I’ve been thinking about my spiritual journey lately and reminiscing about big transitions I’ve encountered in life. In one particular change ten years ago, my husband and I, along with two of our four children, moved from Oregon to Canada. Although the adventure ahead would be exciting and new, there were many people and things we were leaving behind in the state we had loved and lived in for 17 years. Among them were our two married daughters, their husbands, and one new grandbaby. At times the grief and loss from the transition felt impossible to shake, but there were some key junctures along the way where God taught me some important life lessons. Here are four of them:
We’ve all encountered them. They are those things that seemingly will not budge. They can take our focus away from God and tempt us to give up hope. Sometimes they are there because of something sinful we’ve done, but sometimes they aren’t. Either way, these road blocks challenge our faith and trust in God.
Barriers can sometimes be spiritual deserts—maybe God doesn’t seem to be speaking the way He used to, doors of opportunity aren’t opening, or life feels stale. I’ve had a couple of memorable desert seasons in my life. While I was in them, I was sometimes convinced I would never get out. But each desert season had a unique way of slowing my life down. In this place of stillness, the areas where my life had become off balance came into focus. I’d placed my confidence too much in a job position or in what other people thought. God was asking me to put my confidence back in Him. For me, the ticket out of the desert was surrender—surrender of the picture I thought my life was going to look like and surrender to God’s plan.
Boundaries are a buzzword today. While they exist for our protection, that doesn’t mean they aren’t frustrating when they are encountered.
In my life, God has laid boundary lines in front of me several times that have stopped me from moving into a place that I wasn’t yet equipped to handle. For me this has happened in situations where God spoke something to my heart and I thought it was supposed to happen right away. Wrong. This delay made me question whether I had heard God at all. My ticket out of this dilemma was patience. During the time that I (imperfectly) waited for God to deliver on His word, He was faithfully preparing me to be able to sustain and walk in what He had for me. In His grace, He refused to let me rush the process and risk destroying or diluting his purpose for my life.
My family lived in Canada for four years, and during that time we crossed the border into the U.S. many times. It was always very obvious when we reached the border. The place was clearly marked where we had to stop and present our identification before we could pass through.
Today, my family lives in Texas, and we regularly visit relatives in Tulsa. When we cross over the border from Texas into Oklahoma, if I’m paying attention, I see the sign letting me know I’ve entered another state. But there have been plenty of times when I didn’t even realize when we crossed over from one state to another.
Similarly, there have been clearly marked events in my life where I’ve definitely crossed over into new territory. Marriage and parenting were two examples of this. While life still went on after both events, it was very apparent that I had entered into a new place. Decisions were made differently. Schedules changed. My life was forever altered — (for the good).
Then there have been those borders that I crossed in my life without knowing exactly when it happened. These came at times when I walked through a long process of (imperfectly) choosing to be obedient to something God asked of me. One place this happened is where I chose to forgive when my heart didn’t want to. For months I flip-flopped in my willingness to give things over to God, but each time I would land on the side of forgiveness. Over time, things didn’t hurt as much. Then there was that day when I realized that I could wish that person well without wanting to hurl. Somewhere in all the wrestling, my heart had been set free. I’d crossed the border into true forgiveness.
Bridges help us cross over to places we could not reach on our own strength. Jesus is the ultimate example of this. He laid down his life and in doing so spanned the huge canyon our sin had created that separated us from God.
There is a selfless path where God calls each of us to be a bridge. We all have specific areas where God asks us to lay down our lives or agendas in ways that can help others access places they couldn’t reach on their own. What an honor to love someone this way. As I surrender my will to God, He can actually use me to help others connect to their destiny. I want to say yes to that!