find myself in Mexico, teaching the most rambunctious bunch of sixth graders the world has ever seen (I have several dozen boys and a handful of girls. Every day we don’t burn the school down, I count as a success.), and as I am teaching this crew I am also trying to raise financial support to go to Germany via social media (which statistically has a 1% success rate). Because I am in Mexico I have no way to speak at churches, visit small groups, share at youth groups, etc. I have a two to three week turnaround time between leaving Mexico and moving to Germany, and only a few months to attempt to raise $2,400 a month in support.
Now, being honest, if I had seen this on my brightly lit road, I probably would not have chosen this path. I would’ve taken matters into my own hands and rewritten my own more convenient route. I would have chosen to have a year after Mexico based in the States to raise support in person, or I would have stayed in the States instead of coming to Mexico at all so I could prepare for Germany. Potentially, I would have said no to Germany, decided it is too complicated, and simply chosen to ignore what God was clearly telling me and stay in Mexico. But that was not what happened. Instead God revealed each step, each challenge, each leap of faith as it came upon my path, and in those moments He gave me the grace and strength I needed to pass. I find each day full of bountiful blessings as I watch Him provide in ways that only He can. If I had not taken this road, I never would have had the opportunity to learn what trust really is- what it looks like manifested in my day to day life.
In spite of the projected 1% success rate, I find myself nearing that 50% mark of my needed monthly support. In spite of the fact that I know no German, and I hate the cold. I find myself so indescribably excited to go serve at Black Forest Academy. Having grown up on the mission field, I have wanted to work with missionary kids for as long as I can remember, and in recent years I have found a passion for working with Middle Eastern refugees growing in me. Black Forest Academy with its ministry focus as a boarding school for missionary kids and its location in Germany guarantees both. In spite of the fact that I hate moving and am longing for one place to call home, I find my heart so thrilled at the prospect of what yet another fresh start may hold. In spite of the fact that I fell in love with Latin American culture and always anticipated pursuing long term ministry here, I am eagerly awaiting the chance for Germany to capture my heart in new and different ways.
Had I seen this path would I have chosen it? No. I would not choose a new country, new culture, and new language. I would not choose to start over on my own again. I would not walk away from a salaried job to attempt to raise support in a matter of months from a foreign country. I would not be thrilled at the prospect of going even further away from my family.
Yet here I am, walking forward down this path full of eager anticipation for what each next step will hold. Had I not walked down this path, had I looked at the map and seen the obstacles it would hold, I would have lost out on the magnificent new understanding I have of God. He truly is the most superb Guide, who is waiting to provide for us in the most unexpected and beautiful ways if we only step out in faith and allow Him too. When we walk through the dark, seeing only our feet, it allows Him to bridge the chasms, break down the walls, and fill in the holes. I praise God that He only lights my feet; because had He given me a streetlight I would have lost out on so many opportunities to know and trust Him more. Faith would lose its power, if we had streetlights, roadmaps, and neon signs.
If you want to know more about me, my life teaching middle school boys, my upcoming ministry in Germany, or how to partner with me in my ministry just hop on over to rebekahsharp.wordpress.com. Seriously, if you (or a church/small group/youth group/ Sunday school class) you know is interested in helping play a part in my upcoming ministry of serving missionary kids and refugees do not hesitate to contact me. Also if you had any more questions about my journey in trusting God, and how to survive when its just your feet being lit, I would love to talk more with you! Just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.