May 27, 2008

Moving Through Life’s Rhythms
by Amy Mattocks Schwab

(I’m thankful that during my surgery and recovery some wonderful seminarians in our midst have written Messenger articles. Today’s is by Amy Schwab, who will be graduating this spring from Fuller. During her time with us she has taught an adult Sunday School class, led a spiritual growth program called “The Next Step,” and helped lead worship services. —Pastor George Van Alstine)

My husband Eros and I will be moving to Texas in mid-August. We are excited to progress to new challenges, expectant to see what God has in store for us. But it is surely going to be hard to say goodbye to our ABC church family.

I am accustomed to moving around. I have lived in five states and two countries, and nobody in my family is in the military. I just like to keep going and exploring new places. I feel strongly that God built me with a traveling jones, a good constitution for someone called to missions like me.

I have discovered a pattern, a rhythm to transitioning into and out of various places. Arriving at a new home is tough, depressing and exciting—unpacking, missing my friends, feeling my way around (Thank God for Google Maps!), finding a church home, figuring out where to buy groceries, exploring the local media, trying to make new friends, and seeking ways to get involved at work, at school, at church, in the community. In this stage, I have to lean on God, because I do not know what I am doing. Only He knows how I will come to belong in my new home.

Before long, I find myself overcommitted. I have overextended myself, and I have to take stock of what exactly I am here to do and to learn. This is a painful process, because there are so many wonderful, interesting, causes and groups that are always in need of helping hands. Again, I have to lean on God, prayerfully seeking to know his will for the work I am to do, and what I have to leave in his competent care.

Then, I hit my stride. I know what my focus is, and I turn my God-given skills to working out the task at hand. I have specific goals at school, at work, at church, with my friends and within myself. Here is where I get into trouble. I think that I know what is happening and how to handle it, and I forget to keep seeking God’s guidance because I forget that I constantly need it.

Eventually, the crisis comes, a speed bump on the freeway when I’m cruising along in fifth gear. As I muddle through the problem, I often find where my personal growth is taking place. At this stage, I am crying out to God in frustration, until I learn to let go. I have to return to His capable hands what I had wrestled from them to manage by my own ability, which I discover, is always lacking. I never can remember that God is the only one who can manage well my life in his will.

This stage is humbling, but it is also where I make my deepest friendships. God sends people who come along side me and pick me up and help me to restore a proper balance in my life. God sends people to whom I desperately and honestly open up my whole self. These people remain close friends, even after I have moved on to the next place and the place after that. God lets me lean on Him by leaning on those He has put in my path to guide me back when I have estranged myself from God because of my pride.

In due course, the work somehow gets done. My goals are almost met. I have made amazing friendships. I have a renewed faith in God’s strength and a renewed appreciation of my weakness. I begin to look forward to where God may be calling me next. In this stage, I have to lean on God for discernment. This is the anxious waiting-on-God time. Here God always stretches and tests my patience.

Finally, the time comes to say goodbye. Here I have to trust God that the friendships I have made and the work that I have done are secure in his safekeeping. I reflect that it has been that way all along, whether I recognized it or not. I wish it made leaving easier, but I never learn to release control fully to God. I have to redo that lesson everywhere I go.

And go I have to. That is how I am designed. I know in my heart that God has ordained it. In my limited understanding (I can only see the past partially well, the present is a blur, and the future is always hidden), I wonder how God is going to manage all that I have been doing around here without me.

So, I pray about it. I pray asking God to take care of this person and that situation, and I pray that I can have more faith. I hear from my friends whom I have left behind that God is still there with them, even as He has gone with me also. In this way, God keeps reminding me how long His arm is, and how tightly He holds us all together, even if it looks like miles and miles apart through my poor human eyes.

Lord, increase our faith. May we always lean on you, even when we do not think that we need to.