Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A New Journey

We are all called by God, according to His good, perfect, and pleasing will. We hear this often, but for most of us we wonder if it is true. Personally, I did not expect to receive such calling from God. I thought His calling is limited only to the faithful men and women the Bible, and that my own puny private life will live a simple existence. But I was wrong.

January of 2008, doors of opportunity were opened for me. I was faced with three options: (1) take up my Master’s course in New York, (2) migrate to Australia, (3) remain in my company here in the Philippines, but transfer to a different department.

While faced with options galore, I was all the more confused. I felt I was walking on thin ice. One wrong step and I would drown myself down the icy waters. This got me afraid that instead of taking another step, I stood still, immobilized by my fear. To be safe, I chose none of the above.

I chose what I believe was the safest choice, which is to let things be. I do not want to rock the boat and disrupt the normal flow of things. I was ready to settle for the life set before me no matter how mundane things may have become. It felt comfortable.

But God has other plans. Nestling so peacefully and oh so comfortably in my in my world, God meddled things up. Everything in my life was besieged with unrest and instability – front, left, back, and center. I felt stripped off from my comfort zone – security at work, pleasure and thrill with what I do, even refuge and comfort from my family. I wondered why suddenly all at the same time these erupted before me. Why now? And why simultaneously?

Then I remembered the story of Jonah and the big fish. Like Jonah, I disobeyed God by choosing the “safe” side, by choosing not to move. Hence, everything in turned upside down. That moment was my big fish experience.

I was reminded of God’s specific direction for me during the week-long, church-wide fasting celebration we had in CCF. His words struck me in 2 Chronicles 20:15-17 “He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”

This passage clearly spoke to me to go and start moving.

His words were further validated by circumstances and even people around me. Right within those days that He revealed His word for me, He complimented it with circumstances. Sporadic and successive situations, including fortuitous incidents with strangers all pointed out to one direction – Australia.

After realizing my guilt of disobedience, I decided to leave my comfort zone and start following God. I want to get out from the belly of this big fish experience, as soon as possible.

And so I geared up for my migration application process. As I started to gather my documents, I was faced with an obstacle and was inundated with fear. It dawned on me that I do not know anyone – no family, no relatives, no close friends in Australia. Logic stepped in and challenged my fancy pursuit.

I believe that if God gives His vision, He also gives his provision. The provisions in migrating to Australia seemed like a long and impossible shot compared to taking up my Master’s in New York. My mom is in New York, and talk about provision - she has a standing offer to finance for my masteral education. The provision is not only present, but abundant in New York.

I probably must have over-magnified Australia. I might have been more biased in attuning myself on Australia over New York. The verse in 2 Chronicles 20: 15-17 can also apply to New York. It tells me to stand, take my position and go out to face them. So where do I go now? To the West? Or to the South?

Running through the excel spreadsheets of scenario planning and cost-benefit analysis, I, I opted where the provision seemed evident. I chose New York where my mother was, where settling will not be an issue. My journey then took a detour – off to the West! I plotted my timelines, gathered my records, got in touch with prospective schools, and prepared to study for GMAT. I created a project charter, dubbed as “Project: American Pie”.

Then, another twist of fate came. My brother was hospitalized for two months and he was later confined in the ICU for another two months due to some unidentified malfunction in his brain. This once comic and energetic fellow has slowly turned to a raucous delirious monster. I witnessed his gradual deterioration. For his more than a quarter stay in the hospital, not to mention his daily expensive medications, I decided to give up my masteral plans in New York. There, I saw my plans to New York fading away.

Nothing I can do about it. God speaks through circumstances. And I took this as His way of telling me “No. I went back to 2 Chronicles 20:15-17. I questioned myself have I read it the wrong way? Have I misinterpreted it?

Then the third option came. The opportunity again arose for me to transfer in my dream department – Training and Development. Surely, this is where God wants me to be. I must have saved the best for last. And so, I left my comfortable territory and moved to face my new calling.

However, as days unfolded, I saw myself drenched in tears for some weird unexplainable reasons. I became melancholic and depressed. I am a Christian, a precious daughter of Christ. I walk by faith and not by sight. Christ has given me victory. But why do I feel otherwise? Something is still not right!

Then, I was once again reminded of Australia. That call of the South is whispering my name. Oh no. Lord, not again! … Everything I have, you have shaken. What else is left for you to shake? My love life? I don’t have any! There is nothing left for you to shake, but me.”

So I told myself, “Ok, stand up and start moving before God makes another move (and hopefully not at the expense of your invisible love life).”

The obstacles I encountered before could just be a test of faith for me. How can I conclude that Australia is not for me, when I have not actually applied yet? I will only say that it is not for me, if I get rejected by the embassy and not by the voices of fears and doubts in my head.

From Project: American Pie to Project: Kiwi. By faith, I started taking small baby steps in my application for Australia. I encountered some obstacles. But this time, I did not stop. I held on tightly to His words and His promises. The process of my application was a dark and bumpy ride. But this time, no pressure on my part. I was enjoying every single step of the journey, holding God’s hands, taking things one step at a time.

Slowly, things got better in my life. My brother miraculously woke up to his consciousness, the same way he slipped out of his awareness. Doctors could not identify the cause of his sickness, much more could not explain how he was cured. But praise God, all that matters to us is that my brother is healthy and well. Things at work have become better for me. I am back into the groove of drive and passion. I felt on top of everything. I love what I do, and soon enough I radiated confidence and authority over the things entrusted to my care. And here’s more. My parents both agreed to work on their marriage. They are now back together. I know it is difficult for them, but I praise God for working in their hearts!

