This past May, when I set out on a year-long trip to research singleness around the world, I was confident that I could keep financial disaster and worry at bay. I had modest savings, plans to keep my expenses lean, and hopes of finding freelance work to offset costs. I thought I wouldn’t need to ask that much of God. I thought I could trust him without really having to trust him. I thought I could follow him without leaving the boat.
But I didn’t reckon on the full train that stranded me in pricey Vienna one night or expensive rates for translation services. And I certainly didn’t expect the visa debacle in Ghana that cost me four missed, non-refundable flights—all without a visit or even one interview to show for it.
This trip wasn’t the first time I’d taken risks. I moved to New York City 16 years ago without a job, and four years later I did the same thing en route to California’s equally high-cost Bay Area. But I made both of those decisions with caution and did so in my 20s, a time when it seemed more permissible to ask big, even reckless, things of God.
On the verge of my 40th birthday, however, working without a strong and expansive security net seemed far more irresponsible. Shouldn’t a grown-up, mature Christian woman keep her needs low and ask God for as little as possible?
Throughout my 30s, I thought of God’s provision as something he largely imparted in the form of occasional gifts, like the job where I worked for a decade or the house where I lived for six years. Under this stability “contract,” God provided initial security and then I made it last as long as possible.
All that seemed pretty virtuous until a dinner conversation last year, when a new friend observed that I seemed quite committed to having control. (By that he meant, of course, the illusion of it.) His words unsettled me. Not only was it hard to face the possibility, but having it exposed probably meant that God planned to do something about it.
Not until this research trip, however, did I get a glimmer of how dramatically God might want me to upend my life. By the time I set out, I’d quit my job, sold some prized, high-end shoes (the rest weren’t worth much), and moved everything else into storage. The mainstays of my passions for music, cooking, and sewing: packed up. My beloved church and house communities: distanced to electronic updates. Routines of sleep, hygiene, and diet: all thrown into the maelstrom of international travel.
Once I actually set out on my pilgrimage, the scariest part was learning to trust God for provision week-by-week, sometimes even hour-by-hour. One Sunday in Spain, for example, I showed up at a new church dragging all my bags, because I’d had to leave my prior housing and didn’t know where I’d sleep that night. (I left the service with the key to one attendee’s apartment.)
For a while, these needs added drama to life, but God always seemed to come through.
Then things fell through and fell through again until I found myself stuck in Nigeria, racking up the cost of a failed attempt to visit one more West African country. All the old fears of God letting me down surged back to the forefront and squelched my trust in his love.
After all, who knows what that love will allow? Several weeks into my trip, I’d learned that a missionary family I knew from church—and had considered visiting—had been murdered on a camping trip in Georgia. Weeks later in Lagos, I interviewed widows who faced frequent food insecurity and a divorced mother who hadn’t eaten at all the day we spoke.
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Source: Christianity Today