For the past three months I have been working to develop a Bible curriculum for the children along the Rio Coco. It has been a stretching, and very humbling, experience; sitting around a table with men older than my Dad, sometimes I’m amazed that they’d want the input of a 19-year-old girl who doesn’t have as much life experience or anywhere near so much cultural knowledge. Right now we’re working on boiling down the life of Abraham into two concise stories to teach Biblical principles to five and six year olds. They say that you always learn more by teaching, and God is certainly using this process of meditating on His Word to instruct me in a personal way.
When I stop and think about all that God has taught me though my time in Waspam, one of the first things that comes to mind is the issue of surrender. Four days after GCBI graduation, I flew off to a whole new life. New language, new culture, new food, new climate, new lifestyle, new friends, new schedule, new environment. God asked me to give everything to Him, and, by His grace, I guess I did. But His desire for surrender didn’t stop there. He has put so many things in my path, moments when I am forced to recognize how my own desires sharply contrast with His desires. Moments when I must choose to die to myself, take up the cross He’s set before me and bear it well. For His glory and my benefit.
Three separate times I prepared a Bible study to do with different friends here. I was excited at the opportunity to use the gifts and knowledge God gave me at GCBI. But even stronger than my excitement was my fear. I was terrified. Here I was faced with a real opportunity, but I was afraid and unwilling to put in the effort and vulnerability such an opportunity would require. So each time I would spend the morning in the Word, preparing the Bible study, and asking the Holy Spirit to prepare my heart.
“God, I don’t want to do this, but I can see how Your hand might be in it. I want to do Your will more than anything, so change my heart. Give me a willing attitude as I faithfully obey.”
Laying my sinful perspective at His feet, I felt my heart change, and readily finished my preparations. But each time, the same thing happened: no one showed. I was confused; why would God bring me to the point where I’m wanting and waiting to obey, only to keep it from happening?
This year has been crazy for my mom. She has sat front-row-and-center on the worst roller coaster ride her health has ever seen, and I’ve watched the coaster from long distance. Every time her health rapidly declined, I fell to my knees.
“God, do you want me to go back to Alaska? I know that You brought me here to Waspam on purpose, and I love it here. I don’t want to go, but I can see how Your hand might be in this. I want to do what You want. You will, Father. I’m all Yours, whatever comes.”
Each time I sat at my computer, mentally calculating airline costs, formulating travel plans. And as soon as the moment came when I was fully ready and willing to go back, God made it clear He wanted to me stay in Nicaragua!
I couldn’t help but wonder what God was doing. It’s like God was asking for something from me, asking me to give myself over to what He had planned. But then as soon as I placed it in His hands, He would open the box and the contents had changed. It didn’t hold a trip to the emergency room in Seattle, instead it was 2 more months in Nicaragua, just like before.
I can imagine Abraham was just as confused. God promised him that Isaac would be the father to a great people, and, in turn, produce a blessing for the whole world. But then God tells him to kill his son. “What, Lord? How could you ask this of me? Of course I don’t want to kill my son; I would die first. But I can see Your hand in this, You’ve commanded me to do so…”
I picture Abraham praying as he gathers the wood together, “Oh God, change my heart. Give me a willing attitude as I faithfully obey.”
So, with Isaac’s hand in his, Abraham climbs the mountain, with every step choosing to die to himself, clinging to his faith that God knows best. With every step Abraham’s heart becomes more and more willing to do God’s bidding; willfully blocking out every tempting voice inside his head, Abraham lifts the knife over his precious son. He’s laid his beloved gift in the hands of God, heart willing and open to God’s desires, and in that exact moment, God opens the box. It’s empty. God doesn’t want Isaac’s life.
I see Abraham sitting on top of that mountain, holding his son in his arms, tearfully asking God, “I don’t understand. Why would you ask me for my son, only to give him back again? What on earth could possibly come from all this?” And, in my mind’s eye, I see God holding Abraham’s gift, not looking at the empty box but the beautiful wrapping paper. On it I see written in flowing script one single word in many different colors: surrender. God responds to Abraham’s questions with this one statement: “Now I know that you truly fear God” (Gen 22:12, NLT)
This was the gift God wanted from Abraham, his complete surrender. I always thought that when God presented me with an opportunity, He wanted the gift, the action, the speech, the song, the prayer, and that the only way I could give this gift was through a surrendered heart. But now I’m starting to see that maybe God isn’t so crazy about the gift itself. An eternal God can’t be too surprised by a gift from a 19-year-old girl, however grand it may be to me. God doesn’t care about the gift, He wants the wrapping paper. He wants my surrender, that’s my truest gift to Him.
“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” Psalm 139:6