November 22, 2015
“Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3
Four years ago, on this weekend, the Drakulic family left Ohio and traveled to Erie, Pennsylvania for Flagship’s first preview service. We met in a small, cluttered room at our local YMCA. Not more than 20 people came that day, but it started something–God was beginning a new work in this city.
Today, Pastor Daryl looked back on that day: “If God would have told me what was to come in the next four years . . . Would I have believed it?” I sat in the pew and I thought, If God would have told me what was in store for our lives, if He would have revealed to me the future . . . I don’t know if I still would have come.
“But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’” Acts 9:15-16
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In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells this story of a conversation she had with her father:
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering my question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last, he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.
“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
“It’s too heavy,” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”
And I was satisfied. More than satisfied—wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions—for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.
Isn’t that just like our Heavenly Father? Can we be content with the answers we don’t have, the future we don’t know, to leave it in His keeping?
* * *
I don’t know if I would have come . . . The knowledge of the heartache and trial we would face might have been too much.
We moved to Erie in 2012, and that first year was so lonely for me. Tony worked late hours and I knew so few people. I missed my friends back home. I missed having my parents close by. I was homeschooling for the first time and pregnant with our fourth child. I was overwhelmed and my soul ached with loneliness.
Less than three years later, a tumor was found in my oldest son’s brain and he was diagnosed with cancer, and it has brought with it challenges I wouldn’t have ever been able to imagine facing—and certainly not in a place so far from the familiar.
I think I would have stayed in Ohio. I would have stayed where it was familiar, where I felt safe. I might have chosen to avoid the anguish of a broken heart, if at all possible, and been close to home, when the storms did arise. If God would have given me a vision of the future, I might have said, “That’s too much for me. Thank You, but I think I’ll pass.”
But if I would have stayed, here’s what I would have missed:
- An opportunity to serve next to some incredible people. People who love God and love His people. People who have been patient in my frustrations, rejoiced in our celebrations and wept in our struggles.
- Meeting women who would grow to become my sister-friends. Ladies who I have had the privilege of discipling and ministering to their needs. Some of their stories have broken my heart and at times their words have crushed my spirit, but when I see where they were and where they are now. Wow. God is good.
- Finding a faithful friend who cares for me enough to tell me the truth and gives me grace in my ugly spaces. A friend who enjoys the company of my family and with whom, we have shared many laughs!
I would have missed:
- Watching precious souls give their lives to the Lord.
- Girls and boys turning into young adults who seek to serve the Lord and have a heart for His worship.
- Flagship’s Sunday morning worship, and the sound of voices coming together to find hope and to give praise to the only One truly worthy of it.
If my family would have stayed, we might have escaped the trial of change, but we would have missed:
- Making new friends and finding new ways to grow.
- Realizing anew dreams that had been forgotten and purposes we never knew we had.
- Becoming a family that is more thankful for each other.
- Falling in love with God’s magnificent creation.
We might have even missed:
- The spiritual birth of our precious daughter after VBS one summer.
- A chance to learn what it really means to be sustained by grace and the power of others carrying your burdens.
- The miracle of seeing God glorified in your dark and desperate places.
We might have relied more on ourselves and less on Him if we hadn’t of come here. What would have changed if we would have stayed? What if Abraham had seen his future? The heartache of his wife, division in his family and being asked to sacrifice his own son? What if he would have stayed in Haran? What then? Who would have missed out on the blessings of his obedience, and who would have suffered the consequences?
Today, I write to you from a place of great struggle. I feel weighed down by weariness. I’m tired of hearing the “no’s” and the criticisms in ministry–of pouring your hearts into lives that never seem full. I’m tired of giving my all only to feel like that’s not good enough. And I’ve been thinking that I need a break–an extended Sabbath. Jesus Himself withdrew after hearing that his beloved cousin had been killed, and many other times did Jesus get away to pray and think and prepare for the next step in His ministry. Unlike me, He knew the suffering and loneliness and burden and betrayal He faced. The Bible tells us that “for the joy set before [Jesus, he] endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2, emphasis mine). I don’t know what the next four years hold, but I want to be prepared for what God will do in my life, in my family and in this city and beyond.
Can I ask you something? If you are serving or have served in the ministry, can we give each other the grace to be weak? To let some things go for a season and step away for an extended rest–without the fear of being judged? Or else, give each other the grace to know that we won’t always do things perfectly? And if you are a layperson in your church, might you see your leaders as they really are? Humans who have needs just like you. Might you offer them a word of encouragement and think twice before you criticize? Ephesians 4:1-2 says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” Again in verse 29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
I’m glad the Lord only gave me enough light for the step I was on back then. I’m glad that I came to Erie, and I’ve been part of miracles here. God is faithful, and even in the struggle, there is reason to rejoice!
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”