Alas, the storms in my life are over. Thank you Lord for delivering me out of the belly of my big fish experience! And if course, I still continued with my journey of application for Australia – in obedience to His words. I managed to complete and submit all documents December 26, 2008. One month after, I was given a Case Officer to process my papers. This is the moment of truth. The Officer asked for a lot of other documents, including one that I cannot provide. I was told that if I will not submit that requirement it will have an impact on my approval.

But instead of panicking (which is my usual mode of response), I calmly went back to God, “Lord, you know I cannot provide for the document they are asking. If this is really your will for me, please help me find a way. But if it is not, then do grant me successful passage. I will do everything the best that I can, in obedience to you. I fix my eyes on you and not on the officers, not even my circumstance. All that matters to me is You and your will for me – nothing more, nothing less. If Your plan for me to Australia is only up to the application process, I still will accept it graciously. No matter how I have grown to accept the idea of moving to a new destination, I have come to love more the journey with You, Your sweet presence, and the joy of following You.”

In May 8, 2009 – I received an email from the Australian Immigration Office. My application was granted and I have to be in Australia not later than February 2010.

When I received the email. I froze in shock. I cannot believe how my approval process turned out to be faster than I expected. I really thought it would take me a minimum of one year to wait. Clearly, I can see that this is indeed what God has planned for me. And things are moving according to His timeline. It is God who worked behind the hearts of the regulating officers.

But instead of feeling happy, I was surprisingly sad. I was sad because suddenly it all became real to me. Deep inside I do not want to go. Specially not now, that things have become better for me. The experience I had earlier seemed to be just like a bad dream. Now, I am faced with another kind of reality. World-wide financial crisis. To magnify the situation, I received the decision letter – the day I received my bonus and salary increase. I even thought to myself how privileged I am to be working for my company, where amidst the crisis, is stable and still can afford good raise in our compensation.

Funny, how after all the horrific big fish experience I had, I still doubted. Will I go? Or will I not? I look at what I have right now. I work in a stable company; I have a job that I love; I have already built a good credibility - my name, in the office; I have my own car, I have my own condo unit, I have my friends, I have my family, I looked at the other side. What do I have? No job; no house; no friends; no family. Nothing. I imagined what will happen to me after I get off from the plane? Who will welcome me? Where will I go? I only saw two thins – darkness and crickets.

This sent me chills. Lord, are you serious? Do you really want me to actually go?”

I went through the journey of application, not really expecting to be accepted this soon.

Lord, why? ... Speak to me, tell me what I should do. I know you gave me 2 Chronicles 20:15-17. But this time, make it short and be direct.”

I wanted more validation from God, in the hopes that He will give me a new instruction to stop. That night, God led me to Hebrews 11:8, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

This struck me. Wow, Lord, I did not expect your response this soon! I imagined a week-long hide and seek with you. God, you are scaring me. Lord, why Australia? And why me? I am not Abraham. Do it to Abraham and to some one else, but not me.”

I tried to bargain with the Lord. It is bad, I know. But praise God for His love for me. This time, instead of hurling me again to the big fish, He was gentle. He just asked me this question, “Why do ask? Have I not asked you to be strong and courageous? I called you, just as I called Abraham because I love you. I plans for you, and I will go before you. Abraham willingly gave up His Isaac for me. Now, will you give me your Isaac?

I felt ashamed because I realized my Isaac. It was revealed to me where I anchored my security and confidence in life. It is in my career, my possessions, my family and all the things visible to me. I lacked the faith to put my hopes, my life, my everything, to the Lord. At that moment I bowed in humility and decided to obey. In faith, I will follow the call of the South.

From that moment on, I was encouraged by many other validations and sweet encounters from God. He sent me more of His words. I got my parent’s blessings, my D-Group’s support. And now, I have peace.

In obedience, I submitted my resignation letter. By the end of December, I will be leaving my company of almost nine years. This has been my first job, I have been working here right after I graduated. Parting ways with my work is difficult for me and so is looking for a new employer, in the outback. I feel like going back to square one – resumes, cover letters, interview …. Going back to the horrors of it, makes me feel young again, like a fresh graduate.

I never thought of leaving the things I that I have right now. But I must cleave to God’s calling. Just as I thought that I already knew God, I realized there is more of Him that I still do not know, and yet more to discover. Truly, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. And His ways, higher than our ways.

Then an opportunity arose to help in the our church’s retreat. I purposefully did not sign up to volunteer in any of the ministries, because I wanted to be devoted to the timelines I plotted in my Project Kiwi. By this time, I should be starting my job search and house hunt. But lo and behold! God intervened and placed me in the fray of the Writer’s Pool, and eventually inching my way in the Training Group. Just as I am about to take things in my hands, God took it. He ruined my timelines. He is telling me, not my timelines. But His. I am bound to leave by January 26, 2010. Up until now, I have not done anything yet in preparation for my migration. I leave it all up to Him.

I still do not know what awaits me. I still do not have a job, still no house, but have made some few contacts already. This may be a little progress, versus the big change I am about to embark.

While I am preparing for this testimony, I tried to bribe God. "Lord, if you want to make my experience as a testimony of your love, power and grace - provide now the evidence of your reward, by giving me at least a prospect of a job or a house, that I can share to them, so that they will really see your work, and they will be blessed.”

But God said, "My Child, - you miss the point. The point of this testimony is faith. And faith is being sure of what you hope for, and being certain of what you do not see."

This experience has taught me humble submission and complete abandonment to the Father’s will. We all pray for God to give us our life’s direction. But we have to make ourself available and useable for Him. If we pray for God to guide our footsteps, then we must be willing to move your feet.

We are all called by God. If we want to walk on water, then we must get out of the boat.

For the nth time, I take look at what I currently have: a thriving career, a name, a credibility, a car, a house, my friends, my family. And I look over the skyline and ask myself what I have in Australia? Nothing but His words, his promises, simply, Him. All glory, honor, and praise to our God!