Many, many years ago now, my husband and I followed what felt like a wild call from God. We left our steady jobs in the suburbs and moved to the plains of the Midwest to live and work at a Bible camp.
We had always been in and loved the work of ministry. We were a couple of young church enthusiasts, both of us former youth and camp program directors with degrees in family and youth ministry. When we learned a camp (one with which we had a history) was hiring two people for program work, we jumped to apply. When we drove away from the interview, my husband was confident that this was our next calling.
I was a little less convinced but excited nonetheless. We’d only been married a couple of years, and this was a major move away from family and friends for both of us. But it was for work we were passionate about, and there was something romantic about living on the windy prairie for Jesus.
Our community, friends, and even our parents were surprised but not shocked. They knew our hearts, and they helped us pack. They thought it was a bit of a wild decision, but trusted us and the God who they knew led our way. We felt certain we were hearing the still, small voice of His leading.
And so, we packed up our whole life into a big U-Haul, drove ten hours west, and jumped in with both feet. We were excited to start this new stage in our life, and fully expected to live into it for quite some time. The camp provided housing, so we decorated the most adorable little house on the prairie. We met some people in the community, and I fell in love with the local coffee shop/antique store downtown. We were in the winter festival parade, loved getting to know groups who stayed at camp, and our families came to visit.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t weep when my mom drove away after her first visit. Because underneath the work I truly loved, I was miserable.
I cried a lot. I found myself unmotivated to do much of anything. This was before texting was a thing, so I spent evenings glued to the desktop computer in the office, following Twitter and reading blogs. The only friends I had lived behind that screen; due to the nature of the jobs we held, we weren’t really able to make many friends near camp. I was terribly lonely; even the new puppy we’d gotten to help, well, didn’t.
The cherry on top of the sadness sundae was that we were also experiencing infertility. To be so alone, both physically and emotionally, was simply too much.
Less than a year after we pulled onto the long dirt road to camp, we drove the truck back out and returned to the very city we’d just left.
It would be an understatement to say people thought, at that time, that we were making a mistake. People were hurt, confused, and angry that we left. I understand their reactions, I really do. But what they didn’t know or see were the daily tears, the aching heart, and the long winding road (proverbial and actual) to figure out where home was.
They also didn’t know that the very week we left, we’d driven that same long road frantically to the hospital in the middle of the night as I miscarried our first baby. I can hardly recall our months at that place without tears because it culminated with such devastation and pain.
As we drove out for the last time, I left some hopes and dreams along that road. Of a long and happy time spent in ministry there. Of an easy transition into parenting. Of making new friends and loving a new call.
I also dropped a few other things off along that road. Caring immensely about what others think. The need to explain and defend myself. Feeling like a failure for not “sticking it out,” and even feelings of failure for the miscarriage. I launched those all out the window and left them there among the stalks of prairie grass.
Because even as our life seemed to crumble, and didn’t make sense to anyone (including us), we heard and heeded the still, small, wild voice of the Lord.
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
1 Kings 19:11-13
We followed God’s whisper in, and we followed it right back out.
Sometimes it’s like that; a wild decision here, a seemingly scattered choice there. If you can look steadily beyond the shivering winds, the shattering earthquake, and the showy fire, God’s voice will ring clear and gentle. Throughout that year’s journey, through the pain and the loneliness, the fear and failures, the leaving and the leaving again… God remained.
He still does.
Maybe no one understands why your life looks the way it does. Maybe despite your faithfulness, things aren’t panning out as you’d expected, hoped, or planned. Maybe you’ve left a place, only to turn right around and return. Maybe you left a place and never did return.
But if you can hear the gentle whisper of the Lord, you’re never without a way home.
Thank you for speaking to my heart. Your journey has put into words what I haven’t spoken, but need to. Thank you for reminding me to listen for and heed the “gentle whisper.”
Blessings to you as you move into your next season.
This is my life right now. I have moved several times over the past 10 years thinking this is where I am supposed to be, this is where God is directing me to be at peace and yet… I am trying to accept my circumstances but there is always that little voice saying something else is out there. At age 69 I think I’d have it figured out but something is missing. I keep praying- for patience, understanding, for peace in my heart. And I have had to let go the need to explain myself. So a big thank you.
I Love to hear your story of God’s whispers and sending love as I know it’s not easy to lose or make changes you are not prepared for.
Thank you for reminding me to listen to God’s whispers since there can be amazing things that come after those changes.
This is beautiful and so true. Life feels messy and complicated to us but God sees the whole picture – I am reminded of how He provided for the Israelites one day at a time while they were in the desert, and sometimes that is how our guidance from the Lord is, too. We are only called to take the next right step. He knew how you would impact people at that camp, even if for a short time, and He also sees the long term impact of each of our choices, even when it doesn’t have the outcome we were hoping for. We are given one puzzle piece at a time, but He knows how it will all come together for His glory.
Jo Grotelueschen says
My youngest daughter and her family are in their fourth year of discipleship ministry in northern Uganda, following the whisper of God into this mission. It takes tremendous faith and obedience to make these steps; people often ask me how long I think they’ll stay. Thank you for giving me a wonderful new response: until God whispers them back home, or to service somewhere else.
We don’t see God’s big picture, which is all at once scary and freeing, and we don’t always know the lives we touch, the seeds we plant along the way. God bless your service and your obedience!
In Jesus ~
Thank you, Anna. I needed this. I made a career decision six months ago that I had prayed over, thought about and sought counsel; however, after making that decision, the pit fell in my stomach.
Daily tears spring forth, but I do have faith that God is working something magical in me right now. It’s just that season, and I need to be patient.
This is so beautiful and I relate deeply to it. Dropping off “the need to defend and explain” and the weight of the approval of following a “call”– is such a big weight to drop. Thank you for sharing your story of following God’s wild call in and out.
Our journey isn’t always linear; sometimes it’s a loop that brings us back to the same place with a different perspective. God was present as you experienced the excitement of ministry and the sadness of personal loss. Thank you for sharing your journey.
Beth Williams says
I feel like I’ve made a mess of my work life. Years ago I left a job with good benefits to try out a new career. Most of the jobs I’ve had I liked. Then Covid hit. It took away the one part-time job I enjoyed. Now I have a job with same company-full time benefitted. I know this job came straight from God. But last fall the duties changed drastically. Don’t like the job at all. It is nothing like I thought. Trying to make the best of it. God is sending interviews my way but no job offers. He knows best. He sees the whole picture. My hubby has done his job (CT Tech) 35 years-same company. He can’t stand going to work any day. Praying God will send a way out for both of us.
Thank you for articulating so brilliantly to hearken unto the still small whispher at any juncture of doing this life, whether being at the right place at the right time or even through the detours of life.