We talk a lot about dreams. Or having a vision for your life. A God-sized vision. Dreams that seem impossible so God can accomplish them. Over the years serving as the missions and interns pastor at Beltway, I had the chance to have a lot, I mean a lot, of conversations centered around dreams of what God could do in the future. After a while, I began to see the difference between those that had really great ideas, God ideas, and those that had a burning desire to go after those dreams. It really centered around one thing, preparation. Were they willing to do what it takes to put them in a place to succeed? If it was a couple, how bought in was the wife (usually the more practical one that thinks about details such as food, kids, etc.) to this dream? Any dream worth dreaming is going to be beyond a one-time event. So were they preparing to see this through fruition or were they just wanting to see the big moment? Over the years at Beltway, we developed a set of guidelines for missionaries. These guidelines were nothing more than a roadmap to walk you through the preparation process and naturally refine you to be able to go after God’s dream placed inside you. My prayer was always to make it difficult enough to strengthen people to withstand the blows of fighting for the impossible. I don’t think I can stress the importance of preparation enough. Here are some keys to preparing to go after God-sized dreams.
1. You must wrestle with God’s faithfulness.
I think this one may be the biggest and most foundational truth. I personally am walking through this as we get ready to move to Poland. I’ll be honest, we’ve had a great time of preparation. We were full of faith and diligently worked towards getting out of debt and living below our means to maximize our savings for the past three years. We have faithfully shared the vision of what God is challenging us to do with many and have been blessed to have an ever-increasing partner team. We’ve prepared for cross-culture living, left our jobs well, and have trusted God through the process and He has delivered.
We’ve also placed our house up for sale, and dropped the price, again, and again… For almost three months now. It’s a seller’s market. Everyone not buying a house loves our house. Yet here we sit. We bought plane tickets. Still own a house. We’ve all but sold everything we own to people, except our house. We aren’t going anywhere until we sell it. So, my question is, “God, where are you?” “You promised a victorious life, yet here we are selling at the lower end of market value for our house?” “You do remember that thing you wanted us to do? To uproot our very good life and move across the ocean to go do what you asked?” “And this is how we get treated?”
I think often times, we are afraid to acknowledge our fear of God not delivering. That we aren’t “speaking His promises” or offending God with our insecurities. If that’s the case, we clearly haven’t read the stories of Abraham, Moses, Gideon, David, the Disciples, etc., etc. It seems that God is big enough to take it. As I type this, I feel I’m at the end of my rope. At a breaking point emotionally because I have not seen God deliver. It’s frustrating. It’s hard. I don’t like it and I don’t understand. And that’s probably the point. If we don’t know how to wrestle with God’s faithfulness in a seemingly minimal event in the grand scheme of things, then how can we continue to walk towards the big dreams when God seems absent?
2. Expect to be Broken Down
Going to the mission field is a great way to break down. Who doesn’t love having someone point out your weaknesses in adapting? What about asking people to partner financially with what you are going to do? Pretty emotional experience to basically put your life on the line and ask if someone feels God is calling them to invest in what you are doing. Oh and all of the details, selling a house, visas, deciding what possessions to sell, road trips and goodbyes to friends and family. So much fun.
Some research shows six potential stress areas in life: relationships, finances, health, career, safety, and home. The joy of moving to the mission field is that usually all six areas get hit on some level. Change in relationships? Check. Financial situation change? Major check. Health? If your body thrives on routine, well not so much. Career? Yes. Safety in knowing what to expect, traditions, understanding of a new style of living? Afraid not. Home? Not just your house, but the entire process of having a home is gone, from how you stock your kitchen to expectations of adequate living space. The margin to handle stress becomes razor thin because, in reality, you are handling stressors in all areas, resulting in the slightest incident that could result in a breakdown. For me, it is our house not selling. For someone else, it could be lack of support from family, the thought of a change in finances, or the fear of the unknown and if you will be safe. Regardless, at some point, expect to be broken down.
3. Rebuilt. Stronger. Faster. Better. Smarter.
Finally, good news. One of the things I believe God does during a season of preparation is to strip you of your personal securities and alleviate your insecurities. We can find comfort in our security of previous success, well thought out plan, or personal abilities. Yet Jesus indicated that apart from Him, we are nothing. So it seems like our abilities and successes, our securities, things we as a culture sometimes overemphasize, are secondary to our reliance on Him. Easy to say. Really difficult to live. At the same time, Jesus faithfully takes our insecurities, our lack of ability to control, and reminds us that where we are weak, He is strong.
I can remember a sign in our basketball locker room in high school that read, “Winter will ask what you did all summer?” The point was that the offseason was where you worked on your weaknesses, fix your shot, conditioned, and prepared to maximize yourself for the season. Although of some benefit to work on improving during the season, the time you maximize during the offseason would allow the greatest increase to your skills as a player. It’s when you hurt the most, and it’s when your capacity increases the most. And it’s what no one sees. God takes us through offseasons at times in our life, not to derail us, but to give us the capacity to go after those dreams He has given us for the next season. Eventually, we are remade better than before, more like Him, and more prepared to pursue what we have next with Him.
Not everyone moves overseas, but we all have a God dream in us that is going to take more than us. I felt compelled to write this in the middle of our season of preparation. Often times, we read these stories of how much people worked and the difficulty after the fact. We are right in the middle of it, and it’s hard. I don’t have an end yet. But I do have a God that is shaping me to go after the dreams He’s placed inside of Brandi and I. We are being chiseled, broken down, and rebuilt for our next season. And now we wait for that next season to start…