On this date, two years ago, we lifted off from Los Angeles headed for Czech Republic. Just prior to lifting off, I wrote this Tweet:
— Shay Thomason (@shaycam) June 24, 2014
I sent that Tweet out at 10:00pm and I remember feeling really tired. I also remember getting our kids settled into the plane and thinking to myself just how crazy we were. I also distinctly remember sitting on the plane reflecting on a story I once heard from a missionary about his feelings when he took his family, with their little baby, to the jungles of Papua New Guinea. I remember him saying, “I was sitting in the airport in San Diego thinking to myself, ‘What am I doing?! This is crazy! Should we really be doing this?!’” We weren’t on our way to the jungle, but those were my feelings exactly. A little excitement. A little fear. A little “oh man… what are we doing?!”
We did make it to Czech that day. In fact, that was the night that I wrote my very first blog that would be come the daily blog of our life in Czech. You can read it here: http://www.itsallgrace.com/this-is-the-first/ — In it you can hear my excitement and my tiredness. Just re-reading that post brings a few tears to my eyes (which is what basically happens every time I read one of those blogs!).
I originally wanted to title this post “The Two Years That Weren’t.” We had made a two year commitment (minimum) with our organization in Czech and I was very intent on keeping that commitment. In fact, I thought it would pretty easy because in our minds and hearts we were basically “lifers.” You could say we were “all in” on being and living in Czech. But as many who read our blog and know our story, that wasn’t what God had in mind at all. Right around a year and a half later, we were back on a plane headed for the States.
And here I am. Two years later sitting at the same desk, writing on the same blog, but in a very different place. Last week I took a group of students from the youth ministry I direct to camp called Hume Lake in the Sequoia National Forest here in California. Never in my wildest thoughts would I have imagined that. But we had a blast! Bethany and the kids were able to come and enjoy the week while I worked. It was so much fun to hang with the students and be in the mountains, but it wasn’t the fun I had imagined just a few years ago, and those definitely weren’t the mountains I imagined being in.
Despite the changes the Lord has asked us to make in the past two years, I don’t sit here upset or angry or even second guessing any of it. Have I had my moments? Sure. But as I sit here today, I’m thankful for all the Lord has done because it’s growing our family to look more and more like Jesus.
Right now I’m taking our students in the youth ministry through Kevin DeYoung’s book The Hole in our Holiness. We’ll be finishing the book this Sunday and in the last chapter he makes a point about how often we should use our “spiritual thermometer.” Helpfully, he writes,
…you shouldn’t take your spiritual temperature every day. You need to look for progress over months and years, not by minutes and hours. As David Powlison likes to say, sanctification is like a man walking up the stairs with a yo-yo. There are a lot of ups and downs, but ultimate progress nonetheless.
The only question I’m asking myself tonight is if I look more like Jesus today than I did two years ago. If Kevin DeYoung is right, then this is a good opportunity to check my spiritual temperature. As God uses His Word and my circumstances to form in to who He wants me to be, do I look more like Jesus today than I did on June 23, 2014? In my pride, I always want to say yes without hesitation. But is that the truth? Have I really grown? My honest, humble answer is yes. Yes, I have. In fact, I’d probably tell you that I’ve grown more in the past 6 months than just about any other time in my life.
God has used our time here in the States to stretch me in ways I didn’t know I needed stretching. And just like stretching new muscles doesn’t feel good, it hasn’t always felt good to me to be in the midst of a little Godly stretching. But that’s part of growth. That’s part of becoming more like Christ. It takes work and it might even hurt a little at times, and yet the Lord promises us that it’s for our good.
Today has already brought it’s own challenges. Today was even one of those “harder” days where both Bethany and I have to look to the Lord for strength and comfort. And just because we’re not on an airplane taking what we thought was a huge leap of faith doesn’t mean that today we can just relax on faith. Oh, that we would believe always and trust always in the Lord! This is my prayer. This is my heart tonight. Thank you Lord for using whatever you have to make us trust in you.