Parrots and Providence: When Answers Don’t Come and Trust Won’t Either
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 18:19-20
I pleaded with God for direction. I so desperately felt called to go into missions, but I was staying. The hours I spent studying Spanish seemed a waste when I only used what I learned inside the walls of an isolated classroom.
As I was praying and pleading, I painted. I have a special Bible that I use for things like this, and I painted though my prayer. I was praying to be sent. And I was praying for very clear direction in my life.
This was in January. For six months, I prayed. And I prayed for a Burning Bush. Something, anything, to reaffirm my calling and to show me at least the next step of the roadmap.
I don’t know why I painted a bird. I feel called to Latin America and I wanted to paint something that represented that I guess. Knowing me, painting a taco would have made so much more sense. I had never painted an animal before that January day, I haven’t painted one since then.
Soon after, I was asked to go on a trip to a Honduran Orphanage with some of my cousins. They knew my heart, and they knew I could speak Spanish. The trip was tentatively set for the end of July.
I was going. Or so I thought.
In April, they called again. The trip had been canceled. I remember going into my friends’ dorm room and fighting back frustrated tears. If I was called to go, why wasn’t I? I felt called to go into missions when I was 12. Was I just being stubborn by holding onto some childhood fantasy? Maybe I missed something along the way. Maybe I was off on the whole missions thing. Maybe I shouldn’t be studying Spanish. Maybe… Maybe… Maybe…
They cut me off. The self pity had given way to me doubting the Sovereignty of God, but more specifically, doubting his perfect timing. And that had to stop.
After lots of prayer, conversation, and Bible reading, I finished the semester and moved home for the summer. The next day, I started interning with my youth group. My prayers to be sent hadn’t stopped, nor had my pleading for clear direction. But The Lord was teaching me how to wait, and to wait well.
On Friday, May 22, 2015, my Youth Pastor pulled me aside.
I have an opportunity for you, and I think you will be really excited about it. Will you go to Honduras with us?
I’m fairly confident I told him to shut up. And If I wasn’t crying, I wanted to. Agreeing to go to Honduras was the easiest decision I made all summer. Going felt as natural as breathing, but leaving brought all the pain that having the wind knocked out you brings. While there, I continued to beg God for my Burning Bush, but stopped to praise Him for the embers that He provided throughout the week.
There was a zoo at our hotel, and these birds were some of the first things that I saw. How precious it was to see them, the same kind that I had painted into my Bible many months prior. Those birds were like salve to my my impatient, wounded soul. Time heals some wounds, but for me, the passing years were painful. Seeing them served as the reminder that I so desperately needed. God knew I was in Honduras. He always knew that I was going to be in Honduras, even when it looked like I wasn’t. The Lord had purposed for me to go long before.
On our first full day in the country, we were driving around when a mural caught my eye. //Jehova Jireh// The Lord Provides. Very quickly the brightly colored feathers of these birds came to represent something far greater than the tropical fantasies that they are so often associated with. It was my own personal flying rainbow, a reminder of God’s promise to provide.
For the past few years, I have had my life all planned out. When I would graduate, what organization I would work with, and what Latin American country I would move to. I am still waiting for God to get on board with that one though, because up until now, He hasn’t.
During my trip, I was praying for him to confirm my plans. You see, I have my 10 year plan. And I was praying that he would make it his. Going into Honduras, I knew what I wanted. I wanted God to want that same thing.
But that’s not how faith works. That actually isn’t faith at all. My prayer wasn’t “Let your will be done”, but rather, “Let my will be done.” And in doing so, I was treating God less and less like the Creating Lord that he is and more and more like an ambivalent genie. (I’m pretty sure Patrick Curtis said that.)
Looking back on my private musings from that time, it’s apparent to me the turmoil my soul was in. It’s slowly, painfully, becoming clear: my plan is just that- my plan. God has a different one. I spent my week in Honduras, and almost every second since then, fighting that. Dying to self is painful. And watching my dream die is painful. What I wanted, it’s not going to happen. And that’s okay. Or so I’m learning.
A few years ago I was struggling with giving up my plans, and a very precious friend pointed me to scripture, as all precious friends should. Paul had plans to go to Rome, the center of the known world, and to bring the Gospel with him. On paper, it was the perfect, God glorifying plan. But God sent him to prison instead. By no means am I saying that I am being sent to prison, but I am being sent somewhere other than where I thought I could best glorify God. Slowly, sometimes submissively, sometimes rebelliously, but always painfully, I watch my plans crumble. And every day He teaches me how to be okay with that.
Because He has promised to provide. His plan is better than mine. His timing is perfect. He’s a good, good father.
One more thing. That bird I painted long ago while praying to be sent and for direction? Before a trip to Honduras was planned, canceled, and then another one was planned last minute?
It’s the Honduran national bird. And I didn’t know that until a few weeks after I got home.
God has a plan. He promised to provide. And he always, always, always, keeps his promises.