Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”—Matt 19:27
“It’s funny how quickly life changes from, ‘Sure God—I’ll give you anything you want!’ to ‘Well, not that. Or that. Or that. Can I perhaps interest you in something from this small give-away pile—you know, the things I no longer actually want or need?’ 😊
This was my Facebook status on April 15th of 2016. Two years later I am hazy as to what sort of sacrifices inspired this particular post, but hindsight highlights what I could not then begin to imagine.
Things were crazy, as I recall, and among other things there was a problem with my apartment, which could have precipitated a drastic and immediate move. I spent the day cleaning out my closet in preparation, only in the eleventh hour to have things work out enabling me to stay, to my great relief.
Yet for some reason I felt something deep within me stir and suggest that I should plan to put everything in storage and be prepared to walk away from my life.
This sounds rather outlandish, but I was preparing to go to China to volunteer for the summer, and the idea of staying longer greatly attracted me. In fact, I had been feeling for some time an interior nudge, to say Yes to something that God was calling me to, something I could not yet see or understand. I imagined a call to stay in China, or somewhere more exotic perhaps, to be a missionary, to follow some new and exciting adventure planned by God. “I will go anywhere you want!” I told Him with enthusiasm.
It was just after this thought came to me—of putting all my stuff in storage and preparing to move—that I went down to get the mail. On top was a flyer from Lowes, which said in bold letters “You’re moving!” (over an advertisement for supplies of course). I was both startled and amused by what seemed a concrete confirmation of this interior sense. I saved the flier (I still have it today) and told all my friends about this strange sense of calling—and I am so grateful I did, because nobody would have believed me given what followed.
I went to China and fell in love. Half of my heart still sleeps on a bamboo matt under mosquito netting in an obscure orphanage in the suburbs of Beijing. I would have given anything to stay and continue to work among the abandoned little ones. But contrary to my wishes and my expectations, God did not ask me to stay.
Instead, I flew home to New York depressed and bored by the life that awaited my return. I resented my naiveite in believing that interior call was from God, particularly as it became clear that all of the boxes that I had carefully packed and brought painstakingly down six flights of stairs now had to be brought up, unpacked, put back. We brought up a few at a time, and they sat in my living room, unpacked for days, while I glared at them bitterly.
Then one day, just a few weeks after my return from China, I got a phone call that changed everything. “Something is not right with your mother…” I left work that day to make the drive upstate, unaware that I would not be returning.
I did, in fact, walk away from my life—from my job, my apartment, my social life and community, to move back to my childhood home. It was not the exotic foreign destination I had imagined. More than once, I questioned God, doubted that His plan could possibly be right.
But no matter how much is in our give-away pile (or how reluctantly we add to it) God’s is always greater. He is never outdone in generosity. I have learned this too.
In the Atrium we taught the little ones about the Mystery of Life and Death—how the grain of wheat must die in order to give life. We planted wheat seeds, then took them out at various stages to examine them. A few days in, if we dig up the seed it looks much the same. A few weeks in, green shoots have pushed through the dirt, and roots have begun to grow—the grain they have come from is changed; it looks more like a shell now. At four weeks, the original grain is a fraction of its original size and has almost disappeared, but the plant and roots are bigger still. And then, later still, when it is harvest time, we find the seed has vanished entirely, but on the stalk are a hundred new seeds in its place. From death comes more life.
I have had many experiences of God’s generosity in my new life. I am grateful for the deepening of relationships, to give just two examples. I was able to spend a few months living with my father, unaware that those would be his last months on earth. Had things stayed as they were, I would have seen him only for a few days perhaps at Christmas. I have also now been able to spend time with my best friend from childhood. She has for more than a year now been suffering from debilitating Lyme disease and its various coinfections. I am able to cook weekly for her family of eight children, and we accompany each other in this strange season of our lives. I am grateful for many other blessings that God has given me during this time.
Let us pray for the grace to give to God all that He may ask of us—and to better receive all that He wants to give us.